West Virginia University has recognized two exceptional female faculty researchers and two graduate students with Women in Science and Engineering Awards.

In its second year, the WVU WiSE Awards support faculty initiatives and student scholarships with the goal of helping women successfully navigate careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Jennifer Hawkins, assistant professor in the Department of Biology and Amy Weislogel, assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Geography each will receive $3,750 to pursue their research. Alison Sears, a graduate student in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and Nicole Shamitko-Klingensmith, a graduate student in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, each will receive $1,250 to support their work.

Hawkins said she will use the award to assist in the discovery of plant genes and gene networks that promote positive plant-microbe interactions. Her research, she said could ultimately result in increased soil carbon sequestration.

“We hope our findings will lead to the development of environmentally friendly agricultural practices for many of our major cereal grain crops,” she said.

Weislogel’s award will support research that potentially could aid in energy exploration, carbon sequestration, and reconstructing global change and earth’s history.

“Through my work, I want to promote a better understanding of earth’s history and the implications of that history for resource distribution,” she said.

Sears, a graduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will use her funds to attend the American Geophysical Union’s 46th Annual Fall Meeting in San Francisco. While attending the conference, Sears will deliver her research results targeting the improvement of water supply and land use of reclaimed surface mine sites in Appalachia.

“The long-term outcome of my research will be to provide evidence that accurately designed retention ponds can maximize beneficial land use of the reclaimed sites by creating a wetland area for wildlife and vegetation, perennial stream flow to support aquatic life, or treatment retention ponds to treat contaminated surface water runoff,” she said.

Shamitko-Klingensmith, a graduate student in the C. Eugene Bennett Department of Chemistry, plans to use her funding to attend the 58th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society in San Francisco. There she will have the opportunity to present her research findings related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“As we age, the physical properties of our cells change, and these changes are often associated with increases in cholesterol, oxidative damage and cytoskeleton abnormalities,” she said.

“My research is focused on how these changes influence a cell’s vulnerability to toxicity associated with the b-amyloid peptide, which plays a prominent role in Alzheimer’s disease.”

The WiSE Giving Circle brings together alumnae and friends who seek to impact the field of science by encouraging and mentoring young women in their pursuit of professional careers within the National Science Foundation-funded STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and math. The giving circle is an internal program that was developed simultaneously with WVU’s National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant, which seeks to “increase the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.”

The 2013-2014 WiSE Awards are funded by WiSE annual membership and donations, The Hall-de Graaf Endowment for Women in Science & Engineering, The Research Trust Fund Hall – de Graaf Science & Engineering Fund and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

To learn more about the WiSE Giving Circle, contact Amanda Dymacek, associate director of development in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at Amanda.Dymacek@mail.wvu.edu or visit wisewomen.wvu.edu.



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