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17 Dec

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Glen Jackson, Ming Hsieh Distinguished Professor of Forensic and Investigative Science at West Virginia University, is seeking volunteers to participate in an NIJ-funded study on the effectiveness of using hair analysis as a complement to DNA analysis.

When a DNA sample is collected at a crime scene, the sample is run through a database in an effort to secure a match. The challenge comes when the hair evidence does not contain the root—which contains the nuclear DNA—or when no matching sample exists in the database.

Jackson’s research, using the chemical makeup of human hair, would enable analysts to make educated determinations about a person with a high degree of confidence.

Individuals interested in donating a small sample of scalp hair and some fingernail clippings must first register to receive an application packet through the mail.

Once selected, participants will be asked to provide at least 0.1 grams of hair, provide at least one full-width nail clipping, and answer approximately 45 questions about their physical health, medical history and diet.

To register, and to see photos of how much hair will be requested, visit

“We’ll take as much hair as a participant is willing to give. It could be as simple as a trip to a hair salon,” Jackson said.

Hair will not be accepted from subjects who are pregnant, cognitively impaired or incarcerated. Volunteers must be over the age of seven. Jackson and his team will not be analyzing the hair for drugs, drug metabolites or DNA.

Involvement in the project will be kept as confidential as legally possible. All data will be reported in the aggregate and cannot lead back to a participant’s identity as an individual.

Participants between the ages of seven and 18 must complete an assent form and must have all legal parents or guardian’s consent to participation.

For more information, contact Glen Jackson at 304-293-9236 or



17 Dec

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Aldo Romero, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University, has been named a 2014 fellow of the American Physical Society, a distinction that less than 200 of the organization’s 10,000 members receive.

He has been honored for his advancements in the field of computational material science.

“Up to now, most of the materials that we have been developing are based on trial and error. We just go into the laboratory with a vague intuition, and you try to develop a material based on that intuition,” Romero said.

“I think that’s changing thanks to this synergy between theory and experiment. You can develop materials jointly by doing computation. You can try on the computers thousands of materials in very few weeks. Then you can select a few of them and let the experiments to work only in the most important ones. This synergy is going to be important for the future.”

In order to be considered, applicants must be nominated by a peer in the same field, provide letters of recommendation from current society fellows and detailed lists of academic responsibilities, former projects and assignments.

Romero was recently awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation for his research expanding the magnetic capabilities of materials in electronic devices along the materials genome initiative.

“To scratch the knowledge of nature, just to see what is around you and why things act as they do is very exciting. Why do some materials have very specific and exotic properties and others don’t?”

“To see what you can learn and how you can play (with these materials) I think is very exciting,” he said. “I feel like a kid. Playing with your imagination is so fun. You can explore your mind without boundaries.”

For more information, contact Aldo Romero at 304-293-6317 or



15 Dec

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Scholars of southern Appalachia have typically centered their research on the contributions and experiences of men, particularly white men. But a new collection of essays, co-edited by a history professor at West Virginia University, is giving a voice to the different women who have proudly called the mountains their home.

In “Women of the Mountain South: Identity, Work, and Activism,” Connie Park Rice, Ph.D., documents the experiences and histories of women who helped to shape Appalachia. Many available texts, she said, either focus on women as a homogenous whole, or completely ignore the role of women altogether.

“In Appalachia, the historical emphasis is often on the coal industry – the industrialization of the region, the extraction process and the industry itself, or the conflict between labor and coal operators,” Rice said. “Women have been marginalized in a lot of cases.”

Rice co-edited the book with Maria Tedesco, director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at East Tennessee State University. Together, they solicited essays and combed through archives for materials that illustrate the diversity of Appalachian women.

The new book explores the experiences and contributions of Appalachian women across time and place, the realities and the stereotypes that have defined them, and the battles they have chosen or have been forced to fight. It also documents the diversity of mountain women, Black and white, urban and rural, rich and poor, Hispanic, Muslim, and gay.

“There is no ‘Appalachian woman,’ but many Appalachian women,” Rice said. “Just like the region, the women and their experiences are different, yet they all played a role in shaping the history of Appalachia.”

That influence has been felt since the frontier days, when gender roles were often blurred, to the present day in the battle against mountaintop removal, Rice said.

“So many times it’s women’s actions that have shaped the social, political, and economic structure of Appalachia, even though they’ve been left out (of the discussion),” Rice said.

Rice is the assistant editor of West Virginia History: A Journal of Regional Studies and a former member of the Governor’s West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission.

“Women of the Mountain South” will be released through Ohio University Press in March 2015.

For more information contact Connie Park Rice at (304) 293-2421 or

10 Dec

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Two members of the WVU Figure Skating Club will be the headlining performers at the Dec. 20 “Holiday on Ice” show at the Morgantown Ice Arena. Tickets to the performance, which will begin at 6 p.m., are $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under and are available at the door.

WVU Figure Skating Club members Courtney Caldwell and Shaun Adams, as well as more than a dozen local skaters, will perform solos and duets to holiday songs.

All proceeds will benefit the Mason-Dixon Figure Skating Club, a Morgantown-based organization dedicated to offering young people the chance to perform in shows and exhibitions as well as to test at various skill levels through United States Figure Skating.

Caldwell, a sophomore from Evansville, Ind., who has been skating since age 11, competes at the Intermediate level and is working to complete her junior moves-in-the-field test, the penultimate test before she becomes a U.S. Figure Skating gold medalist. Adams, a senior at Fairmont State University who has been skating since age 7, competes throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Holiday on Ice” is directed by former WVU Figure Skating Club president Angela Kreger.

Current WVU Figure Skating Club President Gina Geils, as well as Kreger, Caldwell, Adams, and WVU Figure Skating Club founder Alicia Marcucci, coach all of the show’s performers.

The show’s script is written by Mark Brazaitis, a professor in the Department of English and the WVU Figure Skating Club’s faculty advisor.

“I hope my script will be entertaining,” Brazaitis said. “But what will be most entertaining—and impressive—about the show is the performances of the club’s exceptional athletes.”

The Morgantown Ice Arena is located at 1001 Mississippi Street, near White Park.

For more information, contact Mark Brazaitis at 304-293-9707 or

9 Dec

A recent major hack of the tech and entertainment giant, Sony, released tons of data including the salaries and social security numbers of many employees and celebrities like Conan O’Brien and Sylvester Stallone.

David Hauser, teaching assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at WVU, spoke with WDTV to discuss.

9 Dec

West Virginia has the highest adult obesity rate in the nation at 35.1 percent —nearly triple that of the state’s rate 20 years ago. And while increases in childhood obesity rates in the Mountain State have begun to slow, medical professionals are warning that disparities persist and severe obesity may be on the rise.

Experts in health campaigns and communications at West Virginia University said to reverse the negative health trends across the country, the conversation is going to have to tap into people’s desire to know “what’s in it for me?”

“There’s only so many times you can say to people ‘there’s a big obesity and diabetes problem in this country. People know,” said Keith Weber, professor of communication studies and coordinator for the master’s in theory and research program.

“We can’t just ask people to make decisions because it’s good for them. Advertisers have figured that out a long time ago. Look at the way we sell LED light bulbs. We don’t sell them on ‘It’s good for the environment.’ We sell them on ‘they’ll last longer,’ ‘they’ll save you money,’ ‘they won’t use as much energy.’ ‘Do it because you’ll get something out of it’ is what I think motivates people.”

Second-year doctoral student Hannah Ball alongside Weber to research evidence-based social influence messages that promote prosocial health behaviors.

She has worked on projects related to organ donor consent, testicular cancer awareness, and obesity/diabetes prevention and management.

The public’s awareness of West Virginia’s obesity statistics and efforts to combat the disease still hinges on some of the most at-risk populations being able to access the information.

“The people with access to (the) information and resources are the people who are more likely to know about it and seek more information,” Ball said.

“How do we reach those people affected by the huge gap in knowledge and resources? Usually those are the people who need the most help.”

According to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, a report released last month by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Foundation:

• Obesity rates remain higher among Black and Latino communities than among Whites
• Adult obesity rates for Blacks in West Virginia were 36.5 percent
• Rates of adult obesity among Latinos in West Virginia were 32.1 percent
• Among Whotes, adult obesity rates were 33.8 percent in West Virginia
• Baby Boomers (45-to 64-year-olds)* have the highest obesity rates of any age group – and 38.7 percent of Baby Boomers in West Virginia are obese.

Some strong resources, Weber said, are already in place. For instance, Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia, houses the WVU Hospitals’ Diabetes Education Center, which provides programs in
diabetes self-management, utilizing dietary counseling, exercise
protocols, and other state-of-the-art techniques.

“It’s not ‘if you build it they will come,’” Weber said. “You’ve got to get (people) there.”

For more information contact Keith Weber at (304) 293-3905 or

4 Dec

The C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry will host the 2014 Children’s Chemistry Show at 10:30 a.m, Saturday, in room 101 Clark Hall on the downtown campus of West Virginia University.

The event is free and open to the public.

The 75-minute show will feature demonstrations, hands-on activities and for those who want it, a tour of the WVU chemistry facilities.

“You try to do a lot of different demonstrations, and hopefully they’re entertaining and fun, and informative at the same time,” said Terry Gullion, professor of chemistry at WVU.

“If you expose kids to (science) as much as possible, those kids have a genuine interest in it, and ultimately pursue it.”

While some of the most popular demonstrations from years past will return, many of the demonstrations will be brand new for the show.

Even when the show is over, the learning doesn’t stop. Children can participate in hands-on activities with faculty.

Children ages 12 and under have specific experiments designed for them to complete, while children over the age of 12 will be conducting experiments similar to those done in freshman chemistry classes at WVU.

Following the activities, anyone who is interested in a tour of the WVU chemistry department may meet with a faculty member to view the facilities.

The show is part of the famous Faraday Christmas Lectures, named after Michael Faraday, one of the great intellectual giants of chemistry and physics.

Faraday believed in teaching science to young people, and started the series in 1825 as a way to generate enthusiasm for science.

2 Dec

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A number of modern medicines, processed foods and the latest makeup rely on catalysts. The compounds, which affect chemical reactions, are crucial to drug and food industries, among others.

A chemist at West Virginia University is exploring safer and easier methods of creating the typically costly and toxic compound process by employing the use 1,2,3-Triazoles— a product of a chemical reaction – to bind to the central metal atom of a chemical compound necessary to create the catalysts.

“For a long time, 1,2,3-Triazoles have been considered a poor ligand. People just intuitively thought ‘ok, this one is not going to be a good binding (ligand),’” said Xiaodong Shi, associate professor in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry.

But compared to other, less stable ligands, which are typically expensive and require high ratios to achieve catalytic activity, the use of the 1,2,3- Triazoles is surprisingly effective in creating strong bonds.

Shi’s research, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation Division of Chemistry, uses NMR, IR, UV-Vis, Fluorescence, and X-ray crystallography to establish the structures and applications of the unique compounds synthesized by his team, together with mechanistic studies of the transformations.

Shi earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Nankai University in China, before earning his doctorate degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Prior to arriving at WVU, Shi was a platform research scientist for General Electric Advanced Material. He has published 60 articles since 2007, and has n the National Science Foundation CAREER award, the WVU Chemistry Department Outstanding Faculty Award, and several research assistant awards at the University of Maryland.

Shi’s research interests include new synthetic methodologies, asymmetric catalysis, organometallic chemistry, supramolecular chemistry, nano/material science, bioorganic chemistry and medicinal chemistry.

For more information, contact Xiaodong Shi at (304)-293-3435 (ext. 6438), or



2 Dec

A West Virginia University scholar says the 2014 Ukrainian crisis and the lessons learned from that country’s parliamentary elections in October could hold meaning for the United States. The National Science Foundation announced this month that Erik Herron, The Eberly Family Professor of Political Science at WVU, would receive an award in the amount of $132,670.

Herron was featured in the WV Gazette. Full story:

25 Nov

Novel smokeless tobacco products have been marketed as a way for smokers to cut back on the negative effects of tobacco, while still being able to use it. But is that really the case? Melissa Blank, assistant professor of psychology, explores.

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