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University Honors student Charles Baker named Goldwater Scholar


   

From left to right are (top row) Charles Baker, Ritesh KC, and Bryan Murray; and (bottom row) Ryan Prest and Sarah Webster. Charles Baker

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 14, 2011 – Charles “Casey” Baker of Great Falls, Va., a junior honors student triple majoring in physics, biological sciences, and mathematics in the College of Science, has been awarded a Barry M. Goldwater scholarship for the 2011-2012 year.

Baker was also recently named an ACC Undergraduate Research Scholar. He was one of 275 scholars selected from a field of over 1,000 science, engineering, and math students who were nominated from colleges and universities across the country.  

Baker’s area of specialization is computational biophysics. He has 3.94 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) and will earn almost twice the required number of credits before graduating in spring 2012.

“I have never met an undergraduate student with so much motivation, creativity, physical intuition, and perseverance,” said Giti Khodaparast, associate professor of physics. “It is rare to find a student who is so mature, trying out not only the ideas we supplied, but also his own.”

Baker says his career goal is to earn a Ph.D. in biophysics, conduct research in theoretical biophysics, and become a university professor.

“I want to not only engage in significant research, but to bring my passion for science into the classroom,” Baker said. “I hope to help future students not only understand the relevant information but see the bigger picture. I hope to inspire them, as I have been inspired, with the beauty and elegance of science.”

Baker has been heavily involved in research at the university beginning in the spring semester of his freshman year. He has worked with the computational biophysics group headed by Alexey Onufriev, associate professor of physics and computer science, who heads the group, and with Rahul Kulkarni, assistant professor of physics.

“Casey first impressed me as an extremely motivated individual,” Onufriev said. “He has become an integral member of my interdisciplinary research group, already at a level expected of a good graduate student, and somehow he manages to keep his GPA near 4.0.”

Kulkarni added “Casey combines an intense passion for learning with an exceptional innate ability for interdisciplinary research. He has already derived important results extending current research, and I expect to see many more significant contributions by him in the coming years.”

In addition, Baker is a member of the Main Campbell Honors Community, Sigma Pi Sigma, the American Physical Society, and the Biophysical Society.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986 to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in math, science, and engineering. One- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500.

The College of Science at Virginia Tech gives students a comprehensive foundation in the scientific method. Outstanding faculty members teach courses and conduct research in biological sciences, chemistry, economics, geosciences, mathematics, physics, psychology, and statistics. The college offers programs in cutting-edge areas including, among others, those in energy and the environment, developmental science across the lifespan, infectious diseases, computational science, nanoscience, and neuroscience. The College of Science is dedicated to fostering a research-intensive environment that promotes scientific inquiry and outreach.