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A junior computer science major at Eastern Kentucky University was one of only two students chosen nationally for the prestigious Summer Cybersecurity Research program at Wright State University.

Alex Dixon will spend 10 weeks this summer at the university in Dayton, Ohio, researching cybersecurity topics such as malware detection and software vulnerability assessment, among mentors at the top of the field. At the end of the experience, he will submit an academic paper detailing his research.

Dixon has always been a high achiever; in addition to the research program, he is a member of the EKU Honors program, a recipient of the EKU Excellence and Gabbard-Hylton scholarships and has made the dean’s list every semester. He also works as an EKU Guru and is involved in the Machine Learning Deep Learning (MLDL) lab in the computer science department. He has also presented computer science research at conferences, such as Posters at the Capitol and the first annual EKU Computing Symposium. He will also present at the 54th annual National Collegiate Honors Conference this November in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“It can definitely be difficult to manage working, studying and extracurriculars,” Dixon admitted, “but I try to stay focused on my goals and enjoy it along the way.” The source of his drive, he added, is his faith and the support of his family and wife.

Dr. Dae Wook Kim, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Dixon’s adviser, recommended that he apply for the program. Kim completed his doctoral degree at Wright State, and his former adviser heads the research program. Once Dixon decided to apply, he had to complete an online application, send in a resume and two letters of recommendation, complete two essay questions and conduct a phone interview.

Kim offered Dixon plenty of encouragement through the application process.

“Through the years, Alex Dixon has made me confident that he is an exceptionally outstanding student programmer and researcher,” said Kim. “He always impressed me with his talent, and passion for finding solutions to any challenges that came from classes or research.”

Kim even went so far as to predict that if Dixon completes his doctoral degree, he will be one of the strongest candidates to return to EKU as a faculty member.

The choice to come from his Milton, Kentucky, hometown to EKU three years ago was obvious for Dixon; he enjoyed the campus environment, small classes and great computer science program the university had to offer. He believes that his time at EKU has set him up for future success.

“I have learned how to effectively work with others to achieve a common goal,” he said. “Through group projects in classes, research projects outside of classes, and tutoring sessions with students, I have learned how to communicate my ideas and contribute to the group to achieve the desired results for a given task.”

After graduating from EKU, Dixon hopes to work in the software engineering industry with a focus on cybersecurity in software development. The experience has cemented in Dixon’s mind the idea that anything is possible for him, no matter the odds. He encourages other students to go for their goals, too.

“Be confident and go for it, even if you think you have no chance. Get to know your professors and ask them for help.”