A love of math opens doors

June 24, 2022


Leah Ghazali has always had a knack for math, but now she’s getting national recognition for it with a scholarship through the U.S. Department of Defense that provides her full tuition and guaranteed employment upon graduation.

Ghazali, a rising junior double-majoring in math and cognitive science, is only the second student in UR history to win the highly-competitive Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship.

“I've always loved math, since as long as I can remember,” Ghazali said. “In third grade my teacher would give me extra math homework because she saw that I enjoyed it.”

As a student at the University of Richmond, Ghazali has added data science to her list of passions.

“I love data analytics because it brings meaning to the numbers I’m seeing,” Ghazali said. “With data analytics, you’re able to see patterns better, sort through it, and efficiently be able to see what it's saying overall. Then, being able to communicate that meaning to others is really rewarding.”

The award provides full tuition for up to five years, mentorship, summer internships, a stipend, and full-time employment after graduation at one of more than 200 research labs across the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Department of Defense network.

Ghazali will intern at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island in 2023. Her focus is on data analytics.

“You can apply data analytics to any job, which I like, because this opportunity with the SMART scholarship can lead to a career in multiple different fields,” Ghazali said. “I could be working anywhere, but wherever I go, data science will apply. Everyone needs data analysis.”