Their research ranges from linguistics to astrophysics, from pharmacology to climate change, but excellence and creativity is the common thread among four West Virginia University professors selected as this year’s Claude Worthington Benedum Distinguished Scholars 2014-2015.
English Professor Kirk Hazen, Physics and Astronomy Professor Maura McLaughlin, Pharmacology and Neurosciences Professor James Simpkins and Geology and Geography professor Amy Hessl will receive $5,000 in professional support from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation Endowment at WVU. In addition, each will present public lecture in fall 2015.
The award, given this year in all four categories – behavioral and social sciences, biosciences and health sciences, humanities and the arts, and physical sciences and technology – honors excellent faculty doing creative research at the University.
“The Benedum Foundation is committed to celebrating exceptional research and scholarship in all disciplines, which is one reason I am so pleased that we are able to make these awards each year,” said Provost Joyce McConnell. “These four faculty members are great examples of how deep and diverse the intellectual community is on this campus. I am excited to see them recognized for their work.”
For the past two decades, Hazen, director of the West Virginia Dialect Project, has examined the influence of linguistic and social factors on language variation patterns. His research has been supported by both the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
McLaughlin is a founding member of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves collaboration, a group of astronomers and physicists who are working to directly detect gravitational waves. McLaughlin’s current research is heavily focused on using both the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to accomplish this goal.
Simpkins, director of the Center for Basic and Translational Stroke Research, is focused on discovering novel compounds for the treatment of stroke and age-related brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Hessl explores the relationships between climate, ecosystems and society in forested regions of the world. Most recently, she has used her expertise in tree-ring research to evaluate how past and present climate change interacts with people and society in Mongolia.
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