Science & Research

West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission

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21st
March

WVU professor emeritus and creator of the WV ’63 unveils new tomato, limited seed available for growers

News about science and research

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Mannon Gallegly, WVU professor emeritus of plant pathology, eyes his latest tomato variety.

For more than half his life, Mannon Gallegly, West Virginia University professor emeritus of plant pathology, has been perfecting the tomato. In 1950, his research on vegetable diseases and tomato blight at WVU led him on a 13-year journey that culminated with the West Virginia ’63, also dubbed the “people’s tomato,” released in 1963 and rereleased in 2013 to help commemorate West Virginia’s 100th and 150th birthdays, respectively.

Now, with another birthday to celebrate –the 150th of the West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, the University’s founding academic unit – Gallegly is releasing two varieties of a new tomato in honor of the special occasion.

And, as if that wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, a limited number of people – 150, to be exact – will have the opportunity to plant, grow and taste the new tomato over the next few months.

Gallegly and Mahfuz Rahman, assistant professor and WVU Extension specialist in plant pathology, started developing the tomato varieties in 2013. Their goal was to develop a tomato not only resistant to late blight, but also tolerant to Septoria lycopersici, a fungus that causes Septoria leaf spot, a destructive disease of tomato foliage that can occur at any stage of plant development.

Tomato plant with Septoria lycopersici

This tomato plant shows signs of Septoria lycopersici, a disease that proliferates in moisture.

Septoria lycopersici produces spots on the leaves and lesions on the stems,” Gallegly said. “The centers of these spots are gray or tan, and within those spots are tiny, microscopic bodies. When it rains, or when the dew forms at night, those bodies exude a substance containing jillions of sticky spores.”

Septoria leaf spot isn’t new. It’s been around for a long time, according to Gallegly, but it wasn’t severe enough to cause much worry.

“In fact, we kind of looked forward to it coming in during the late season so it would defoliate, and enable us to more easily pick tomatoes,” Gallegly said. “But now, it’s coming in early and knocking out the yield.”

Based on observation, Gallegly suspects the marmorated stink bug is to blame for the rise in Septoria leaf spot.

“The common stink bug has been with us a long time, but this new strain of the insect – the marmorated stink bug – was recently imported into the country, and the population has been high in recent years,” he said.

“These bugs love tomatoes,” Gallegly explained. “They’ll puncture it, feed on it, and leave little ghost-white rings on the fruit. They like to hide underneath the plants during the daytime – maybe so the birds won’t get them. Then, they come out at night and crawl around, spreading the sticky spores all over the leaves, stems and fruit.

“And wherever there’s a spore, it will germinate and form another spot.”

On Friday, March 24, Gallegly will unveil the new tomato varieties during the annual meeting of the Potomac Division of the American Phytopathological Society at Lakeview Resort and Spa in Morgantown. The event is open to the public.

The tomato varieties are currently being referred to as the “West Virginia ’17A” and “West Virginia ’17B.”

“The West Virginia ’17A is more prolific, producing more fruit,” Gallegly said. “It’s a firmer fruit that is less sweet than the West Virginia ’17B variety. The ’17B is more of a beefsteak type. It’s larger than ’17A and sweeter than both the ’17A and West Virginia ’63.”

To honor the 150th birthday of the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, the College will mail a seed packet of each variety to the first 150 people who request to participate as a grower and tester (limit one request per household). Participants are asked to grow, test and provide feedback on their results via a survey.

Growers may submit requests for seed packets via this online form. Seed packets will be mailed to the first 150 respondents beginning April 3.

Additionally, everyone is invited to help name the tomato via the online submission form. Deadline for submissions is August 1. A committee will select the top three to five submissions, then invite the public to vote on their favorite name. The winning name will be announced August 31.

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21st
March

West Virginia Science Adventures program hosts ‘Science Saturday’ through May

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The West Virginia Science Adventures program, sponsored by the Marshall University College of Science, will host “Science Saturday” each weekend until May, excluding April 8 and April 16, for children ages eight and above.

 Activities will include the following:

 Chess Club (10-11:50 a.m.)

For chess lovers or those who want to learn. All levels and ages welcome.

 Science Club (12-1:50 p.m.)

Love science and engineering? Features completely hands-on and kid-driven activities.

 Pokemon Go Strategy Training Club (2-3:50 p.m.)

With 80 new Generation 2, Johto Region Pokemon everywhere on Marshall’s campus, join the ultimate Pokemon hunt. Have a great time and learn teamwork and math strategy skills. Trainers must bring their own devices, fully charged (and chargers). WiFi passwords will be distributed so no data charges will be incurred. We will visit Pokestops and gyms for supplies. Lures will be provided at Pokestops.

 The cost for the program is as follows:

·         Drop-in: $10/club/day or $25 for all three clubs in the same day

·         Monthly: one club is $30; two clubs are $50; and three clubs are $60 (pro-rated for months with holidays)

 Attendees will meet in the second floor lobby of the Science Building (ground floor for the Third Ave. entrances) and should watch for signage directing them to room 307. Snacks will be provided. Those coming for more than one camp should bring a bag lunch. No registration is necessary. Payment by either cash or check may be made at the event.

 For more information, please contact WVScienceAdventures@gmail.com or call (304) 412-2757. To learn more, visit http://ssawv.com/weekend-science.

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16th
March

WVU assistant professor earns prestigious NSF CAREER award

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A portrait of Fernando LimaFernando Lima, assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at West Virginia University, has earned a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for his work to improve modular systems for energy applications. The award comes with $500,000 in funding over a five-year period.

The northeast and mid-Atlantic regions are home to an abundance of shale gas, which has the potential to be used as a low-cost feedstock for producing energy and chemicals. However much of it is “stranded”; the geographic terrain, especially in West Virginia, makes it difficult to build pipelines to extract the resource to process it in a centralized location. Modular systems, which are built from small pieces of equipment that can be easily transported to these sites, can eliminate the need for expensive pipelines.

According to Lima, there are several economic and technological challenges associated with modular systems that have prevented their development.

“One of the economic challenges is that the systems are small, thus challenging the concept of economies of scale,” Lima said. “Due to their size, they are coupled and highly integrated, which can result in mathematical models that are large in scale and complex and nonlinear in nature.”

Lima and the members of his research team, which include WVU students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, will analyze computational approaches which are expected to provide guidelines for the design of modular systems in order to accelerate their development and use.

“This research will expose students to emerging technologies and state-of-the-art process systems engineering tools,” Lima said. “We will use process optimization and computational geometry tools to optimize and intensify designs for the modular systems so that they have maximized efficiency, reduced cost and minimized environmental impact. Additionally, statistical and stochastic control tools will be explored to account for process variables related to gas composition and energy cost.”

The investigated emerging technologies, Lima added, include membrane reactor processes for the direct methane aromatization conversion to hydrogen and benzene as well as natural gas combined cycle processes for power generation.

The project will utilize the process simulator at WVU’s Advanced Virtual Energy Simulation Training and Research, or AVESTAR, Center as a platform for the integration of research and education. Lima plans to host events for high school students to expose them to clean energy technologies through the use of the three-dimensional gaming environment of the process simulator.

“In addition to developing teaching skills for the WVU students, these events will hopefully motivate high school students to join STEM fields, thereby providing society a new workforce with the skills needed to succeed in a clean energy environment future,” Lima said. “This research is also closely aligned with current efforts by WVU’s Center for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization as well as its Energy Institute.”

“This award from NSF recognizes Dr. Lima’s creativity in finding solutions to major societal problems,” said Rakesh Gupta, the George and Carolyn Berry Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. “It not only allows him to couple and integrate reactions and transport processes in modular units, it also allows him to indulge in his passion of integrating research with teaching.”

Lima earned his doctorate in chemical engineering from Tufts University in 2007 and his bachelor’s degree in the discipline from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, in 2003.

The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, program supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. This is the seventh straight year that a member of the Statler College faculty has been selected to receive this honor.

“To have yet another member of our faculty selected for this prestigious award is testament to the high quality of faculty we are recruiting to the Statler College,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. “Finding ways to develop the region’s shale gas reserves is crucial to the economic future of our state and nation. Dr. Lima is doing cutting-edge research in this area and he readily shares his knowledge with the students he mentors.”

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16th
March

Marshall School of Medicine researchers advance research that affects metabolic syndrome and related conditions

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Komal Sodhi, M.D., (center) is pictured with co-researchers Mehiar El-Hamdani, M.D., (left) and Saroj Sigdel, M.D. (right).  Their team, along with senior author Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., and Zijian Xie, Ph.D., has successfully demonstrated that pNaKtide can attenuate the development of experimental nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and atherosclerosis.

Building on their recent research focusing on a peptide, pNaKtide, designed to block the oxidant amplifying function of the cellular sodium-potassium pump, researchers at Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine have successfully demonstrated that pNaKtide can attenuate the development of experimental nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and atherosclerosis.

The findings are published in the March 15 edition of “Scientific Reports,” an online journal from the publishers of Nature.

“We studied pNaKtide, a peptide developed by Dr. Zijian Xie, director of the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR), along with Dr. Jiang Tian of the University of Toledo and myself, in two strains of mice fed a typical “Western diet” high in fat and fructose,” said Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and senior author of the publication. “Our results showed that pNaKtide was very effective at ameliorating the development of NAFLD and atherosclerosis associated with this Western diet. If this agent can ultimately be developed into a medication, it may have substantial utility on disease processes endemic to this region.”

The researchers noted marked improvements in insulin sensitivity, dyslipidemia, aortic streaking and weight gain in the C57Bl6 mouse model.  In addition, significant reduction in low density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol) and increases in high density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol) concentrations were observed. In the ApoE knockout mouse, which rapidly develops atherosclerosis, the aforementioned biochemical improvements were also seen and were associated with marked decreases in atherosclerosis.

“Collectively, our study demonstrates the oxidant amplification loop controlled by the sodium-potassium pump significantly contributes to the development and progression of NAFLD and atherosclerosis, “ said Komal Sodhi, M.D., a researcher with the School of Medicine and first author of the study. “With these findings, we can better understand ways to treat or even prevent these conditions from occurring.”

More research is needed before testing on humans can begin.

This research was supported by the grants from the National Institutes of Health Grants and generous donations from the Brickstreet Foundation and the Huntington Foundation Inc.

Pictured left to right on the front row are: Muhammad A. Chaudhry, M.A., Research Associate; Krithika Srikanthan, M.D., post-doctoral research fellow; Alexandra Nichols, B.S., research technician; Amrita Mallick, Ph.D., post-doctoral research fellow; Rebecca L. Klug, M.D., post-doctoral research fellow and Komal Sodhi, M.D., associate professor, departments of surgery and biomedical sciences and translational sciences.  Pictured left to right on the back row are: Saroj Sigdel, M.D., associate professor, department of pathology; Mehiar El Hamdani, M.D., interim chair, department of internal medicine, and Athar Nawab, B.A., research technician. Not pictured are: Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the school of medicine; Zijian Xie, Ph.D., director of the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research; Rebecca Martin, doctoral student; Preeya Shah-first year medical student; Jiang Liu, Ph.D., associate professor, department of biomedical sciences; and Nader Abraham, department of medicine, New York Medical College; and Perrine Goguet-Rubio, Ph.D., former post-doctoral research fellow.

 

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15th
March

Chancellor of the Community and Technical College System of WV highlights STEM at U.S. Senate hearing

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Dr. Sarah Tucker, Chancellor of the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia, testified today before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, at a hearing on “STEM Education: Preparing Students for the Careers of Today and the Future.”

Both U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, who reached out to Chancellor Tucker to speak, serve on the subcommittee. Chancellor Tucker recognized them as “strong allies for community colleges in West Virginia.”

Her remarks highlighted how STEM programs and business and industry partnerships are helping West Virginians get the education and training they need to succeed in today’s evolving economy.  

“Our typical community college students in West Virginia have families to feed, mortgage and car payments, childcare issues, and sometimes parents for whom to care. Many are either out or work or are under-employed,” she told the committee. “These circumstances often cause our students to need to get into and out of a program that will lead to a high-wage career as quickly as possible. In West Virginia, nearly all of those careers are in the STEM fields.”

Chancellor Tucker noted that the four largest growth industry sectors in the Mountain State are manufacturing, health care, IT, and energy – all STEM areas – and that while STEM fields have historically been thought of as baccalaureate programs, community and technical colleges are becoming more critical for emerging STEM workforce needs.

That’s why, she said, federal support and collaboration on STEM-focused training opportunities are invaluable for community colleges in West Virginia and nationwide. She encouraged congressional support of federal programs that have proven effective, including National Dislocated Worker Training grants; year-round Pell grants; the GEAR UP program; TechHire; Career and Technical Education; and internships, apprenticeships, and workplace training programs.

“I cannot emphasize enough the value these programs provide,” Chancellor Tucker said. “Students, employers, schools, and communities have benefited significantly from them. Adults who have lost their jobs are getting a second chance. Youth who never thought they could attend college are doing just that. Together, we are changing lives.”

 Watch the archived hearing at LINK.

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13th
March

Marshall selected to host 2017 GenCyber Summer Camp

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Image result for GenCyber Summer CampMarshall University has been selected by the National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation to host the first GenCyber Camp in the mid-Appalachian region for high school students interested in cybersecurity and careers in the cybersecurity workforce.

Joshua Brunty, assistant professor of digital forensics at Marshall, said the university is the first in West Virginia or Kentucky to receive funding for such a camp.

“This weeklong camp will be geared toward high school students in grades 9-12 and we hope to encourage our students in rural counties to apply and participate,” Brunty said. “We have been tasked with creating opportunities for our underserved populations in the state and this camp is a perfect example of how these opportunities can turn into real life success stories for our youth.”

Brunty, who will serve as program director for the camp, said the Marshall GenCyber Camp is free to all accepted students.

“All program costs, including all accommodations, meals, and activities, are covered through grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency. This weeklong residential program is limited to 24 students entering 9th through 12th grades [who] will be selected on a competitive basis.”

The camp will take place June 25-30 on the university’s Huntington campus. Students and their parents can apply for the camp by visiting https://www.marshall.edu/gencyber/.

Learn more about the national GenCyber Camp program online at https://www.gen-cyber.com.

For more information about the Digital Forensics and Information Assurance program at Marshall University, visit http://www.marshall.edu/forensicsciences/dfia/ online.

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13th
March

MorphoTrak donates $1.5 million in cloud technology to WVU for biometric research

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MorphoTrak, a key provider of biometric services to law enforcement and other agencies, will donate access to MorphoCloud, a cloud-based collection of services, to West Virginia University to support the university’s highly-regarded research and education programs in biometrics and forensics.

MorphoTrak, a subsidiary of Safran Identity and Security, has collaborated with the WVU biometrics program for several years, supporting a number of researchers’ projects; this opportunity builds on that relationship.

In announcing the donation today (March 13,) B. Scott Swann, vice president of federal operations and innovation, said, “MorphoTrak located its West Virginia corporate office in Morgantown for a strategic reason.

“We want to foster a close academic partnership with WVU. We are very excited about this partnership. The academic and research values should be long lasting and definitely go beyond the monetary value of this donation,” said Swann, a West Virginia native and WVU graduate.

The current version of MorphoCloud includes services for fingerprint and palmprint search and verification, as well as face recognition. In the near future, the cloud services available to WVU will be expanded to include iris recognition and video analytics. As part of the donation, MorphoTrak will provide technology training and support to WVU to operate the multi-biometric identification capability of MorphoCloud.

“We are pleased to have access to this world-class biometric system that integrates analytics from multiple sources,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “As a leader in biometric technology research and the FBI Biometric Center of Excellence’s lead academic partner, West Virginia University’s agreement with MorphoTrak takes us to a new and exciting level of research in this emerging field.”

The MorphoTrak engineering and development facility, which marks its one-year anniversary in November, is just a short distance from the advanced research occurring at WVU’s Biometrics & Identification Innovation Center, staffed by a multi-disciplinary group of WVU researchers.

They work with government and industry to advance biometric technology and its associated applications.

Celeste Thomasson, MorphoTrak president and CEO, underscores the decision of this $1.5 million donation to WVU.

“It makes perfect sense to team with WVU and continue growing MorphoTrak’s presence in the area,” Thomasson said. “Providing WVU and the BIIC with access to our industry-leading identification technologies through MorphoCloud is the first step toward building a sustainable framework for research collaboration and innovation that benefits our key stakeholders such as the FBI and other state and local law enforcement agencies.”

WVU Vice President for Research Fred King said that “West Virginia University is honored that MorphoTrak has chosen to partner with us to provide our researchers the opportunity to use and develop sophisticated technologies essential to maintaining our nation’s security.”

Keith Morris, associate professor in the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science, and Matthew Valenti, professor in the Lane Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering, will be the lead researchers on the MorphoCloud project.


MorphoTrak is a U.S. subsidiary company of Safran Identity & Security that provides multimodal biometric identity and security solutions to a broad array of markets including law enforcement, government services, border control, time and attendance solutions and commercial security. Built upon 40-plus years of industry leadership and committed to serve over 1,000 federal, state and local government agencies and commercial enterprises, MorphoTrak strives to achieve excellence in delivering mission-critical biometric identification solutions to help make the world a safer place.

 

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9th
March

WVU Statler College to host 150th birthday party event on Pi Day

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Image result for pi day March 14 2017The West Virginia University (WVU) Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will celebrate WVU’s 150th birthday in conjunction with Pi Day, an annual celebration of the mathematical constant, Pi. The event will feature “Pi”-ala-Mode and students in Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honorary, will host the “Pi” Face Challenge, which will feature faculty from the College.

The “Pi”-ala-Mode event be 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (while supplies last), on Tuesday, March 14, and the “Pi” Face Challenge will be noon-2 p.m. Both will take place in the Lobby of the Engineering Sciences Building.

 

 

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9th
March

Marshall School of Pharmacy launches Center for Pharmacy Education

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They are accomplished pharmacists, scientists and researchers and now they hope to be known as innovative pharmacy educators through the creation and development of the Marshall University School of Pharmacy Center for Pharmacy Education.

The center, under the direction of assistant professor Nicole Winston, M.S., Pharm.D., will provide teaching and learning scholarship, faculty development and student development, as well as an academic-based residency for pharmacy graduates.

“Our school of pharmacy is already at the forefront of innovative pharmacy education because we use an active learning style of teaching, among other educational advances,” Winston said. “The goals of the center are to engage faculty in learning new, adaptive teaching methods and provide ongoing faculty development with programs like workshops and brown bag seminars, as well as creating useful tools for curriculum mapping and expanding interdisciplinary collaborations.  A third component involves offering our students opportunities to learn about scholarship and other educational strategies.”

Winston and a team of pharmacy educators have designed the freestanding center using feedback from a handful of other institutions that house centers for teaching and learning within schools of pharmacy, as well as Marshall University’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

“In researching the concept of a center, I found there really was a dearth of data available across the continuum of pharmacy education,” Winston said. “Creating our own center at a new school gives us an opportunity to lead pharmacy education for the 21st century.”

Dean of the School of Pharmacy, Kevin W. Yingling, R.Ph., M.D., said the center underscores the school’s commitment to develop the next generation of pharmacy education leaders.

“These individuals will become the highly valuable, core human resources for pharmacy higher education,” Yingling said. “These residency graduates will advance the pharmacy academy missions for excellence in teaching, learning and scholarship in these areas.”

The center is expected to fully operational by summer 2017.

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8th
March

Couple establishes scholarship for Marshall science, engineering/information technology students

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Don and Judy Silver have established a scholarship endowment for the benefit of Marshall University students who are pursuing degrees in the College of Science or the College of Information Technology and Engineering.

The couple spent most of their working years in West Virginia; Don Silver as an engineer at Ashland Oil and Judy Silver as a member of the mathematics faculty at Marshall for 30 years.

“We personally identify with Marshall University, because we have had an association with the institution since 1978 when Judy first began teaching here,” Don Silver said. “We set up this scholarship because we want to do our part to reduce the financial burden for students studying at Marshall, and we want to encourage more capable young people to choose careers in the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] fields.”

Judy Silver said that, during her time as a mathematics professor at Marshall, she saw many students who were unable to do their best academic work because they had to work long hours while taking a full load of coursework. This endowment is given to address that need.

“What would we say to students?  We would encourage them to use their time well in their college years,” she said.  “Perseverance and organization during your higher education years will factor largely in your happiness later in life.”

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