Almost every student who’s completed a doctoral degree has a notable memory of what it was like to write their doctoral dissertation. Sleepless nights, long hours in the library, and pages upon pages of editing and revisions are common in the dissertation writing process. For Ethan Sneider, an Air Force Captain and Purdue’s first online Doctor of Technology graduate, the process was even more memorable. Sneider wrote most of his dissertation while stationed in Qatar, quarantined from the rest of his unit and the world at large.
“I wrote my dissertation during the pandemic while stationed abroad, so I was completely isolated,” Sneider said. “It was actually a pretty good opportunity to be productive because there were so few distractions.”
Sneider defended his dissertation and completed his doctorate in the summer of 2021 while still stationed in Qatar. During his defense, his committee watched him explain his research project while standing next to a bunk bed in his military dorm room. Despite the austere setting, Sneider’s graduation jumpstarted a new career trajectory that would eventually bring him back to the States to work on artificial intelligence projects.
“My work in the Air Force and my interest in technology are connected,” Sneider said. “I pursued my Doctor of Technology because in the Air Force there is a big push to understand how technological advancements like artificial intelligence can bring value back to the military. There is a lot of demand for technological expertise, so getting my doctorate was an extension of that.”
From Purdue Doctoral Student to MIT Researcher and Beyond
Because of Sneider’s extensive training in technology issues, after graduation he was hand-picked for a position at the Air Force’s Kessel Run in Boston, which operates and maintains cloud-based infrastructure and software applications for use by Air Force personnel worldwide. Since Sneider’s dissertation research focused on cloud computing, this position makes good use of the knowledge he gained while completing his doctoral degree.
“There are some doctoral degrees that lack practical application,” Sneider said. “In this case, the research I did while completing my doctorate gave me the exact skills I needed to transition to Kessel Run.”
Sneider also lends his technological expertise to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he does research on artificial intelligence (AI) as part of a collaborative partnership between the Air Force and MIT. Working from MIT’s campus in Boston, Sneider advances artificial intelligence projects that have promising applications for the military. This work keeps Sneider current on the latest developments in AI and other fast-moving technologies.
For Sneider, the journey to becoming a tech expert began when he was a child. Sneider’s father, Richard Sneider, has a PhD in industrial engineering and computer science from Purdue. As a computer science student in the 1980s, Sneider’s dad was an early adopter of computer-based technologies, and he passed an interest in new technology to his son.
“My dad heavily influenced my interest in technology,” Sneider said. “I always wanted to follow in his footsteps, but I didn’t think I’d be able to get a doctorate while fulfilling my duties in the Air Force. Purdue’s online Doctor of Technology presented the perfect opportunity to do both at the same time.”
At Purdue, Sneider found a high-quality doctoral program that allowed him to spearhead unique research projects, work with experienced faculty, and complete his degree in a flexible format and on a flexible schedule. Growing up, Sneider was aware of Purdue’s reputation as a leading institution for science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Earning his doctorate from Purdue gave him a diploma with decades of prestige behind it, and it made his father proud.
“I think my father is very happy to see me continue his legacy as a technology expert,” Sneider said.
Looking Towards a Future of Innovation
Sneider’s work as a technology consultant for the Air Force keeps him busy, but in his free time he still thinks about where his Doctor of Technology degree will take him in the future. Since Sneider’s degree focuses on applied knowledge, he can use his skills in many different areas of the Air Force, where technological expertise is always in demand. He’s also interested in applying his skills at a multinational company – a dream inspired by Sneider’s experience of traveling the world while in the Air Force.
“The great thing about being in the military and having a doctorate is that education is extremely important in a military context, and people who have advanced expertise in areas like technology or engineering will be selected to fill exclusive roles,” Sneider said. “It’s essential to show that you know what you’re doing, not just through words but also through action and experience. This doctoral degree made it easy to prove that impact.”
To learn more about Purdue’s Doctor of Technology program, please visit the program’s website.