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West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission


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WVSU Professor to Take Part in 2017 Inaugural Winter Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel

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Academic Exchange Explores Israel’s History, Politics, Culture and Economy
INSTITUTE, W.Va. – A West Virginia State University (WVSU) professor is among a group of national research scientists who will soon take part in Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Media Watch International’s sponsored 2017 Inaugural Winter Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel.
Dr. Sanjaya, director of the WVSU Energy and Environmental Science Institute, is one of 23 professors from universities and colleges across the U.S. who will soon experience what promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime and insightful journey.
Sanjaya and others will spend 11 rigorous days from Dec. 27, 2017, to Jan. 9, 2018, traveling throughout Israel, meeting Israeli professors from their respective disciplines and with the same, or similar, research interests, all with the goal of developing collaborations, research projects, co-authoring articles and establishing exchange programs between faculty and students. 
“This is a tremendous opportunity for West Virginia State University to help facilitate collaborations on research and education between the U.S. and Israel,” said Dr. Orlando F. McMeans, WVSU’s vice president for research and public service. “Dr. Sanjaya is a great representative to share our work in agriculture, energy, the environment and water quality, while meeting and learning from international scientists working in the same research areas.”
During the trip, the participants will meet Israelis from all walks of life and will hear from a variety of speakers. They will also be exposed to contemporary Israeli society, culture, historical sites, the people and the way of life in Israel. 
In addition to WVSU, participating schools include Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, Arizona State University, University of Florida, Liberty University, Ohio State University, University of Pennsylvania, Baylor University, University of Rhode Island, Providence College, St. Ambrose University, South Dakota State University, University of Texas-El Paso, and California State University-San Marcos.
The Winter Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel is a competitive academic fellowship that invites full-time university and college faculty members to apply to participate in a two-week Winter Fellowship in Israel. The program links scholars from diverse disciplines with their Israeli counterparts at major institutions for the purpose of initiating exchanges and collaborations.
The academics will also meet with professionals and experts involved in government, industry, education, media and other sectors to understand the many facets of Israel’s evolving national and international policies.
Learn more about JNF and the Faculty Fellowship Program on the organization’s website.          
Follow West Virginia State University on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @WVStateU.


The human dimensions of water

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Water is the driving force of all nature, but how do people react when an area begins to run out of water? Martina Angela Caretta, assistant professor of geography at West Virginia University, seeks to answer that question in a report she co-authored for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In the report, Caretta discusses how water scarcity leads to migration of a land, while also studying how gender plays a role in the migration process. She also evaluates how water availability affects social stability and the number of jobs available for younger generations. The report indicates that two-thirds of the world’s population, or four billion people, live in conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month per year, while another half billion people face severe water scarcity year-round.

“Climate change is triggering migration, especially in areas of the world that are water scarce,” Caretta said. “Water is a resource we cannot live without in the Global North as in the Global South. My research is about how our society is organized around water, who has access to it and who doesn’t and how we can preserve water or remedy water quality so that we can have sustainable development.”

Without that water, individuals cannot grow food for themselves, so they have to migrate to another area to find food and water. This migration ultimately leads to overcrowding, which can upset local citizens and lead to conflict.

One example of this dilemma is the war in Syria, says Caretta. Communities in the northern part of the country could not produce enough food for themselves due to water scarcity, so they migrated to the capital, which led to population pressure in a city where food shortage was already an issue. This, in turn, triggered conflicts between the local ethnic group and the newcomers.

“There are a few studies that show a connection between climate change and reduced rainfall, failing yields, loss of livelihoods, conflict and migration,” Caretta said. “More research needs to be done to close this knowledge gap.”

The report estimates that nearly 25 million people per year are forced from their homes nationally and internationally due to natural disasters. These migrants move from dry to wet countries in search of better economic opportunities and a better quality of life.

With much of the Global South, or countries with low and medium development, living in water scarcity conditions, a failure of the agricultural sector is expected to lead to substantial employment cuts, according to the report. Agriculture is a primary employment sector and unreliable water resources threaten the disappearance of jobs. Roughly 95 percent of jobs in the agriculture sector, 30 percent of jobs in the industry sector and 10 percent of jobs in the services sector are heavily dependent on water, according to the United Nations’ World Water Development Report in 2016.

Climate change has different impacts on women and men, explains Caretta. While few studies provide research of this phenomenon, migration is a gendered process which depends on local societal gender norms. However, there is a lack of knowledge and resources regarding the link between migration, youth employment, gender and water scarcity due to the dangers associated with carrying out research in water-scarce countries. Caretta has been collaborating with UNESCO to address this knowledge gap.

“The truth of the matter is that this phenomenon cannot be studied any other way than going to refugee camps and interviewing people to understand how water played a role in their migratory decision and how the water resources in the receiving society have been put under strain,” Caretta said.

In addition to the UNESCO study, Caretta is currently researching how local organizations, in large part led by women, in West Virginia are working to restore rivers contaminated by chemical industries or acid mine drainage.

“We are a headwater state that can actually use water for economic development, but our water here is impaired,” Caretta said. “I’m looking at organizations that are trying to remedy these situations and specifically at what type of economic development we can have in this state that can restore and maintain where we have clean water quality.”

Together with Jamie Shinn, an assistant professor in geography, Caretta is also carrying out another project focusing on the response to the 2016 floods in southern West Virginia.

“The work of Caretta and other social science researchers at WVU contributes what is often the missing human perspective to the technical aspects of water scarcity and quality,” said Tim Carr, chair of the Department of Geology and Geography. “Her work helps to complete the picture and to outline viable paths to address the critical personal, regional and global issues of water supply.”

To learn more about the UNESCO report, visit



Spend an evening with the ’Space Gal’ at WVU

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Emily Calandrelli, a West Virginia University alumna who is currently the Emmy-nominated host of FOX’s Xploration Outer Space and chief correspondent on Netflix’s show, “Bill Nye Saves the World,” returns to campus as a scholar-in-residence Nov. 6-7. She will also share her passion for space exploration in an “Evening with the Space Gal,” at 7:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 6), in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. This event is open to the public.

As part of her residency, Calandrelli will engage with students and faculty in the Reed College of Media, the Benjamin Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the Honors College and the Department of Leadership Studies in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. Her appearance is also a signature event of the yearlong celebration of the 2017-2018 Campus Read, “Hidden Figures.”

“Emily has a talent for making science not just clear, but actively exciting to people of all ages,” said Campus Read Director Susan Lantz. “Her passion for communicating about science is infectious and recalls the commitment and drive of the women we read about in ‘Hidden Figures.’”

Lantz noted that Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and the other women featured in the book also inspired Calandrelli, who will focus on the “hidden figures”—including women scientists—who influenced her.

A Morgantown native, Calandrelli was named to Adweek’s “11 Celebrities and Influencers Raising the Bar for Creativity in 2017.” She has also given two TEDx Talks: “I Don’t Do Math” and “Science Exploration is the Worst.” She is an accomplished writer and speaker on the topics of space exploration, scientific literacy and equality. Her first two children’s novels feature an eight-year-old girl named Ada Lace who has a knack for science, math and solving mysteries with technology.

Calandrelli received her bachelor of science degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from the Statler College in 2010. As an undergraduate, she was awarded both the prestigious Truman and Goldwater scholarships. She went on to earn two master of science degrees in aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Calandrelli’s public talk will last approximately one hour, with Q&A to follow. Seating will be open and she will be available following the talk to sign copies of her Ada Lace books (also available for sale onsite).



WVU researchers to hold NIH-funded camp that turns high schoolers into citizen scientists

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“Have you ever been to camp?” asked Ann Chester, assistant vice president for education partnerships at the West Virginia University Health Sciences Center. “Camps are magical for building relationships. Over time, you can use those magical relationships for good.”

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded Chester $270,000 for one year to help high-schoolers forge those “magical relationships” and consider a career in science, technology, engineering or math.

The award is part of a five-year, $1.25 million grant to hold symposia and Biomedical Summer Institute camps at WVU, Marshall University, West Virginia State University and Glenville State College. The events are designed for high school students who participate in the West Virginia Health Sciences and Technology Academy, or HSTA, a program that seeks to increase the number of African American, financially disadvantaged or other underrepresented West Virginians who pursue health-sciences or STEM-based college degrees.

As part of the project, 120 high-school juniors from 26 counties across West Virginia will attend a Biomedical Summer Institute camp at the WVU Health Sciences Center next year. There, they will learn about early-childhood obesity, healthy diets and best practices in physical activity. They will also devise their own research project related to childhood obesity and its prevention. Come fall, they will carry out their projects in local after-school programs for pre-kindergarteners.

Their teachers will attend their own Biomedical Summer Institute earlier in the summer to discuss with WVU researchers—and with each other—the nutritional and physical-activity tenets that underlie Key 2 a Healthy Start, a statewide program that equips childcare providers to foster healthy habits in the children they watch over.

The high school students will pose their own research questions, form their own hypotheses, design and execute their own experiments, and draw their own conclusions based on the results. Within guidelines, they can measure what they are interested in, tracking values such as the pre-kindergarteners’ activity level, water consumption and acceptance of vegetables.

“If they’re interested in looking at the change in preschoolers’ attitudes toward vegetables after they’ve been handed smoothies they can do that,” said Chester, who leads WVU’s involvement with HSTA.

The students then pass on their experimental data to WVU researchers, who use them as the basis for broader scientific inquiries into nutrition, obesity and metabolic diseases.

“It is two-way learning because it gives professors input on rural communities from students and teachers across the state,” said Chester.

The data students collect—often in rural, low-socioeconomic areas—isn’t easily obtained. Chester once saw a map of West Virginia that illustrated where all of the HSTA students had gathered survey data during one Biomedical Summer Institute.

“That map had hundreds and hundreds of dots on it, where we had all kinds of information on people from the underserved populations around West Virginia,” she said. “That data’s hard to get, and it told a tale of deeper disparities than published.”

Not only do the summer camps familiarize students with the scientific method and make it easier to glean rare data from the field, but HSTA as a whole improves high school students’ eventual success in college.

Nearly 90 percent of students who complete the HSTA program receive at least a four-year college degree, surpassing the national average of 25 to 30 percent in comparable demographics. Additionally, HSTA participants are three times as likely as their non-HSTA peers in the state to choose a health sciences or STEM major, and 85 percent of HSTA graduates stay in West Virginia to work.

But HSTA students don’t have to wait until they graduate college to help West Virginia.

“This is citizen science. Kids are actually going out and collecting data with scientists,” said Chester. “The students are using the data for their projects; the scientists are using all of the kids’ data for their own work, and they are using the HSTA students as their vectors for change in the pre-K area for all of the various ways that kids can help kids change their lifestyle. This grant is capitalizing on the ability of children to make a difference in their home community if they are given the tools and the power to do it.”

Research discussed in this publication is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award, a National Institutes of Health program.



Digital Forensics and Information Assurance Program joins Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence

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he Marshall University Digital Forensics and Information Assurance program has joined the Bluegrass State Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence (BGS IC CAE;

Membership in the center means that participating Marshall students can attend BGS IC CAE outreach events including workshops, career panels, guest lectures, and other events. They are also eligible for scholarships and can earn an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington to meet with and tour various agencies in the U.S. intelligence community. Further, students who become IC CAE Scholars through the program acquire a competitive advantage when applying for jobs in the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Marshall was invited to join the BGS IC due to an existing intelligence course in its curriculum, along with having the Open Source Intelligence Exchange (OSIX). Marshall’s DFIA program teaches open-source intelligence collection and analysis, and students can get real-world experience working in the OSIX, which is staffed by selected and vetted students and supervised by faculty from the DFIA and Criminal Justice programs.

“The OSIX is a key part of our program. It rewards high-performing students with a chance to participate in real-world cases and projects,” said John Sammons, director of the MU Digital Forensics and Information Assurance program. “Our OSIX program is the driving force in our decision to collaborate with other universities in this group.”

The goal of the BGS IC CAE is to prepare the next generation of intelligence and security professionals, including national security, homeland security, law enforcement and private sector security. The program comes with no obligation or expenses incurred to the university, as expenses are covered through a grant provided by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Dr. Brian Simpkins, principal investigator and co-director of the BGS IC CAE, said Marshall University is a great addition to the center.

“The current academic programs and experiential learning projects provided to students by the Marshall University Digital Forensics and Information Assurance Program fit well into the goal of the BGS IC CAE,” Simpkins said. “Further, Marshall University provides a highly valuable STEM presence and resource to the BGS IC CAE.

“It is envisioned that this partnership will cultivate additional collaborative opportunities between Marshall University and Eastern Kentucky University,” added Simpkins, who is a Marshall University graduate. “I look forward to working with MU students as well as John Sammons and the rest of the departmental faculty going forward. Lastly, it is very fulfilling to work with Marshall University not only because of its reputation, but also as an MU alum and to have the opportunity to give something back to the university.”

For more information contact Sammons of Marshall University by e-mail at or by phone at 304-696-7241, or Simpkins of the Bluegrass State Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence by e-mail at or by phone at 859-622-6761.



3D printing takes training to next level at School of Medicine

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A recent $10,000 grant from The Huntington Clinical Foundation is taking hands-on training to the next level at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

The grant allowed for the purchase of a 3D printer and printing materials that are now used for student training, preoperative planning and patient education. Using photosensitive resin and polylactic plastic, the school’s senior graphic designer Matthew W. Crutchfield is able to create a variety of training devices for medical students to practice techniques like suturing and draining abscesses. Clinical faculty in the department of obstetrics & gynecology are guiding students through hysterectomy simulations using 3D-printed anatomy inside a mannequin.

“These additional hours of hands-on training mean that students are better prepared for the cases they will face once they step into the clinic,” said Bobby L. Miller, M.D., vice dean of medical student education. “This ever-evolving 3D technology has the ability to permeate all facets of medical education and patient care.”

Beyond its use in the classroom, Marshall physicians have been quick to integrate this advanced digital imaging technology into their practices as they prepare for complicated surgical cases and as a demonstration tool for patient education. Taking a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed tomography (CT) scan, Crutchfield generates a 3D model of the patient’s data.

“The physician can essentially hold the patient’s specific anatomy in his or her hand and see more in the model than he or she can from just the scan,” Crutchfield said.

This type of advanced digital imaging technology is not new to all Marshall physicians. Since 2013, orthopaedic surgeons at Marshall Health, the faculty practice plan of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, have used an external vendor to create custom 3D implants for knee replacement patients.

However, the school’s purchase of a 3D printer through the grant takes clinical use of the technology to another level. Now, physicians in Marshall’s departments of orthopaedics and obstetrics & gynecology are integrating this process into their preoperative planning for more complex cases. They are also using the 3D model to show patients what will occur during the surgery.

“The Huntington Clinical Foundation has been a staunch supporter of the School of Medicine for so many years through scholarship support, other educational initiatives and now providing funding for the 3D printer,” said Linda S. Holmes, director of development and alumni affairs at the school of medicine. “This latest support truly gives us a leg up on current medical education techniques. We are so appreciative.”



WVU LaunchLab Network awarded grant to boost business, entrepreneurship

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West Virginia University’s LaunchLab Network has been awarded nearly $750,000 from the United States Economic Development Administration to provide the resources to stimulate business ventures and help transform the state’s economy.

The three-year grant will help expand services at the LaunchLab on the Morgantown campus and increase staffing and service capabilities at the LaunchLab at West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Beckley.

“We are absolutely thrilled and energized by the grant from the EDA,” said Mindy Walls, assistant vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation. “Every student who walks through our doors with a vision, a brilliant idea, or a business plan in hand is a potential business owner bringing revenue into West Virginia. This grant will allow us to help more of those young people bring their visions to fruition.”

The LaunchLab Network supports entrepreneurs and innovators on every step of their journey, offering everything from one-on-one mentorship to prototype development facilities, resources and connections to investors.

Walls noted that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) was instrumental in helping WVU secure the EDA grant. “She sees the value of what we are doing in our LaunchLabs,” Walls said. “Her commitment to expanding our capacity to help entrepreneurs in West Virginia has been invaluable.”

Affirming her support of the LaunchLab network, Capito said, “Entrepreneurs are the future of West Virginia’s economy. The WVU LaunchLab Network will give them the tools to be successful and help instill an entrepreneurial spirit in our communities. I will continue to encourage investment in West Virginia and advocate for policies that promote growth and innovation.”

The LaunchLab Network of applied innovation centers for students is part of the WVU Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Applied Ecosystem, a university-wide web of centers, offices and programs that fosters and supports innovation and entrepreneurship among WVU students, faculty and staff while engaging the statewide community.

Other areas include IDEA Faculty Fellows, WVU Women’s Business Center, Davis Young Innovators program, WVU Extension Service, Brickstreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Patent and Trademark Resource Center, Health Sciences Innovation Center, Legal Clinics, Media Innovation Center, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the MakerLab and Technology Transfer.



WVU researcher examines mindfulness

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The mindfulness movement has grown in popularity over the past two decades, but research on its effectiveness is still catching up. According to a West Virginia University neuroscientist, increasing the precision of mindfulness research can multiply the potential benefits that meditation and similar practices impart.

A paper coauthored by Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, assistant professor in the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, explores the need for greater rigor in mindfulness research. It also recommends ways to obtain more precise data from mindfulness studies and to communicate findings more accurately. The paper was recently published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

In the paper, the authors describe mindfulness as practices, processes and characteristics related to attention, awareness, memory and retention, and acceptance and discernment. These practices have become important in areas such as psychology, psychiatry, medicine, neuroscience and beyond.

Brefczynski-Lewis says that based on meta-analysis, which measures the robustness of the results of multiple studies combined, mindfulness programs can be moderately effective for anxiety, depression and pain, similar to the effectiveness of common antidepressants like Prozac.

“Unlike drug studies, the people signing up for mindfulness are more likely to self-select. In other words, they want to try mindfulness,” said Brefczynski-Lewis. “We still don’t know if it will have a significant benefit in those who aren’t as open to it and for other conditions.”

Researchers are also still exploring the most effective “dosage” of mindfulness practices and what Brefczynski-Lewis calls the mindfulness “magic ingredient.”

To help illuminate these aspects, the paper includes recommendations that researchers carefully define what mindfulness and its related terms entail, venture beyond questionnaires to gather data, use randomized control trials, account for any negative side effects that mindfulness practices cause, and communicate findings accurately and without hyperbole.

Brefczynski-Lewis said one of the goals of the paper was to prompt researchers to think about these areas, and find ways to overcome the related challenges.

For example, could researchers recruit larger numbers of subjects for their studies, and similarly, could such skeptics be included on the research team to reduce bias? Could researchers augment self-reported survey data with measurements of subjects’ cortisol levels, their heart rates or the time they take to recognize positive or negative words that flash on a screen?

The paper’s authors have diverse specialties, from psychology to philosophy to mindfulness instruction. Brefczynski-Lewis, who has been involved in mindfulness research for more than a decade, brought a neuroscientist’s perspective to the issues.

“Aside from basic neuroimaging expertise, I hoped to provide a historical perspective to this manuscript,” she said.

She explains that in the early days of mindfulness research, experts were concerned about inaccurate reports of effectiveness. Researchers did not want small-effect-size studies – such as a study of how 20 people are dealing with pain – to be misinterpreted as proof that mindfulness could cure pain with no side effects.

In fact, she says that in some cases, individuals could do themselves more harm than good if they undertook a mindfulness practice without a healthcare provider’s guidance. And some might abandon mindfulness practices prematurely if their practice isn’t an immediately transcendent experience or if they have unsettling experiences but lack anyone to check in with.

“What I’m hoping will come out of this is a more nuanced way in which mindfulness is presented,” said Brefczynski-Lewis. “What we really want is for the research to benefit the public and reduce harm.”



WVU team of business and engineering students wins third straight supply chain competition at University of Pittsburgh

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West Virginia University continues to put a winning team into the supply chain arena, as a four-member

WVU College of Business and Economics’ Supply Chain student winners of the Race to the Case completion. October 10, 2017. (J. Alex Wilson – WVU College of Business and Economics)

group comprised of business and engineering students won the Race to the Case Supply Chain Management Competition for the third consecutive year October 8. The case competition was held at the University of Pittsburgh and included a field of nine teams.

The team was made up of two students each from the College of Business and Economics and the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. Of the four years the competition has been held, WVU has won three times. The group included engineering students James Carnes and Ashley Skertic, and business students Ryan Jadra and Amy Toscano.
“The case study was about a company that produced spices,” said Toscano, a junior global supply chain management major from East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. “The company’s biggest problems were the inability to fulfill customer orders on time due to the large variety of products and unpredictable demand. Forecasting and inventory management were a major challenge for the company.”

The competition is modeled after the Emmy award-winning TV show “The Amazing Race,” and incorporates teams comprised of both business and industrial engineering students. The WVU team’s philosophy in solving the challenge for the international company in the case was to divide and conquer.

“Two members of our team worked on the qualitative answers that were more concept-based. The other two team members focused on using problem solving skills to do the quantitative questions. Our team decided to have a system that allowed the company to have two separate production lines which would focus on two main product categories,” said Carnes, a junior industrial engineeringstudent from Weirton, West Virginia. “Having to present to corporate judges in the final round was an amazing experience that cannot be taught in a classroom environment. It forced our team to prove to industry experts why our conclusions from the case study were correct using data and concepts learned from classes or previous work experience.”

Dr. Ednilson Bernardes, associate professor of global supply chain management at B&E and faculty advisor of the supply chain team, said the students met the challenge head-on and as a team — just as they would be expected to tackle the problem in the real world.

“We are thrilled the WVU team won this unique competition for the third year in a row,” Bernardes said. “The team reflects WVU’s values of performing at our very best, supporting and valuing each other’s contributions, and seeking opportunities through innovation. Effective supply network systems operate with speed, accuracy and innovativeness. The competition challenges students to display those qualities, while requiring them to work collaboratively in a multifunctional team. This mirrors the professional environment the students will enter shortly, where global supply chain management professionals and industrial engineers are faced with solving problems.”

“I’m very pleased that our students were successful again in the Race to the Case competition,” added Dr. Kenneth R. Currie, chairperson and professor, Industrial and Management Systems Engineering at WVU’s Statler College. “What is significant to me is that our winning team is very young in their major. This shows how quickly our students learn the practice of their profession.”

The competition is designed to mirror the real world, where global supply chain management professionals and industrial engineers are faced with solving problems. They must rely on the talents of each team member and demonstrate teamwork — all in a timely manner.

“As a team, we divvied up our strengths,” said Skertic, an industrial engineering junior from Manassas, Virginia. “We worked in pairs and were able to continuously double check one another throughout each problem that was addressed.”

Jadra, a senior global supply chain management student from Westminster, Maryland, said, “We approached this case with confidence and trust. There were many problems from a logistical standpoint that the supply chain group tackled, whereas the engineers worked on the manufacturing side of the business. We had to trust each other’s expertise in order to be successful.”

The University of Pittsburgh placed second in the competition, while Penn State placed third.

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, e-mail or go to For further information on the WVU College of Business and Economics, follow B&E on Twitter at @wvucobe or visit 



Higher Education Policy Commission Awards $3.9 Million in Grants to help West Virginia Researchers Commercialize Their Work

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CHARLESTON, W.VA. – The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission has awarded three West Virginia University (WVU) faculty members nearly $4 million in Research Challenge Grants, which will help them build additional research strength and work toward commercial products. The grants are administered by the Commission’s Division of Science and Research.

Heath Damron, John (Jianli) Hu and Nasser Nasrabadi each were awarded the grants by the West Virginia Science and Research Council on Oct. 11. The Science and Research Council was established by the West Virginia Legislature in 2009 in part to fund these grants that assist faculty researchers in successfully competing for external funding on a national basis by providing incentives to increase capacity.

“The Research Challenge Grants are our most distinguished and most promising scientific awards available from the state of West Virginia for bright and aspiring research faculty,” said Paul L. Hill, higher education chancellor. “It is with great admiration that we recognize and fund the promising research of Drs. Damron, Hu and Nasrabadi.”

Institutions are encouraged to collaborate on projects where practical and to target research toward needs of the state. Averaging between $250,000 and $400,000 annually, these grants will invest nearly $3.9 million over the next five years in important science, technology, engineering and mathematics research.

“Investing in research not only furthers the projects of our grantees, but strengthens our state by training our students and perhaps creating new businesses in the future,” said Dr. Jan Taylor, director of the division of science and research. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Damron, assistant professor of microbiology, immunology, and cell biology, looks to create the Vaccine Development Center at the WVU Health Sciences Center. This center will leverage resources, support vaccine research projects, facilitate training of the next generation of scientists and physicians and foster the establishment of industry partners.

Hu, Statler Chair in Engineering for Natural Gas Utilization, will pursue the advancement of science and engineering for localized gas utilization. For this project, the WVU Center for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization partners with Marshall University; the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research, and Innovation