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Eberly News Blog

29 Jul

Fred Goldberg, professor in the Department of Physics and Center for Research in Math and Science Education at San Diego State University, will discuss the thought processes of elementary school students studying physics during an upcoming lecture.

The lecture, “Following Students’ Thinking and Reasoning in a Guided Inquiry Physics Course for Prospective Elementary Teachers,” will be held on July 31 at 2 p.m. in room 105 of White Hall.

The talk will focus on the Next Generation Physics and Everyday Thinking (Next Gen PET) curriculum and the best ways to reach students while following this innovative curriculum. Next Gen PET is a guided inquiry physics and physical science curriculum intended mainly for courses and workshops for prospective elementary school teachers. The curriculum was designed around research on student learning and an alignment with concepts of the Next Generation Science Standards.

This lecture is presented by the WVU Physics Teacher Education Coalition Project, in association with the Center for Excellence in STEM Education and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. For more information, please contact Viola Bryant at

29 Jul

Timothy Sweet, Eberly Family Professor of American Literature in the Department of English, has been elected to the board of the West Virginia Humanities Council.

The West Virginia Humanities Council is a nonprofit organization working to provide lifelong learning opportunities to West Virginians throughout the state.

“I am excited for this opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of West Virginia,” Sweet said.

Sweet was given the idea to join after working on a publishing project called West Virginia Classics through the West Virginia University Press. Through this project, many older, out of print books with cultural importance to the state were reprinted. Sweet met council members through this project, which was funded by the Humanities Council.

“I got to know the executive director of the Humanities Council, Ken Sullivan,” Sweet said.” He and I talked about how being on the board would be a good way to do some service to the public.”

Not only a member of the board of directors, Sweet is also on the program committee for the council. As a member, he will work to choose which projects receive funding from the council, including fellowships, reenactments, historic preservation, and many others.

When looking at projects to fund, the WVHC has six different forms of funding they can offer. According to Sweet, summer fellowship often goes to college faculty with a quality project and a plan for publication. When supplying funding via a major or mini grant, the board chooses a project based on its benefit to the people or educational institutions of the state.

For those interested in applying for a grant, Sweet says to make sure the budget is workable and that the proposal clearly demonstrates the impact the project will have, whether, it’s a publication, film, or a public event.

Sweet and the rest of the members of the board of directors will held their first meeting on July 24. Their next meeting will be held in October in Charleston.
“I look forward to learning more about West Virginia and getting to know the great people on the Board of Directors, the citizen members of the program committee and the West Virginia Humanities Council staff,” Sweet said.

29 Jul

A West Virginia University professor is traveling to Kansas in order to teach, and work with some of the Big XII’s finest scholars.

Robert Blobaum, Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of History, will be traveling to the University of Kansas in March to participate in a series of lectures and begin a collaborative project with a colleague from KU.

Blobaum will be the keynote speaker for a University of Kansas series detailing everyday life on the eastern front during World War I. He will also meet with several undergraduate and graduate Jayhawk students. His lecture tour will lead him across the area, to Kansas State University and the National World War I Museum in nearby Kansas City, Missouri.

The trip was made possible after Blobaum received a Big XII Faculty Fellowship grant.

Blobaum will also work with KU’s Nathaniel Wood, associate professor in the Department of History, on a collaborative project.

“Slowing Down in the Age of Speed: Effects of the Great War on Urban Life in East-Central Europe,” will focus on how the people of three European cities, Warsaw and Cracow in present day Poland and Lwow in Ukraine dealt with the loss of recently available modern technologies and infrastructure as a consequence of the fighting and military requisitioning.

Blobaum likened this loss of what were then new technologies of communications and transportation during the war to the recent United Airlines and New York Stock Exchange website crashes.

“Though it only lasted for a number of hours, it was a major disruption for a lot of people,” he said. “In World War I, these disruptions lasted for months, even years.”

During World War I, you have to look at types of technology that had become recent parts of daily life, Blobaum said. These include electric streetcars and telephones, which were lost very early during the war once the Germans occupied Warsaw. Another key resource that the people of Warsaw went without was leather, which was taken by the German army.

“If leather is needed to make boots, what are people going to wear, especially when their means for transportation are gone?” Blobaum said. “Horses had been requisitioned, so they couldn’t take carriage rides. Electric trolleys weren’t running because of the problems of coal supply, so half of Warsaw was going around barefoot.”

The Big XII Faculty Fellowship Program was created to stimulate scholarly initiatives by creating an academic community between Big XII schools. Blobaum hopes that this cooperation between WVU and KU will yield further collaboration and even attract students from one university to attend the other for graduate school.

Blobaum will then return his focus to his book about Warsaw during WWI. He hopes that both his book and project with Wood will be published by July 2016.

29 Jul

Zachariah Etienne, assistant professor of mathematics at WVU, recently received funding to collaborate on a project with theoretical astrophysicists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The three-year project will study black holes and produce theoretical models of what astronomers may observe using NASA telescopes.
Black holes are usually thought of as the result of a very massive star that has died. However, black holes millions of times more massive than such stars are thought to exist at the cores of all galaxies, including the Milky Way. How such supermassive black holes gained so much mass remains a mystery. One popular idea is that they were built up through “swallowing up” nearby matter and galaxy collisions.

When galaxies collide, their cores eventually merge. Deep inside the common core, the supermassive black holes’ gravitational fields interact, and gravitational waves carry away the very energy that keeps the black holes apart. As a result, they black holes spiral toward one another and merge.

Researchers want to learn more about not only the nature of gravitational waves from orbiting supermassive black holes, but also their corresponding light signatures.

These gravitational waves could potentially be detected through the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves.

“The Observatory, along with its international counterparts, represent our best hope for observing gravitational waves from orbiting supermassive black holes that are extremely far away,” Etienne said. “If both light and gravitational waves can be viewed simultaneously, it stands to greatly advance our understanding of how these holes and their galaxies develop.”

Etienne will be working with NASA Goddard research astrophysicist Jeremy Schnittman, research associate Bernard Kelly, John Baker, who is the primary investigator on the project, and Bruno Giacomazzo, a collaborator from Italy.

WVU’s high performance computer system, Spruce Knob, as well as NASA and National Science Foundation supercomputers, will be critical for performing the simulations necessary for these theoretical models. Etienne has spent most of the last decade developing a core piece of software used to produce these simulations.

The software, IllinoisGRMHD, creates models of magnetized fluid flows in and around objects with very strong gravitational fields, such as black holes.

Models created with the software will help researchers understand how magnetized fluid flows behave around objects with incredibly strong gravitational fields. They can then use model data to better understand how light is created by black holes.

The simulations that Etienne will be performing will help share insight into how that light is emitted, as well as give scientists a better understanding of the mechanisms that are generating the incredibly bright light that can be observed to the farthest stretches of the universe.

“We can see light coming from matter falling into black holes from all the way across the universe,” Etienne said. “In fact, some of the most distant objects seen in the universe, probably all of them, are due to the phenomena of magnetic fields and magnetic fluid flows around these very, very massive black holes.”

Supermassive black holes usually have a mass that is somewhere between 1 million and 1 billion times the mass of our sun.

“The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy is roughly 4.3 million times the mass of our sun,” Etienne said.

The black holes that can be observed in the universe are very diverse. Some supermassive black holes are so active that they disrupt the dynamics of the galaxy that they inhibit.

The one at the center of the Milky Way, however, is calm compared to others, called active galactic nuclei.

“These are black holes that are rambunctious, they’re causing all sorts of havoc in their host galaxies. Although our black hole is relatively quiet and well-behaved, you don’t want to get too close to it or fall into it, but it’s not going to destroy the Earth or things nearby.”

Funding comes from NASA’s Astrophysics Theory Program and will support the project for three years. Etienne is currently working on other projects with the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

29 Jul

Members of the American Physical Society from across Washington D.C., Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will gather in Morgantown for the annual Mid-Atlantic Section meeting.

The event will take place Oct. 23-25 at the Waterfront Place Hotel and is sponsored by the American Physical Society. Early registration deadline for the meeting is Oct. 1. Those interested in the event can register online anytime. the fees will increase after the deadline.

This year’s meeting will be hosted by the West Virginia University Department of Physics and Astronomy, and is expected to bring in more than 300 physicists, professors, graduate students and research scientists from national labs, said Edward Flagg, WVU Assistant Professor of Physics and advertising chair for the meeting’s organizing committee.

There will be several speakers at the event with topics ranging from optics to energy technologies and general relativity.

Wayne Knox, professor at the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, will help celebrate the 2015 International Year of Light and Light-Based Technology. The 100th Anniversary of General Relativity will be celebrated by plenary speakers Stephan Schlamminger, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Alex Wolszczan, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University.

Karen Rabe, professor of physics at Rutgers University, will speak about recent topics in condensed matter physics, such as multiferroicity and high-temperature superconductivity.

“The plenary talks are always a really good part about the meetings,” Flagg said. “Science is a very specialized field, it’s difficult to really take advantage of a presentation if you’re not an expert in it. A plenary talk is much more general, and even if you aren’t an expert you can get a lot out of them. Those are probably the most interesting things to go to.”

Anyone is free to submit an abstract or poster to be presented at the event. Undergraduate students who submit oral or poster contributions will automatically be entered into a competition for best undergraduate student presentations. The abstract submission deadline is Sept. 18.

Tours will also be given of WVU’s campus and facilities.

The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. The organization represents more than 51,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world.

28 Jul

A West Virginia University graduate student is handing off wisdom to motivated student athletes at one of the largest football development camps in the country.


Shaun M. Anderson, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communications Studies served as a keynote speaker in the Life Skills & Leadership Seminar at the Football University training camp in Dublin, Ohio from July 20-22.

“Sports are near and dear to me, so whatever I can share along to upcoming athletes, I would like to do,” Anderson said.

Anderson talked about the challenges many of the athletes will face in “Discovering Who You Are Through Adversity.” He explains how they can overcome them and learn about themselves in the process.

“All of them are striving to go professional, but of course, some of them will not,” he said. “I want to share with them some of the pitfalls they will possibly see in life and how they can overcome them and become successful.”

Anderson’s life has not been without struggle. He has been made homeless numerous times during his childhood and adult life. In order to pay for school, he even worked as a janitor.

“All of those [situations], whether they were adversity or opportunity, led me to this point of being able to share my story, conduct my research, and climb the ladder of success,” Anderson said.

Football University Inc. is a premier football training camp for student athletes in middle and high school across the United States. More than 125 current and former NFL players and coaches provide critical guidance in order to develop young players into better people on and off the field. Various NFL players including Andrew Luck, Ndamukong Suh, and even former Mountaineer great Stedman Bailey are alumni of this prestigious camp.

After the camp finished, Anderson was invited to speak again at the camp next year. He was also approached about conducting research on organizational structure for Football University.

Anderson will now turn his attention to working on receiving his doctorate. The third year doctoral candidate’s dissertation will involve working with major league baseball teams in order to develop a sport development outreach model for teams to be able to increase their fan development among diverse audiences.

24 Jul
Riggles The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce that Michele Stephens and Thomas Sura have been named 2015 recipients of the Riggle Fellowship in the Humanities.

The fellowship supports exceptional junior faculty members who are seeking tenure through innovative research, effective teaching and other creative endeavors. It offers a $5,000 summer salary award and is awarded by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Research and Graduate Studies Committee.

“The Eberly College is fortunate to have the Riggle fund to support important work by newer humanities faculty,” said Rudolph Almasy, recently retired dean of the Eberly College. “Dr. Stephens’ work is exciting, and we are pleased that the college can help her move forward in her research. Tom Sura’s work is also exciting and especially timely with WVU’s interest in, and support of, veterans studying at WVU.”

Stephens is an assistant professor in the Department of History. After spending two weeks with study abroad students, Stephens will journey to Mexico, including visiting Guadalajara, where she will access previously unavailable resources and research materials for an upcoming book release. Stephens’ research is following the indigenous group known as the Huicholes.

The Huicholes have managed to hold on to their culture in the face of oppressive Spanish colonialism and the Mexican government. Despite the assumptions that indigenous people have a “cohesive” identity, the Huicholes can vary across towns and regions. Their success of maintaining that identity, Stephens says, comes from them cherry picking what elements of the different cultures the group has incorporated.

Stephens’ teaching fields include colonial and modern Latin America, indigenous peoples of Latin America, the history of Mexico, and race and gender in Latin America. She received her Ph.D. from the University Oklahoma in 2011 and her master’s degree from California State University in 2004.

“This has been such a great opportunity,” Stephens said. “Since I’ve been (at Eberly) I’ve had so much support from the Dean’s office and also at the University level. I’m really pleased and honored.”

Sura is an assistant professor in the Department of English and the coordinator of the undergraduate writing program. In his position, he coordinates and develops writing class curricula for the department’s graduate teaching assistants.

With his Riggle fellowship, Sura is developing a program that will improve the quality of English writing education for student veterans. Sura said he hopes to develop strategies to make courses more ‘veteran friendly’ – and also define what that means for an effective education.

As more veterans come to campus to seek an education and pursue degrees, their needs may differ from those of a traditional student, with deployment and other training requirements taking them away from the classroom.

In the 2014-2015 academic year, WVU had 912 student veterans enrolled in classes, up from 563 in 2000. A total of 271 were enrolled in Eberly College of Arts and Sciences classes.

“Part of what we want our instructors to see is the value these veterans can bring, and understand and respect them,” Sura said. “Knowing tangible things to do, and not do, when working with student veterans contributes to our diversity. If you can understand and engage them, and give them opportunities to contribute, I think everybody benefits from that.”

Sura is currently offering a “micro-curriculum” of workshops, panels, and writing activities for graduate teaching assistants to identify what works, what doesn’t, and what effect the training has on student veteran success.

23 Jul

Teachers with experience in both professional and scholastic fields of subjects like mathematics and science are lending their expertise to the WVUteach program to mold the teachers of tomorrow.

“If we want to make the best prepared teachers we can, we need to work closely with people who have done this day in and day out,” said program co-director and professor in the Department of Physics Gay Stewart.

WVUteach proposes to do this by working with master teachers. Master teachers are leaders that have experience not only in the professional science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) world, but also as teachers. These teachers have left their jobs as regular teachers in order to impact the preparation of the next generation of teachers.

These mentors offer help with writing lesson plans and guidance through different classes on both the education and STEM sides. Unlike most professors, master teachers also offer advice to their former students years after graduation.

“One of the most important parts of the preparation of a teacher is the two years after they graduate and that’s not a normal part of how a university does business,” Stewart said. “We want to make sure that our kids have full access to our folks for advice and mentoring once they’re out in the field.”

This mentoring both during and after college plays a major factor in keeping teachers in the field of teaching. While many teachers teach for a limited amount of time before leaving the profession, the UTeach program has above 80 percent of its graduates still in the field of teaching five years after they enter.

WVUteach is modeled after the successful UTeach program developed at the University of Texas. Nationally, UTeach-model teacher preparation programs work to increase the number of secondary teachers in the STEM fields by giving students the opportunity to earn both a STEM degree and teaching certification in four years.

Another important aspect of the program involves getting students practice in the classroom as soon as possible. Through WVUteach’s ‘Try It’ courses, students will have the opportunity to teach as early as their first semester in college after observing the classroom’s teacher. As the students gain more experience, the ‘Try It’ courses will allow students to have more freedom in their lesson plans and work with older kids.

The WVUteach program, co-directed by Jeffrey Carver, associate professor of science education and Stewart, was awarded a grant by the National Initiative for Math and Science in order to further develop the program as it moves into its inaugural year.

The WVUteach team still has work to do as they prepare for students in August. Stewart is currently meeting with curriculum specialists in the STEM fields in order to make sure that students entering their own individual fields will be able to finish in four years, while Carver is working on the approval of advanced education coursework and licensure requirements. The master teachers are networking with area schools to ensure WVUteach students have a quality early teaching experience.

23 Jul

The School of Social Work at West Virginia University and West Virginia Northern Community College in Wheeling have agreed to terms on a collaboration that will allow the two schools to better serve the people of the northern panhandle.

Through this project, the master’s of social work program at the Wheeling campus of WVU will officially be housed on the campus of WVNCC beginning this August.

The relocation of the program has many people in the School of Social Work hoping to inspire the students at WVNCC to continue their education.

“The partnership allows WVU to visibly influence students beginning their higher education journey by demonstrating our accessibility and enriching their undergraduate experience with our partnerships,” said Rhonda Hayes, site coordinator for the Wheeling campus.

The program was previously housed on the campus of the Ohio Valley Medical Center, but many in the college believe the move will better help both the students and members of the community.

“We were really looking to be in an academic institution so that we could provide the necessary amenities to our students that we believe are important to succeed,” said Helen Hartnett, interim director of the School of Social Work.

WVNCC currently offers a 2+2 program in social work with WVU. Students can receive their associate’s degree from West Virginia Northern in two years, then transfer to WVU in Morgantown to complete two more years of study and receive a bachelor’s degree. The master’s of social work program held on the Wheeling campus allows students with a bachelor’s degree to stay in the area and further their education.

“There are several bachelor’s programs in that area, but no master’s programs, so we are able to provide that level of education to students coming out of their undergraduate programs,” Hartnett said.

Members of the program are finishing the last touches, including moving into office spaces and classrooms, before their open house on August 5.

Both WVU Wheeling and WVNCC are very active in the Wheeling area. Graduates of both colleges’ social work programs find work in areas that allow them to give back to the community.

“The partnership allows WVNCC to partner with our graduate students in providing rich field placement experiences and partnerships for community projects in our local area,” said Hayes. “Previously, WVU and WVNCC have worked separately with our local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and community gardens. In the future, we will be able to do that together.”

23 Jul

A research team in the Department of Forensic and Investigative Sciences at West Virginia University is developing new ways to detect the organic components of gunshot residue using equipment commonly found in crime laboratories across the country.

These organic components are a large part of the compounds that are produced when a weapon is fired, said Suzanne Bell, an associate professor in the Chemistry Department and the Department of Forensic and Investigative Sciences.

“We analyze swabs taken from the skin on the hand,” Bell, the primary investigator on the project, said. “So when somebody holds and fires a weapon, some of the residues are deposited on the hands. Currently, on the smallest of inorganic particulates are collected and analyzed. We’re trying to expand the universe of chemical compounds available to forensic scientists, law enforcement, and the justice system.”

While there are a number of advanced analytical instruments that could be used, every crime lab has access to gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, Bell said. Finding a way to detect gunshot residue using instruments that are already available to labs makes the identification process easier.

Researchers are currently working on developing analysis methods for gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, which can provide reliable identification of the compounds that make up gunshot residue.

“Instead of screening and finding an answer that it’s more likely than not, now we can actually use an instrument that can provide us with a definitive identification of these compounds, which we should be able to link to having fired a weapon,” Bell said.

The researchers develop the analysis methods on the instrument, then optimize these methods and collect samples.

The project is being funded by RTI International, an intermediate for the National Institute of Justice. The $29,982 summer award will pay for instrument loans and supplies, as well as pay for the three students who are currently working on the project.

Bell expects the project to continue until 2016. She hopes to collaborate with forensic labs in the future.

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