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Undergrad turns setback into new opportunity

A woman stands against a wall with her right hand on her hip.

Anna Kalinowski is a junior electrical engineering major who received more than $10,000 in scholarships for the 2013-2014 academic year.

What started as a medical setback turned into a new opportunity for research and self-discovery for an electrical engineering undergraduate who received a scholarship from a foundation focused on the same research she began after that setback.

Anna Kalinowski, a junior from St. Charles, was one of 25 nationwide recipients of a scholarship from the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). She works with Matthew Klaric, an assistant research professor, and Naka Endowed Professor Curt Davis in MU’s Center for Geospatial Intelligence. Kalinowski decided to pursue undergraduate research after leaving the ROTC program and the center’s research caught her attention.

“I told them [Davis and Klaric] I was fascinated by geospatial intelligence and passionate about the mission,” she said.

She works to perfect Geospatial Change Detection and Exploitation (GeoCDX), a software system that analyzes high-resolution satellite images of Earth.

“I identify what the software is doing with the images,” she said, adding that she enjoys learning more about image processing.

Her interest in math and physics led her to engineering after high school.

“I visited Mizzou, and I loved it, but we couldn’t afford it,” said Kalinowski, who comes from a family of seven children. “I applied for ROTC and that financed my first year.”

ROTC felt appropriate because it would allow her to use her skills as an engineer in a military capacity, adding that she “felt the call.”

“I felt like a puzzle piece that fell into place,” she said.

A year later, Kalinowski was diagnosed with Celiac disease, a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine, preventing it from being able to absorb nutrients from food. This medically disqualified her from ROTC and left her wondering how to pay for school.

“Tami [Beatty] and Dr. [Gregory] Triplett got me in on an IncREaCE [Increasing Retention for Electrical and Computer Engineers] Scholarship that helped me through last year,” she said.

This year, Kalinowski not only benefits from the $5,000 USGIF Scholarship, but also from the College of Engineering’s Garmin Scholarship and the university’s Excellence Award and Mr. and Mrs. John W. Brown Memorial Scholarship, which total $9,000. Kalinowski said she is grateful for these scholarships because they will enable her to help her family after graduation.

Klaric first suggested Kalinowski apply for the USGIF scholarship

“I didn’t apply at first,” Kalinowski said. “I thought, ‘Oh, there will be a lot of people applying for this scholarship,’ and I was so busy that semester. But again, Dr. Klaric encouraged me to apply, and he and Dr. Davis wrote my letters of recommendation.”

Even after her diagnosis, she said her desire to serve her country is still strong.

“I was devastated to find out I couldn’t become an officer,” she said. “But then I realized I could still use my skills to help the military as a civilian. I’d like to work for the Department of Defense either as a government employee or a contractor.”

The USGIF Academic Committee awarded 25 scholarships for the 2013 program totaling $107,000. Kalinowski was one of four undergraduates to receive a scholarship.