WV libertyScientific research at West Liberty University received an endorsement through the acquisition of a grant providing more than $156,000 to support summer undergraduate research experience in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM.

“Through these facilities and with the support of the administration, we feel that our group of investigators can provide undergraduate students with a summer research experience that will solidify their future in a science field,” said Joseph Horzempa, the principal investigator who worked along with other WLU faculty members to prepare the grant.

He was assisted by fellow professors, Douglas Swartz, Karen Kettler, Zachary Loughman and Matthew Zdilla.

The faculty members called their grant TOPPER, which stands for Training Opportunity for Pre-Professionals, Educators and Researchers in undergraduate STEM investigations and it also honors the WLU nickname of Hilltopper.

“The TOPPER grant dollars are especially important as a recruiting tool for prospective science majors as they consider the opportunities available at different colleges,” Horzempa said. “Often a paid internship makes all the difference in the total college experience.

“This money will be used over the next three summers and will allow us to offer stipends, room and board to qualified student interns and will pay for educational workshops and seminars.”

Twelve students will be selected to take part in the TOPPER research program. These interns have the opportunity to work with West Liberty scientists to develop novel vaccines, survey crayfish biodiversity, perform in-depth anatomical studies or determine the environmental impact of “fracking” in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.

“The dedication of West Liberty science faculty in providing students with significant research opportunities contributes to the 85 percent acceptance rate of alumni into graduate and professional programs over the last five years,” said Robert Kreisberg, Dean of the College of Science. “Because of this success, the biology program has been deemed a Program of Distinction by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

“Notably, WLU has the only Program of Distinction in biology in the state.” 

The grant was awarded by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research through the Research Challenge Fund, under the direction of Dr. Jan R. Tayor. 

Students interested in participating in the TOPPER summer research program should contact Dr. Kettler at kkettler@westliberty.edu