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21 Nov

As many as 250 young scientists from across the state will travel to West Virginia University to help find solutions to some of life’s problems − one Lego brick at a time.

The First Lego League 2014 Challenge, hosted by high school robotics group Mountaineer Area RoboticS (MARS) and sponsored by the West Virginia University Department of Physics and Astronomy, will take place Saturday, Nov. 22 from 7:30 a.m. at Ming Hsieh and Olgebay halls.

A total of 28 teams comprised of elementary and middle school students from across the northern part of the state will vie for the chance to qualify for the state championship.

The program challenges students to pose a question that they can then provide a solution to. This teaches them important skillsets such as critical thinking, communication, teamwork, creativity and problem solving. It also exposes them to the demands necessary for scientists and engineers.

Earl Scime, professor of physics and interim associate vice president for research, said the competition encourages the idea “that learning to do hard things can be fun and rewarding.”

Along with presenting their solutions, the teams will compete on proscribed challenge fields with sophisticated robots built entirely from LEGOs.

This is the first year the program has had a qualifying event, due to the rapid increase in popularity of the event. Participation has doubled from roughly 50 teams statewide in 2013 to over 100 this year. WVU is hosting one of many across the state.

Hosting an event such as this can spark some interest and provide the building blocks for an interest in the sciences, Scime said.

“When middle school students come to a university campus for this event, it may be the only time in their lives that they will set foot on a college campus,” Scime said. “Through this, WVU has a chance to be the place that they think of when they dream about going to college. Plus, as a land-grant institution it is our mission to educate youth across the entire state of WV.”

And, they’ll get to have some fun building robots, too.

“The public is invited to watch the robot competitions, cheer on local teams, and get inspired,” Scime said.

21 Nov

Shikha Sharma, assistant professor of geology and director of the West Virginia University Stable Isotope Laborator, explains her work to develop a clean source of energy.

Full story:

21 Nov

Gregory Elmes, professor of geography at West Virginia University, co-edited Forensic GIS: The Role of Geospatial Technologies for Investigating Crime and Providing Evidence, a book of case studies written for researchers, practitioners and students. Directions Magazine quizzed him about the history and current use of location technology in preventing and fighting crime.

The full story can be found here:

21 Nov

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Duncan Lorimer, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University, has been named the keynote speaker for the 2015 Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers Conference in June 2015.

Every year, thousands of amateur astronomers gather at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia, to learn more about techniques and strategies used by astronomers who are researching in the field.

“We get to study these very exotic stars. Pulsars themselves are incredibly unusual. They’re formed in supernova explosions, and that happens about once in a century. They’re rare. The stars are the size of a large city, but the mass of the sun. It’s always fun to talk about these exciting objects,” Lorimer said.

Lorimer studies compact objects such as black holes, neutron stars and white dwarfs using radio pulsars— rapidly-spinning, highly-magnetized neutron stars.

One of Lorimer’s breakthrough discoveries came in 2007, when a researcher on his team at the time discovered a single, group of radio bursts from another galaxy, using the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

Since this was the first time these bursts had been discovered, they were named Lorimer Bursts. As scientists discovered additional bursts, the phenomenon became known as fast radio bursts.

In 2012, two WVU postdoctoral students, using the same telescope with upgraded electronics, discovered four more fast radio bursts.

Most recently, in 2014, Lorimer and a collaborator discovered the coldest white dwarf star ever detected.

Lorimer arrived at WVU in May 2006 from the Jodrell Bank Pulsar Group, where he worked as a Royal Society research fellow. He earned his doctorate and master’s degrees from the University of Manchester, UK.

For more information, contact Duncan Lorimer at 304-293-4867 or



21 Nov

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Huntington’s disease, a debilitating brain disorder that impacts movement and typically results in death within 20 years of its onset, affects more than a quarter of a million of Americans.

Researchers at West Virginia University are trying to understand mechanisms underlying the build-up of the huntingtin protein in the brain associated with the disease for answers that could unlock avenues for more effective medical treatment.

The disease is caused by a sequence in the huntingtin gene that encodes an abnormally long repeat of the amino acid glutamine, which in turn leads to the build-up of protein clumps within neurons that are associated with the disease.

A research team led by Justin Legleiter, associate professor in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry West Virginia University is studying the 17 amino acid-long sequence that can be found directly adjacent to the abnormality.

Recent research in the field has shown that the sequence, commonly referred to as N17, plays an important role in modifying huntingtin protein accumulation and potentially the development of Huntington’s disease. Important for this specific study, N17 is also known to facilitate the binding of the protein to cellular membranes.

“We don’t have a completely clear picture, but there’s evidence that there may be key interactions between huntingtin and a variety of cellular membranes that are predominately composed of lipids,” Legleiter said.

Legleiter is using a grant from the National Institutes of Health to determine how modifications to the N17 sequence can regulate the interaction of the huntingtin protein with specific types of lipid membranes, which may play a role in Huntington’s disease.

Once the team interprets details of huntingtin’s interaction with membranes, this knowledge could lead to new therapeutic targets for discovering new drugs to combat the disease that places more than 250,000 Americans at risk.

Huntington’s disease, which is incurable, is an inherited condition that results in uncontrollable movement, dementia and ultimately death. It can be passed down through families even if only one parent is a carrier of the abnormal huntingtin gene.

The co-investigator on the project is Stephen Valentine, assistant professor of chemistry at WVU.

For more information, contact Justin Legleiter at (304) 293-0175 or



19 Nov

Lisa Dibartolomeo, Armand E. and Mary W. Singer Professor in the Humanities and the coordinator of Russian Studies and Slavic and East European Studies at WVU, had her article appear in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The full article is here:​

18 Nov

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at West Virginia University will host its annual Women’s and Gender Studies Fair in the Mountainlair Ballrooms on the Downtown Campus Thursday, Nov. 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

A combination of group work, service and outreach, the fair will showcase the projects of more than 300 students. WVU President E. Gordon Gee and Provost Joyce McConnell will give remarks at the event.

“It’s not just traditional, passive student groups displaying a trifold. Each group will be interactive and try to engage the public,” said Brian Jara, senior lecturer in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

“You will see performances, some multimedia, videos and documentaries.”

A first for the annual fair, alumnae, visiting committee members, faculty associates and senior students will be attending, judging the presentations and recognizing the exemplary projects.

Projects cover a wide range of topics that are associated with Women’s and Gender studies.

Women’s and Gender Studies addresses a wide range of academic topics and is also an opportunity to educate the community on issues important to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Questioning (LGBTQ) community.

The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies works to cease stereotypes related to terminology within the field.

Jara added, “A lot of people still don’t fully understand Women’s and Gender Studies, or feminism. The public can’t walk through the event, even for a few minutes, and not leave transformed, in that they at least have a better sense of our field and the things that we talk about.”

For more information, contact Brian Jara at (304) 293-2065 or



14 Nov

Patrick Hickey, assistant professor of political science at West Virginia University, will travel to Little Rock, Arkansas this weekend to participate in the William J. Clinton Presidential Center’s 10th Anniversary Celebration.

Hickey is co-authoring a chapter for the Miller Center of Public Affair’s forthcoming book “42: Inside the Presidency of Bill Clinton” to be published by Cornell University Press.

Hickey’s chapter, co-authored with Sean M. Theriault and Megan Moeller of the University of Texas at Austin, will focus on President Clinton’s relationship with Congress during his eight years in office.

The chapter incorporates political science methodologies with oral histories from top officials in the Clinton Administration. Hickey and his co-authors will present their findings to a group of top academics, political professionals, and students from the Clinton School of Public Service on Thursday, November 13.

14 Nov

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Appalachian Prison Book Project is seeking donations for a new book club in the secure female facility at the U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.

The idea for the book club grew from a discussion at last spring’s Educational Justice and Appalachian Prisons Symposium, an event co-sponsored by the Appalachian Prison Book Project.

For the past 10 years, the community and West Virginia University-based nonprofit organization has received more than 20,000 letters from imprisoned people expressing how needed — and essential — reading is. Members have sent books to imprisoned men and women in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Now, the group’s organizers said, they are ready to do more.

“Prisons are built to isolate and to separate. They stand as formidable barriers between those inside and those outside. Books can lessen that isolation,” said Katy Ryan, associate professor of English and founder of the Appalachian Prison Book Project.

“Malcolm X wrote that reading in prison changed forever the course of his life. ‘It awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.’ We all need that intellectual and creative stimulation, and people in prison have fewer opportunities for it.”

Through reading and discussion of selected works, the group hopes to strengthen members’ analytical and communication skills, and build positive peer support and vital connections between people inside and outside prisons.

Though it always accepts donations for postage, supplies and other books (including dictionaries), the group is currently seeking donations of the following titles for the book club. All donated items must be paperback.

● “There Are No Children Here” by Alex Kotlowitz
● “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy
● “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest Gaines
● “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
● “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander

Discussions in the club have been fantastic and reaction to the group has been positive, Ryan said.

“Staff members (at the prison) have reached out to let me know that the women are really excited about the program and are talking about the books as they are reading them. And we know that other women are already interested in joining the next group. There is a lot of momentum.”

The group says studies show rates of repeat offenses drop when inmates are given access to such materials while inside. The power of the written word, Ryan said, has the ability to change and transform.

“We often describe books as an ‘escape’ or ‘transporting’ — they move us — and yet they return us to ourselves and our moment,” she said. “The right book at the right time can adjust, even alter, the way that we think about life and the world.”

For book donations, contact Katy Ryan at Money can be donated through PayPal at or a check sent to APBP, PO BOX 601; Morgantown, WV 25607.

For more information about the Appalachian Prison Book Project, visit or follow the organization on Facebook.



Check daily for the latest news from the University. Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

13 Nov

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – How does language work?

Kirk Hazen, Ph.D., professor of Linguistics in the Department of English at West Virginia University, believes everyone should learn about how language works.

His new book, “An Introduction to Language,” provides readers who have no background in linguistics with a tour of English and how language works in their lives.

“This is a process of self-discovery. If you go through this book, you’re going to learn things about yourself and what you do with language,” Hazen said.

The book includes exercises and examples that help readers explore the different levels of language. Hazen works from smaller parts, such as the individual sounds of language in the variation between “birthday” and “bir[f]day,” to the larger parts of language, such as the differences of phrases like “pass me the ball” and “pass the ball to me.” Some of these differences reflect social distinctions:

“While in some geographic areas the pronunciation [of birfday] goes completely unnoticed, in other regions, it might be seen as an indicator of lower class status. How it’s seen—and how it’s judged—depends on who’s using it,” Hazen said.

Hazen also takes readers on a tour of the history of English, including some phrases that have held strong through the centuries:

“Consider the saying ‘dead as a doornail.’ That phrase is itself a single entry in our mental dictionaries. It has a specific meaning. It came to be back when doors had nails. You had to bend them over in the door to hold two slats together. Therefore, the nail was dead. You couldn’t reuse it.”

In “An Introduction of Language,” Hazen guides readers through the study the language around them—as well as their own variations and impacts on it—by providing them with a new lens to examine their daily lives.

Hazen crafted the book for readers with no background in language study. By thoroughly explaining basic concepts with tangible examples, Hazen avoided layers of linguistic jargon that could prevent readers from learning about one of the most beautifully complex skills we all possess.

“An Introduction to Language” is available for purchase at

For more information, contact Kirk Hazen at 304-293-9721 or



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