ECE Student One of 47 Engineering Majors Selected as Goldwater Scholar

MSU Goldwater Scholar
Wesley Holland

A computer engineering major with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average is Mississippi State's latest Barry M. Goldwater Scholar.

Junior Wesley J. Holland of Brandon is among only 323 students selected nationally on the basis of their academic accomplishments in mathematics, science and engineering. More than 1,000 students were nominated for the 2006 awards by collegiate faculty members.

The two-year scholarships are considered the premier undergraduate award of their type. Covering the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 annually, they serve as the official congressional memorial to the former 20th century political leader and United States senator from Arizona.

Holland, a 2004 Florence High School graduate, becomes the 10th MSU student selected for the recognition since 1999.

"What a tremendous honor for Wesley to be named to such a select group of students," said Nancy McCarley, the University Honors Program director who also coordinates MSU's Distinguished Scholarship Program. "He has a true passion for his research and no doubt that impressed the selection panel."

An interest in ham radios and video games led to his decision to study computer engineering, Holland said. Even as an undergraduate, he has conducted university-sponsored research in signal processing.

"I'm specifically interested in natural language processing, or how to make computers not just translate but understand the spoken voice," he explained. "That's a human-computer interaction issue that interests me."

Earlier, Holland successfully competed for a research position at MSU's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems. That honor was earned through the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

"He is outstanding in every respect, including his engineering and communication skills and his talent for research," said Georgios Lazarou, principal investigator for the NSF grant and a member of the center's intelligent electronic systems research team.

To fulfill the Goldwater scholarship requirement of participation in an ongoing research effort, Holland is part of a CAVS effort to develop and evaluate a non-invasive spoken dialogue system for mobile and hand-held computing devices.

"Wesley has shown a passion for theoretical work and a strong desire to communicate his ideas to a larger community, two qualities critical to success in research," said Julie Baca, the assistant research professor who is directing Holland's work.

Following his 2007 projected graduation from Mississippi State, Holland will pursue master's and doctoral degrees with a goal of returning to higher education.

BRANDON/JACKSON EDITORS: Holland is the son of Rebecca L. Weathersby of Brandon and Bo Holland of the Chicago, Ill., area.