Virginia Tech Goldwater scholars have high goals as bio-researchers

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 27, 2004 – Two Virginia Tech students have won highly competitive Barry M. Goldwater scholarships for the 2004-2005 academic year and intend to play active roles in the future of bionics and biochemistry research.

Aaron Kaluszka, of Pilot, Va., a junior pursuing three degrees: electrical and computer engineering and computer science in the College of Engineering and biology in the College of Science; and Dustin Hite, of Kingsport, Tenn., a junior biochemistry major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with minors in biology and chemistry from the College of Science have won up to $7,500 per year for tuition, fees, books and room and board. Congress established the scholarship program in 1986 to honor the late Sen. Goldwater and to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

Kaluszka and Hite are among the 310 Goldwater scholars chosen this year from an applicant field of 1,113 undergraduates in engineering, science and mathematics.

Kaluszka, the son of Dr. David and Lori Kaluszka, attended Floyd County High School and took classes at New River Community College in Dublin, Va., before entering Virginia Tech in 2000. Kaluszka plans to graduate in May 2005 and remain at Virginia Tech to work on a master's degree in computer engineering.

Kaluszka's ultimate goal is to earn a Ph.D. with a specialty in the area of bionics/artificial vision, "bridging the gap between biology and computers," he said, in developing artificial vision technology. As an undergraduate, he has conducted bioinformatics research under the guidance of Assistant Professor Cynthia Gibas of the Fralin Biotechnology Center and electromagnetics research under Professor Richard Claus, director of the Fiber & Electro-Optics Research Center.

A member of the University Honors Program and the Hillcrest Honors Community, Kaluszka has received a number of scholarships and awards at Virginia Tech, including the Hekimian, Ray D. and Violet T. Frith, Gilbert L. and Lucille Seay, Marshall Hahn, and Dean's Engineering scholarships, and the Pamplin Leadership Award.

Kaluszka has served as a senator and academic affairs chair for the Virginia Tech Student Government Association and as a student representative to the university's Commission on Undergraduate Studies and Policies.

Hite, the son of Steve and Wanda Hite, attended Sullivan South High School before coming to Virginia Tech in 2001. Hite's goal is to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry and work in the field of human immunology, virology or toxicology as a professor at a major research university. As an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, he is assisting biochemistry Professor Peter Kennelly in complex research involving the identification of cellular proteins.

Hite is a member of the University Honors Program and has received several other scholarships in addition to the Goldwater, including the William P. Sadler, John Lee Pratt, Agriculture Alumni and East Tennessee Alumni scholarships. Since his freshman year, he has participated in Virginia Tech's Presidential Campus Enrichment Grant Multicultural Group.

An Eagle Scout, Hite is assistant scoutmaster of Troop 48 in Kingsport. He also is a Virginia Tech swim instructor and lifeguard team leader for the university's Department of Recreational Sports.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech's eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities, and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg, and other campus centers in northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 170 academic degree programs.