Call it fate, destiny or good fortune. All of it has led an MTSU Honors College senior to receive a prestigious German fellowship.
Brett Bornhoft of Lee’s Summit, Mo., earned the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst Research Internships in Science and Engineering fellowship to serve a 12-week internship at Universität des Saarlandes in Saarbrücken, Germany, this summer.
The fellowship known as DAAD RISE is a summer internship program for undergraduate students from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering. It offers unique opportunities for undergraduate students to work with research groups at universities and top research institutions across Germany for two to three months in the summer.
“I feel really blessed. This is really incredible,” said Bornhoft, who is an aerospace major with minors in mathematics, engineering technology and physics. “This could lead to opportunities to get accepted at higher-level graduate studies at schools like MIT.”
Fresh out of Lee’s Summit High School in 2009, Bornhoft moved to Nashville and considered studying music business at either MTSU or Belmont University, and to be part of a church plant with Lifehouse Church. Music was part of his fiber. He had sung in a choir since age 7, he was a percussionist and played in Lee’s Summit’s marching band. He was in a band offered a record deal and he played drums for a female solo artist.
Even with a scholarship, his Belmont tuition was going to be $30,000 a year. He established his Tennessee residency, enrolling at MTSU’s aerospace engineering technology program in fall 2010.
“I was not in (to college) yet,” Bornhoft said of the freshman year adjustment and struggle to find his niche.
Bornhoft loved mathematics and took a sophomore year, calculus-based physics class taught by Dr. Vic Montemayor.
“That class threw me a loop,” Bornhoft said. “It got me all pumped up. It was really hard, but it led to lots of stuff.”
“Stuff” included MTSU’s new Unmanned Aerial Systems program that began in the spring 2011.
“I worked with them from the start,” Bornhoft said. “That led me to research. It clicked. I got it — a clear understanding of it all. And it was interesting.”
In the fellowship, Bornhoft will be matched with German doctoral student David Kastelan, who will serve as his mentor. This will allow Bornhoft to participate in advanced research and to gain practical experience with control theory in multicopters.
As part of the fellowship, Bornhoft will travel to Munich, Germany, to complete a two-week language course before beginning the internship.
In addition to the research, Bornhoft said the internship will provide opportunities for presentation and publication.
The nearly $2,500 scholarship provides a stipend that covers living expenses, the language course, insurance and spending money. The Honors College awarded a $1,000 scholarship for his travel expenses.
“The DAAD RISE program is one of the most prestigious internships that an undergraduate science student can obtain,” Honors College Dean John Vile said. “MTSU students are increasingly securing major national and international honors, and it is heartening to see yet another Honors student join this elite group.”
Bornhoft’s wife, Kellie, a sculptor who attends Watkins School of Art and Design in Nashville, will travel to Germany with him and will participate in an art show in Magdeburg. They will collaborate on one of her projects.
At MTSU, Bornhoft has worked as a research assistant for the Center for Unmanned Systems Operational Advancement and Research, also known as CUSOAR@MT, from April 2011 through February 2012 and as a research engineer from January to June 2012 for MTSU’s Fifth Generation Aerial Target Drone program under the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Since June 2012, he has worked as a research engineer for MTSU’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems program. He has served as president of the MT Unmanned Aircraft System Club.
Bornhoft, scheduled to graduate from MTSU in 2014, plans to pursue a Ph.D. He said his dream is to attend MIT, a private research university in Cambridge, Mass.
Bornhoft said his MTSU academic experience also he was very influenced by aerospace professor Nate Callender and physics and astronomy professor Dr. Eric Klumpe, who wrote Bornhoft’s DAAD RISE letter of recommendation.
Bornhoft is the son of Mark and Linda Bornhoft of Lee’s Summit.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)