Brazil. Romania. India. Italy. Pennsylvania.
West Virginia University’s faculty make their way to Morgantown from countries all over the world and from towns in our backyard because they see a chance for their own development and a way to improve life for others.
Last year Eros Chaves, who is originally from Brazil, came to teach periodontics, and Cerasela-Zoica Dinu, of Romania, came to propel students into the field of biomedical engineering. This past semester, WVU welcomed a new crop of faculty who came from diverse places to different fields with really the same goal in mind, that of making the largest difference they can.
Click below to hear the Inside WVU clip about the global pool of professors.
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Four of them in particular included WVU in their life plan to make positive changes. Karissa Skiba, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant from Greensburg, Pa., wanted to teach, so she put WVU – a place close to home that was well known – on her list of requests for assignment to the Air Force.
Kaushlendra Singh, educated in his native India and at the University of Georgia, came to start a new energy program at WVU and conduct biofuels research. He’s found an encouraging atmosphere and people who have given him a smooth start.
Gianfranco Doretto came from a program at the University of California, Los Angeles, after leaving his native Italy. He has found a strong group of researchers in his field of artificial intelligence and computer vision within the computer sciences.
“I thought all those things were actually fitting well with my expectations,” he said.
Tonya Payerchin, from Dunbar, Pa., wanted to teach, but wasn’t able to until after her children were older. The nursing instructor wanted to work somewhere with a teaching hospital and where she could have a chance to conduct research.
Faculty members who have been at West Virginia University longer than these have seen the benefits of working in a land-grant institution that has the missions of research, education and outreach.
Chaves, a University of Michigan graduate, had worked in Brazil, Texas, Alabama, Pittsburgh and Florida before being tugged to the mountains by a network of West Virginians and WVU graduates. When a periodontics faculty position opened up at WVU, former students, his office receptionist and a few dentists from West Virginia effectively lobbied him on behalf of the state and University, and of course the WVU men’s basketball team was on a winning streak.
“All the changes starting with the new WVU president called my attention to what is happening at West Virginia University,” he said.
He sees WVU as a winning team.
“I don’t want to go to a place just to be there,” he said. “I want to make a difference and to be part of this winning attitude, not just for the sake of winning, but to be able to accomplish my professional goals, and contribute to WVU and periodontics.”
“There is something in the structure of the Health Sciences Center and in West Virginia University where a decision was made to grow and be successful.”
In West Virginia, a place where heart disease and other chronic illnesses are prevalent, he feels he can contribute especially as a periodontist caring for gum health, which is significantly linked to overall health.
As a graduate student in Michigan and a faculty member at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Chaves was one among a large number of periodontist faculty. It was easier with so many experts to rely on, but here he has the challenge of helping to expand the program and being an important part of the decision-making process.
“I think it’s going to be fun; I think it’s going to be great,” Chaves said.
And he found that you don’t have to be from Morgantown to appreciate the area.
“It is a beautiful area with mountains and lakes,” he said. “Anybody from anywhere in the world would see that it’s a beautiful location.”
Dinu was most excited about being on the ground floor of the emerging field of biomedical engineering at WVU.
After studying in Romania and Germany and doing post-doctoral work at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., Dinu joined WVU’s Department of Chemical Engineering and WVNano, to further the biomedical engineering field here.
She knew she wanted to be a professor, and she chose WVU because of her desire to be involved in the direction of the department to build a new program in biomedical engineering and the collaboration within WVNano, the state’s nano-science research and development group.
“I believe that I can make a difference; when you go to a department that’s fully set, you cannot have that much flexibility, so much freedom as when you can set the stepping stones and help build a program,” Dinu said.
Once here, she received a start-up package to begin research immediately. Even before her arrival she was nominated for a workshop on writing proposals, something that was helpful to a new professor used to European procedures. This University effort paid off when Dinu brought in two NSF grants in her first year in the department.
She’s found mentors in her department and college going all the way up to Dean Gene Cilento, and she’s found bright and engaged students who work with her to spread information about the field of biological engineering to the public.
She believes the University cares about its employees from the emphasis she’s received on professional development and encouragement toward making tenure.
Outside WVU, she found Morgantown to be dynamic, prosperous and centrally located near Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.
“If you want to go and interact with a program manager at an agency like NSF (National Science Foundation), you can just drive there, and actually the University will financially support it,” she said.
By Diana Mazzella
CONTACT: WVU University Relations/News
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