Rebekah Travis receives DoD fellowship to study energetic materials

The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship is one of the most prestigious fellowships for graduate students working in national defense. One of this year’s recipients is Ph.D. candidate Rebekah Travis, who is researching energetic materials at Purdue University.
The first time Rebekah Travis saw an explosives range, she was hooked. Now she's working on a Ph.D. in energetic materials at Purdue University.

The NDSEG Fellowship named 165 fellows this year, just 5% of its 3,080 applicants. The fellowship pays for three years of tuition, plus a stipend and funding for travel. Among the six Purdue students on this year’s list is mechanical engineering student Rebekah Travis.

Her interest in energetic materials (explosives, propellants, and pyrotechnics) began as a freshman at Georgia Tech, when she started an internship at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “They brought us to the explosives range, just to show it off for the interns,” she said. “I thought it was just the coolest thing in the world. I went straight to my supervisor and asked, ‘How do I work here?’”

She interned at Sandia’s explosives range throughout her undergrad career, and when the time came to decide on a graduate school, there was really only one choice. “Purdue is the premier school when it comes to energetics,” said Rebekah. “I was so impressed by their facilities, and how collaborative everyone is. There are so many professors who can offer their advice and expertise.”

For her research, Rebekah chose to be co-advised by two mechanical engineering faculty, Chris Goldenstein and Steve Son. “One thing I’m focusing on is post-detonation analysis,” she said. “We want to understand the fireball that results from a detonation, studying all the characteristics of that combustion. That means using lasers and spectroscopy to measure things on a very quick timescale.”

Working at Zucrow Labs, the largest academic propulsion lab in the world, Rebekah is also helping to design an explosively-driven shock tube. “Shock tubes are used to simulate and study blast waves,” said Rebekah. “But to get hypersonic-level speeds, you often need a huge facility utilizing large amounts of explosives. One of my projects is to develop a smaller and more efficient system.”

Rebekah was already at Purdue when she decided to go for the NDSEG fellowship. “It was a lot of work,” she said. “But when I got the email I was accepted, I was so excited. It really meant a lot to me, because one of my life goals is to continue to work in national defense. It seems counter-intuitive, but I know my work in energetic materials is going to make the world a safer place.”


Writer: Jared Pike,, 765-496-0374

Source: Rebekah Travis,