The West Virginia University Office of Graduate Education & Life recently recognized eight doctoral students for their research in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Students from various degree programs were awarded STEM Mountains of Excellence Fellowships for their plans to pursue research in one of the Mountains of Excellence areas of emphasis: achieving international leadership in radio astronomy, utilizing shale gas, promoting stewardship of water resources, improving STEM education and scientific literacy, and eliminating health disparities in Appalachia.

“Students who receive fellowships like this one are able to spend more of their time on their own research than students who must teach, work on faculty research projects, or do other types of work for pay in order to support themselves financially,” said Katherine Karraker, associate provost for Graduate Academic Affairs. “These students are able to focus their time and effort on the type of research that interests them the most.

“By facilitating fellows’ research in the topic areas identified as WVU’s Mountains of Excellence, these fellowships help WVU to grow our reputation and productivity in these fields.”

The fellowships provide recipients with an annual stipend of $27,000 (payable over 12 months), a waiver of University tuition, a tuition scholarship for individual college tuition and $1,500 toward research-related travel expenses. Fellowships can be renewed for up to three years for students in good academic standing.

The fellowships are funded by a grant provided by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research.

“The current group of students being supported by the STEM Mountains of Excellence fellowships is bright, competent and energetic. We look forward to them doing great things, both while they are at WVU and after they complete their doctorates and move on to distinguished careers,” Karraker said.

“We expect that they will apply their creative ideas and research skills to making some exciting new discoveries that will make the world a better place.”

The fellows are:

  • Milton Arencibia, a physics doctoral student researching astrophysics.
  • Kristen de Graauw, a geography doctoral student studying the impact the availability of water had on the social organization of the empires in sixth-ninth century Mongolia.
  • Evan DeVallance, an exercise physiology doctoral student studying how the arterial system affects overall cardiovascular health.
  • Zola Donovan, a mathematics doctoral student studying the approximation algorithms used to find approximate solutions to optimal clustering problems.
  • Stephen Itschner, an electrical engineering doctoral student researching methods to provide next-generation antenna design and signal processing capability for extragalactic radio transient work.
  • Megan Jones, a radio astronomy doctoral student researching the detection of gravitational waves.
  • Jarrett Riley, a chemical engineering doctoral student researching the development and evaluation of oxygen carriers for an emerging technology known as chemical-looping combustion.

In addition to the fellowships, six students received a one-year $5,000 scholarship from the grant. Scholarships are given to supplement the graduate assistantships of students working in the Mountains of Excellence fields.

The scholarship recipients are:

  • Amy Hunter, an epidemiology doctoral student researching child maltreatment in Appalachia.
  • Steven Markwell, a cancer cell biology doctoral student researching the factors in West Virginia and other areas of Appalachia contributing to an aggressive form of head and neck cancer.
  • Renee LaRue, a mathematics doctoral student researching undergraduate mathematics education.
  • Ross Ryskamp, a mechanical engineering doctoral student researching environmentally responsible ways to use natural gas in combustion engines.
  • Dustin Smith, a wildlife and fisheries doctoral student researching how acidification and hydropower driven water level fluctuations impact reservoir water quality, habitat and aquatic life.
  • Joseph Swiggum, a graduate physics and astronomy student researching radio pulsars.

More information about the recipients’ areas of study is available here.



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