West Virginia University has experienced an unprecedented wave of attention and accolades in recent months as its research achievements are being recognized in a variety of ways, the Board of Governors heard during its meeting Thursday.
On Feb. 1, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education released its latest update, listing WVU as an R1, or highest research activity, university, a ranking shared by only 114 other universities.
On the heels of that announcement, some of the results of that highest level of research were on display worldwide as WVU astrophysicist Sean McWilliams was a key member of the team that for the first time detected a gravitational wave, confirming a major piece of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opening an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.
In between, the research team that helped uncover the Volkswagen emissions scandal was named “Disruptor of the Year” by CNET Roadshow, picking up the award at the world-renowned North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Those two announcements are “bookends of the kind of research capacity we now have at our university,” Vice Provost Russell Dean said.
BOG Member Kim Weaver, herself an astrophysicist, echoed the importance of the gravitational wave research. “This could be the discovery of the century,” she said. “We’ve been looking for this signal for a very long time.”
Rob Alsop, vice president for legal and governmental affairs and entrepreneurial engagement, updated the Board on the current legislative activity, noting that budget challenges remain, and that a 4 percent cut the University received last year would be made permanent in the upcoming budget.
However, he said, “hopefully we won’t receive any additional cuts. ? There is a lot of support in the legislature for higher education.”
• The Board also approved the creation of a new doctor of philosophy degree in forensics to prepare students to work as professionals in academia, government laboratories or private industry as laboratory specialists. Four new tenure/tenure-track faculty will be hired, one each over the next four years, to support the program, doubling of the size of the graduate level research faculty in the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science.
• The Board was notified that the current Department of Chemical Engineering in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources will be renamed the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering to reflect the department’s and college’s growing emphasis on biomedical engineering.
• A report on various indicators show that applications are up for both resident and non-resident students. Among those applications, resident high-quality student applications (defined as having an ACT score above 26 or a SAT score above 1190) are flat, while applications from non-residents have increased.
• The value of sponsored programs awards is up $763,000, 2.29 percentage points, compared to this time last year. The actual number of awards is up from 531 to 592
The next meeting is scheduled for April 15 in Morgantown.
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