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29 Aug

Morgantown, W.Va.—The Department of English will host a reading by George Singleton on Tue, Sep. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in 130 Colson Hall.

George Singleton, who holds the John C. Cobb Chair in humanities at Wofford College, has published six collections of stories, two novels, and a book of writing advice.

His next collection, “Calloustown,” will be published in November 2015. Over 200 of his stories have appeared in magazines such as the “Atlantic Monthly,” “Harper’s,” “Book,” “Playboy,” “Zoetrope,” “Georgia Review,” “Southern Review” and elsewhere.

His work has been anthologized in ten issues of “New Stories of the South—the Year’s Best.” His non-fiction has appeared in “Oxford American,” “Garden and Gun,” “Bark,” and elsewhere.

Singleton received a 2009-10 Guggenheim fellowship, a 2011 Hillsdale Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2010. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution labeled him “the unchallenged king of the comic southern short story.”

The reading is free and open to the public. A book signing and reception will follow.

29 Aug

Morgantown, W.Va.— The Department of English at West Virginia University. will host a reading by Kelly Moffett on Monday, Sep. 15 at 11:00 a.m. in 130 Colson Hall.

Kelly Moffett has two books of poetry and one chapbook. Her third book, “bird blind,” will be released this fall. Her work has appeared in journals such as “Colorado Review,” “Cincinnati Review,” and “Rattle.”

She is an assistant professor at Northern Kentucky University and a graduate of the WVU Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts programs.

“Kelly is one of our most accomplished alumni and we’re looking forward to hearing her read from her books,” said professor Mary Ann Samyn, director of the creative writing program.

“The MFA program has grown so much and we’re proud of the success of all of our grads.”

The reading is free and open to the public. A book signing and reception will follow.

29 Aug

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – 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?

MDB Picture 2 Melissa Blank, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at West Virginia University, is investigating whether smokers are using smokeless tobacco products in place of cigarettes, or as a supplement to them.

To support this research, Blank was awarded a federal grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

“If we find out that smokers are in fact using these products to help replace a significant portion of their cigarettes, then it might be in our best interest to continue to market these products in that manner,” Blank said.

“But if we end up finding out that smokers are really just supplementing—they’re actually exposing themselves to more nicotine and tobacco then they normally would have if they’re only using their cigarettes—then the FDA can use that information in terms of regulating how these products are marketed to smokers.”

Blank is focusing on smokers’ use of not only traditional (dip, snuff, chew), but also novel (pouches, lozenges, etc.), smokeless tobacco products.

For example, snus tobacco pouches originated in Sweden and are now marketed in the U.S. for use in situations where smokers cannot use cigarettes.

These smokeless tobacco pouches do not require spitting and may expose users to fewer harmful chemicals than cigarettes. Thus, smokers may engage in snus use to circumvent indoor smoking restrictions and/or to reduce the harms of cigarette use.

According to a study conducted in 2012 by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28.2 percent of adults in West Virginia have self-identified as current cigarette/smokeless tobacco users. This number, Blank said, exceeds the per-state average in the United States.

To characterize the patterns of dual tobacco use, Blank will give cigarette smokers who use smokeless tobacco a device that allows them to record their use of all products daily.

The device will allow volunteers to give details about the setting in which they use a product, including the area, number of people around them and what they were doing during use.

Blank will also have the volunteers collect saliva samples during the study to compare smokers’ exposure to chemicals when they smoke only cigarettes, to when they smoke cigarettes and use smokeless tobacco in the same day.

Blank joined the WVU faculty in 2012, and serves as a co-leader of the tobacco research program for the West Virginia Prevention Research Center, housed within the WVU School of Public Health.

The research center, directed by Geri Dino and Lesley Cottrell, was recently awarded $750,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct disease prevention research in West Virginia.

For more information, contact Melissa Blank at (304) 293-8341 or



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27 Aug
Tessa DDutko

The academic school year ends, but students in the Eberly College never stop learning.

Each summer, many students choose to brighten their futures and expand their education by completing summer internships.

These are their stories.

Story by Mike Atkinson
Photo provided by Tessa Dutko

Tessa Dutko, Junior
Hometown: Martinsburg, West Virginia
Major: Political Science (international relations), International Studies (national security), Russian Language
Minor: French
Internship: Interning for US Embassy in St. Petersburg, Russia

What was it like growing up in Martinsburg?

It was a rather small town. It’s grown a lot since then. It’s a pretty close-knit community. I was pretty involved in the community from the time I was young, so I had a lot of role models growing up there that inspired me to get into politics. I’ve been interested in politics since I was in sixth grade.

Who were some of your role models?

My sixth grade history teacher, Mr. Chapman was his name. He would always start arguments with me in class, no matter what it was about, to try to get me to debate with him. That was probably my biggest role model from the time I was younger.

My parents always encouraged me to be very active in politics as well, and just do things in the community. One of my first jobs was at a retirement home; I served dinner to the residents there. There were always residents who would talk politics with me, so that was always an encouragement.

Are there any particular experiences or interesting stories about Martinsburg?

There’s a lot of Civil War history in my hometown. You can drive about 15 minutes and there’s Antietam battlefield. Gettysburg isn’t far away. The C&O canal is about ten minutes from my house. Shepherdstown is a big history town, that’s about ten minutes from my home.

There’s a lot of American history there. We’re also very close to Washington, D.C. So our field trips were always involved with American history. That was really awesome.

Living in an area where there is so much history is an experience in and of itself. I think that is mainly responsible for the interest I have in working for the government. From a very young age I was well aware of the sacrifices that so many had made to make this country what it is today.

So what led you to WVU?

Well, I grew up in Martinsburg, and WVU was the big West Virginia school. I applied to WVU, and it was actually the only school I applied to because (of scholarship help). My mom actually teases me a lot about how much I’ve come to love WVU. If I could go back, no matter what school I got into I would still choose WVU if I knew how far it would take me today.

The professors here have just been wonderful. Dr. (David) Hauser has really inspired me to always go the extra step. He’s really involved with the students. He’s taken us to D.C. multiple times to look at graduate schools and tour the CIA and the DIA and stuff like that.

The professors are really involved and they care about your future here, and that’s something that I really love about this school.

Can you share a few experiences you’ve had while you were at WVU?

I’m a pretty boring person socially. I don’t really do the party thing. I don’t get out much. My club is the library. I actually meet a lot of people through academic clubs.

One of the best experiences I’ve had here was the trip I took with Dr. Hauser and five other students to (Washington) D.C to tour graduate schools. I was really set that I wanted to get my Ph.D. in political science. After that trip it showed me that there are a lot of options, and you’re kind of selling yourself short if you don’t explore all of those. That really changed what I was thinking I wanted to do academically with the rest of my life.

How did you hear about your internship?

Dr. (David) Hauser. He actually told me about it a year ago and I started thinking about it. Then Ronny (Thompson), who does a lot of the coordinating for political science department sent out an email to all of the political science students about it, as they always do, and it was really helpful that they do that. It lets you get a feel for your options. I got on USA Jobs and applied that way, not actually believing I would get the internship.

What will you be doing at this internship?

I will be working in the Security Management Division of the Consulate. They’ve given me an outline of what I’ll be doing. I have to get my security clearance before I get a lot of details.

I’m going to be doing a lot of community organizing things. I’m going to be writing a pamphlet about security in the community of St. Petersburg. I’m going to be entering in a database, different things to form statistics on crime and things like that in St. Petersburg. I’m going to be trying to put together a community recycling project and organize ways that, not only the consulate, but the community can be greener.

I’m also going to be forming badges to come up with a better program that’s more efficient for security inside the consulate.

What do you hope to accomplish with this internship?

I think the biggest thing I want to accomplish while working there is that I think as students we often learn so much about academic life. Then when you go out into the workforce, it’s hard to make that transition and learn how to apply all of the academics into your everyday life and work. I really hope to learn not only that, but also ‘how does our government function on a day-to-day basis in keeping us safe at home and abroad?’ and ‘how do we interact with other countries?’ I think that we think it’s just a government interaction type thing, but I think one of the main goals of the state department is to interact with communities on a much closer level.

I hope to be able to do that in Russia and learn ‘what does Russia want from us?’ and ‘what do we want from Russia?’

What are your career goals? What do you want to do after you graduate?

I hope to figure that out while I’m over there too. I know I want to work for the government. Ultimately, I’d like to do intelligence. I’d like to be an all source analyst, for maybe the CIA or the NSA.

More recently I’ve been thinking about Foreign Service, and taking the Foreign Service exam and possibly becoming a Foreign Service officer.

At this point I’m torn over whether I want to go into the policy arena or the intelligence and national security community. They are basically polar opposites, so I really hope that this internship helps me decide which one I would be better at.

I definitely want to do a master’s after I leave WVU—not sure where that’ll take me, but I want to continue with Russia. I want to do something with Russia, whatever I do.

How will this internship help you achieve those goals?

I think internships are really helpful, and many professors have told me this, in showing when you apply for an actual job that you know what’s going on. I know that master’s programs also try to prepare you for a work setting, but I hope to work while I’m getting a master’s. I’d like to start working.

I’d like to be able to do this internship so when I go to apply for jobs with the U.S. government I can tell them at least I know I can give you a basic outline of policy goals, security goals and interact well in that environment.

You had mentioned Dr. Hauser. Is he your favorite professor?

I don’t have one favorite professor at WVU. I would say I have a top five. This list is in no particular order:

He’s definitely my favorite professor. I give him that, hands down. Not just because of how he teaches in the classroom. I do like how he leaves a very open interactive environment in the classroom for students to voice their opinion and debate and talk with each other. But at the same time, he always encourages students to do the extra thing, go the extra mile. It really pays out.

I know Dr. Hauser does a lot of things to help students that he does not have to do as a professor. I don’t think he realizes how much we appreciate that as students.

Do you have any specific experiences from his class that stuck with you?

Every class. Dr. Hauser really pushes me to think outside the box. He challenges people’s perceptions and opinions. I came to WVU with a very strict set of opinions that I thought were the right way, and I can honestly say that I still have strong opinions about certain things, but Dr. Hauser has really challenged me to think other ways and that’s helped me a lot.

One of the biggest things I credit Dr. Hauser with is improving my writing skills. I had him for Empirical Political Analysis and it was one of the hardest classes I ever took, and I came out 100 times a better writer.

What was your favorite class that you’ve had at WVU?

Probably comparative politics with Dr. (Cyanne) Loyle. I really liked that class, and I actually ended up changing my tract in my major because of that class. It was a really great class. You learn about how government systems interact.

That also inspired me to learn a little bit more about Russia. I’m Russian by heritage, but I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in it until I became more aware of their politics.

Dr. Loyle is another one of my favorite professors here. She also leaves a very open environment in the classroom, but she’s so smart and so awesome. I remember she did my advising one time and she asked me “where do you want to be? What are your career goals?” I basically said “If I were you in ten years I would be completely satisfied.”

She also does things that I think, to me, are really—She’s been all over Africa, she’s very into researching statistics behind genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, humans rights violations and stuff like that.

I think it’s really scary for us to think about stuff like that, but Dr. Loyle just gets on the ground and gets her way in there and learns about it, and then brings her research back here. It’s really awesome. It really makes me proud that we have professors like that at WVU that are willing to have such passion and go after what we as students want to know more about too.

Take Five with Tessa

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I read a lot! I also play the piano. I really like music a lot. I recently got into hiking, so I do a lot of that too.

Do you have any pets?

I have a snake. His name is Caesar. I’ve had him for three years now, he’s my best buddy.

What’s your favorite ice-cream flavor?

Breyers party cake, because it has the little blue swirls in it.

What is the funniest thing that you’ve seen at WVU?

One of the funniest things I’ve seen here is during the PRT cram in front of the Mountainlair, all of the kids are so dedicated to getting stuffed in that car.

What’s one thing you’ll never forget about WVU?

Probably how much pride everybody has for this school. People love this school. I like that.

Where is your favorite place in Morgantown, or at WVU?

The Library. Fourth floor, Eliza’s, table in the corner by the window. I’m always there, and everyone knows that’s where to find me.

Want to be featured in our summer series? Email with details about your internship.

22 Aug

María Pérez, assistant professor in West Virginia University’s Department of Geology and Geography, is using a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to examine how and why Cuban and U.S. speleologists (cavers) are collaborating amid a tense political climate.

“I want to examine the interaction of these cavers from an anthropological perspective to see how the exchange of ideas between the U.S. and Cuba can provide insight about the geopolitics of science and exploration beyond U.S. borders,” she said. “Cavers from these two countries aren’t supposed to be collaborating. The U.S. government has had an embargo against Cuba for a long time and it’s a big political issue.”

The Cuban Revolution in 1959 increased tension between the United States and Cuba, resulting in a U.S. government embargo that severely restricted—and at times halted—economic relations between the two countries. With a few exceptions, the embargo made it illegal for U.S. citizens to conduct business with or travel to Cuba.

Despite these challenges, a number of U.S. citizens have collaborated with Cuban speleology organizations to explore Cuba’s karst landscape, characterized by caves, sinkholes, aquifers and other underground drainage systems. These speleologists are focused on the scientific study of caves and have found, explored, mapped and reported on the topography in Cuba.

Cuba is the first country in the Americas to establish a national caving group, the Sociedad Espeleológica de Cuba (Speleological Society of Cuba), and since 1940 more than 5,000 cavers have participated. But the future of the organization could be in question. DSC00811 - Version 2

“Cuba is going through a ton of changes that could have a significant impact on speleology research,” Pérez said. “If the U.S. embargo is lifted, what will happen to Cuban science? What will happen to Cuban caving? What is the impact going to be on conservation and exploration of caves?”

Cuba is experiencing mass amounts of change in a relatively short period of time. In particular, it is likely that the country’s political leadership will change in the near future, making Pérez’s project a timely one.

She plans to take multiple trips to Cuba to interview cavers and gather data from online archives. “I want to talk to these people and I want to know who has succeeded and who has failed in these collaborations,” she said.

Pérez credits the mentoring and support she received from her departmental colleagues and other programs at the university for helping her design the project and earn the NSF grant. She developed the grant proposal while she was a Promoting Research Oriented Faculty Diversification On Campus Fellow at WVU. The PROF DOC program provides two-year postdoctoral fellowship opportunities for scholars from underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and math.

DSC05580_1 For more information, contact Maria Perez, at 304.293.9283 or

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19 Aug

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a sounding rocket, launched annually by West Virginia University students from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.

Students in the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources in the June RockSat launch. WVU has joined other colleges in participating every year since 2009.

This time, though, it also served as a dry run for a more complex rocket mission WVU students will attempt in April.

The two flights are part of a broader program called the Undergraduate Student Instrument Project, an educational flight opportunity sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics by providing a hands-on spaceflight experience.

WVU is one of 10 universities from across the United States funded by the project that will build, test and launch instruments on platforms ranging from weather (high-altitude) balloons to parabolic-flight aircrafts to rockets.

In the April 2015 mission, WVU students will launch a sounding rocket to measure electrical and magnetic phenomena at an altitude of 100 miles well within the Earth’s ionosphere – the edge of space.

“Space weather is a cutting-edge research topic that ties in our knowledge of electricity and magnetism in the upper atmosphere, to the effects on spacecraft operating in that environment,” said Dimitris Vassiliadis, research associate professor of physics at WVU.

Vassiliadis directs the project along with John Christian, aerospace assistant professor, and Amy Keesee, physics research assistant professor.

“Powerful space weather can (also) disrupt the function of technological assets on Earth, such as the power grid,” Vassiliadis said.

In addition to a plasma physics package, the rocket payload will contain a spaceflight instrumentation box, a GPS receiver, an atmospheric dust detector, radio antennas and several cameras.

Other universities funded by NASA’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Project include the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the University of Houston, the University of Central Florida, Louisiana State University and Carnegie Mellon University.

WVU involvement in rocket flights began in June 2009, with RockOn, a two-stage rocket, which like June’s RockSat reached an altitude of 75 miles.

WVU teams have designed and built a variety of physics, chemistry and engineering experiments that have flown on these missions.

The Undergraduate Student Instrument Project is a new NASA flight opportunity, which unlike its predecessor, includes experiments on rockets, balloons and aircraft. WVU is the only team to fly its experiments on a rocket.

WVU students in science, technology, engineering and math are needed starting this fall to prepare for the upcoming launch this spring.

Humanities students, particularly English and journalism students, are also welcome to sign up for an independent study course, to write about the development of these space experiments.

If you are interested in taking a course for credit, or simply helping with the project, contact Dimitris Vassiliadis at



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15 Aug

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Meagan Ramsey, a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Psychology at West Virginia University is conducting a weeklong research study on child gratitude through the “Family Gratitude Project.”

meagan_ramsey The goal of the intervention study is to increase parent and child gratitude by asking parents of children ages eight to 13 to engage in daily discussions designed to affect behavior of the family in daily activities.

“I’m interested in increasing well-being, which means having high life satisfaction, a lot of positive emotions, and less negative emotions. Research has (shown) that people who are very grateful tend to experience more well-being, and they just tend to be happier overall,” she said.

Ramsey’s study will begin with families filling out brief surveys about their daily behaviors and activities, to determine the level of gratitude they experience.

Following the survey, she will provide one of three possible topics for the families to discuss in daily family meetings for a week.

For the sake of the research, Ramsey has chosen to keep the topics undisclosed.

Families will complete daily surveys for that week. A week after the discussions conclude, she will distribute another survey to analyze how effective the study was for each family.

“There’s tons of information out there for parents (on how to make a child more grateful), but it really hasn’t been empirically tested. So parents are getting all of this information and all of these different ideas, but we don’t know if they’re actually working,” Ramsey said.

“If this is effective, as we expect it to be, I think it would be pretty impressive because I’m just asking them to have a short, three-minute conversation for a few nights in a row. That’s something that parents could easily work into their lives. If we could show that something so simple is effective, that could have a big impact.

Ramsey is studying under the supervision of Amy Gentzler, associate professor of psychology at WVU.

Participants for the study are being accepted on an ongoing basis. If you would like to volunteer and are the primary caregiver of a child age eight to 13, please contact Meagan Ramsey at 606-782-0806 or Families can receive up to $50 for participating in the full study.



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13 Aug

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Shuvajit Bhattacharya, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University, for the second consecutive year, has been awarded a $2,000 scholarship from the Society of Petrophysicists & Well Log Analysts for his research exploring oil extraction from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.

In recent months North Dakota skyrocketed to an all-time high of 1 million barrels of oil per day, becoming the second highest oil producing state in the country.

Officials estimate North Dakota will see 7.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in future reserves.

Bhattacharya is reviewing rock type, subsurface activity and characteristics to gage how these geological factors impact oil and gas production.

“My research will have a direct impact on hydrocarbon prospect generation for further exploration and drilling in the area, which could provide energy security to the concerned community,” he said.

The wells, he added, are projected to produce oil for the next 30 to 40 years before plummeting down to an unprofitable output.

“The project will provide a comprehensive methodology for Bakken that can be adapted by the industry to provide insight and facilitate further work on other shale resources in the world,” he said.

The Society of Petrophysicists and Well Log Analysts (SPWLA) is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the advancement of the science of petrophysics and formation evaluation, through well logging and other formation evaluation techniques and to the application of these techniques to the exploitation of gas, oil and other minerals.

For more information, contact Shuvajit Bhattacharya at



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8 Aug

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ken Showalter, professor in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry at West Virginia University, has been awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Reinvitation Award.

Ken 2013 The honor, which is sponsored by the German government, is extended to scholars from across the world whose outstanding academic work is of particular importance to German science, economy or politics.

Showalter’s research focuses on coupled oscillators, in order to better understand periodic processes in living systems.

“Oscillators are everywhere, especially in living systems—your heartbeat, your firing neurons, your circadian rhythms, etc.,” Showalter said.

“We study how they synchronize.”

Showalter received a Humboldt Foundation Research Award (Forschungspreis) in 1999, and an extension award in 2007.

Research on coupled chemical oscillators in Showalter’s group resulted in one of the first experimental examples of the chimera state, named after the fire breathing, lion-goat-snake chimera of Greek mythology.

The chimera is a counterintuitive state in which a group of oscillators is made up of coexisting groups of synchronized and unsynchronized oscillators. It is thought to be important in understanding unihemispheric sleep seen in some animals, where one half of the brain sleeps while the other half is awake.

These animals literally sleep with one eye open.

“The chimera is a new dynamical state. It had not been seen before. It was discovered by theoretical physicists in Japan about 10 years ago. There are many animals—dolphins, seals, and so forth that have what’s called unihemispheric sleep. These often are animals of prey. Half of the brain is in slow-wave sleep, and the other half is awake and alert,” Showalter said.

“Dolphins can stay alert doing this unihemispheric sleep for 15 days. Migratory birds can rest while flying hundreds of miles, because half their brain is asleep, while the other half is doing the work.”

Showalter and his co-workers, Mark Tinsley and Simbarashe Nkomo, published their research on chimeras in Nature Physics in 2012. Tinsley is a research assistant professor of chemistry at WVU, and Nkomo, a recent WVU graduate, is now teaching at Bowdoin College.

As an award recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Showalter will conduct research in Germany at the Technical University of Berlin.

Desmond Yengi, Razan Snari, Sadegh Ganjabad and Tianran Chen are WVU doctoral students also studying coupled oscillators in Showalter’s group.

For more information, contact Ken Showalter at (304) 293-0124 or



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6 Aug

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Julie Patrick, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at West Virginia University, is using a $12,400 grant from the McLean Hospital Corporation to research the effects of health coaching on various age groups.

IMG_9655 The results of the research will help her team pinpoint whether lifestyle changes, such as eating well and sleeping better, affect age groups differently and how to combat diseases that people are more prone to later in life.

“Most middle-aged and older adults care about health. Health is an important aspect of their lives, and many of us are interested in ways to improve our health. Health coaching has become this multi-million dollar business, but we really don’t know whether (it) works the same for young adults, middle-aged adults, and older adults,” Patrick said.

If you are interested in volunteering for the study, please contact Julie Patrick at Volunteers for the study will be paid up to $100.

Those who want to participate will complete a pre-screen survey. From those who express an interest in health coaching, 160 will be invited to participate in the second, longer study.

“We know that health issues are really important at midlife and late life, but we also know that those changes are hard to make,” she said.

“So if we know that starting exercise can help people eat better, (say) we’ve got somebody with type 2 diabetes or hypertension and we want them to be more attentive to their health, maybe we should get them walking. Once they’re walking as exercise, maybe then they can attend to their diet better.”

Patrick earned her doctorate from The University of Akron. Prior to joining the WVU faculty, she had positions at the Myers Research Institute at Menorah Park in Beachwood, Ohio, and at the Center on Aging at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois.

Patrick’s interests are broadly in the field of adult development, with a focus on families at mid- and late-life and successful aging. She has research expertise in cognitive aging, including decision-making and memory interventions. Her lab is active in health promotion and health intervention studies.

Amy Gentzler, assistant professor of psychology at WVU, is a co-investigator on the project.

For more information, contact Julie Patrick at (304) 293-1782, or



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