DOD Grants Suggest You Don’t Need a Degree from a Top Tier STEM School

More than a quarter of the DOD’s $150M multidisciplinary grant pool is going to the University of Maryland.

Recently, the Department of Defense (DOD) awarded six of their Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grants to the University of Maryland (UMD). The total value of all 22 MURI grants is $149 million over five years.

“The University of Maryland’s outstanding performance in securing these MURI awards, tied for the highest number of any university, demonstrates our world class, interdisciplinary research expertise in science and engineering,” said UMD Vice President and Chief Research Officer Patrick O’Shea.

Having received more than a quarter of the MURI grants, UMD, ranked 23rd in engineering by U.S. News & World Report, has tied the top two engineering schools, MIT and Stanford University. This suggests that you don’t need to get into a top tier school to work on a top tier research project.

Full-time graduate students might be interested in knowing that attending UMD costs roughly $8,000/term, compared to $15,700/quarter at Stanford University and a whopping $23,000/term at MIT.

In theory, given the caliber of these MURI grants, any student working on these projects will have their pick of employment. This begs the question: Why should a student go through all the stress and costs of getting into the top tier schools when they can get comparable education and research credentials elsewhere?

It seems that the DOD doesn’t base their grant selection on school rankings, so why should you base your research on them?

That being said, what are these rankings even based on? U.S. News & World Report recently dropped the weighting of peer/industry reputation in their rankings from 25 percent to 15 percent. If you wish to specialize in a particular industry, however, isn’t the opinion of that industry one of the most important factors to your decision? Perhaps in this case you should perform your own industry-specific program research.

It just goes to show that sometimes the project and program are more important than the school. Below is a list of some of the interesting MURI projects being studied at UMD:

  • “Understanding and Controlling the Coupled Electrical, Chemical & Mechanical Excitable Networks of Living System”
  • “Engineering Exotic States of Light with Superconducting Circuits”
  • “Harnessing Strong-Field Mid-Infrared (IR) Lasers: Designer Beams of Relativistic Particles and THz-to-X-ray Light”
  • “A 4D Nanoprinter for Making and Manipulating Macroscopic Material”
  • “Metalloid Cluster Building Blocks and Their Inclusion with Composite”
  • “Evolutionary Mechanics of Impulsive Biological Systems: Guiding Scalable Synthetic Design”

For more on these projects and how to contact their lead professors follow this link.

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.