Veteran student prepares for Air Force internship in electrical engineering

SUNY New Paltz student John Dawson ’18 (Electrical Engineering) will head to New Mexico this summer for a paid, three-month internship at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, where he will work on experimental ultrashort pulse width lasers.

The opportunity extends work he’s been doing in the Division of Engineering Programs here on campus. The internship focuses on cutting-edge laser technology with applications not only in defense, but also in medicine and manufacturing.

“How ultrashort pulse width lasers work is, because power equals energy over time, you can get more power by focusing energy over smaller intervals of time,” Dawson said. “At the Air Force they’re working with femtoseconds – a quadrillionth of a second. It’s very precise, and uses a very small amount of energy to produce a large effect.”

Dawson is a five-year Army veteran who served in Iraq and exited with a rank of Sergeant, promotable to Staff Sergeant. He first arrived at SUNY New Paltz in 2012, and returned in 2014 following an extended period of travel.

He came to the Division of Engineering Programs hoping to develop skills leading toward a rewarding career. During his time at New Paltz, he’s enjoyed extensive support from electrical engineering, particularly Associate Professor Mohammad Zunoubi, who has worked with the Air Force in the past and helped lead Dawson to the internship at Kirtland.

“I had Professor Zunoubi for Electronics I, Electronics II and Electromagnetics, and he’s been an amazing mentor,” Dawson said. “He’s like all the other faculty in the department, in that his main goal is to help students succeed.”

The fact that Dawson enrolled at New Paltz, took a hiatus, and then returned, put him in a unique position to appreciate the College’s recent growth, both in terms of facilities and services.

He’s witnessed first-hand the dramatic effect the Wooster Hall renovation, with the multiple new engineering labs it opened up, has had on the electrical engineering program.

“It’s not only the equipment – we had good equipment at Resnick, too – but it’s also just having the extra space,” he said. “Before it was hard to use a lab outside your lab hours, because they would be full, but now you can always find a place to work.”

Dawson has also seen the development of the Office of Veteran & Military Services since the appointment of Coordinator Jason Gilliland, who came to New Paltz in 2014.

“Since Jason came in, the progress has been amazing – they’ve been proactive about organizing events, helping veterans meet each other and creating a community,” Dawson said.

Dawson’s internship begins on May 20, and will end in time for him to return to campus in fall 2017 and get back to finishing his degree. He’ll have an opportunity to be invited back to Kirtland for a second summer, following his graduation with the Class of 2018.

To learn more about SUNY New Paltz’s efforts to support veteran, military and dependent students, please visit the Office of Veteran & Military Services online.