WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., May 17, 2017 — West Liberty University Biology Professor Deanna Schmitt has received a $40,000 grant from the WV-NASA Space Grant Consortium. The funding is designed to foster collaborative research between scientists at primarily undergraduate institutions in West Virginia and investigators at West Virginia University (WVU) and Marshall University.
“West Liberty University is proud of Dr. Schmitt and pleased that our students will benefit from this grant and the collaborative nature of this research opportunity it offers. These type of experiences are invaluable to undergraduate students working toward a career in science,” said Dr. Stephen Greiner, WLU president.
Schmitt will collaborate with Dr. F. Heath Damron of WVU. Damron is an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology in the School of Medicine. He studies respiratory pathogens.
Schmitt and Damron will collaborate in a study to understand the viable but non-culturable state of Francisella tularensis.
“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to study with Dr. Damron. He was my mentor on a previous faculty research award and I know his dedication and expertise in gene expression analysis. Our students will benefit tremendously from this collaboration and the opportunity to work on this grant funded research,” Schmitt explained.
The research work begins now and the grant is a one-year award.
“Dr. Damron and I will meet throughout the year as the work takes place. I’ll be responsible for one part of the research on my end and he will do a second part. Some of the research may involve students going to his lab, so it’s a big academic plus for our students,” she said.
Students will have an opportunity to work in a major research lab, which is useful for applying to graduate school.
“Science is often collaborative and this grant gives our students a chance to perform shared research at a larger state institution. Our students will be stepping into the bigger world of research with different equipment, techniques and hands-on study,” she said.
Schmitt was hired as an assistant professor of biology this past January. She previously worked as a post-doctoral research associate for Dr. Joseph Horzempa since 2012.
Horzempa, who joined the College of Sciences in 2011, is researching the biology of Francisella tularensis and has been delving into the intricacies of this bacterium since he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine from 2006 – 2011.
Schmitt is a Pittsburgh native and resident and a graduate of Penn State University with a degree in microbiology. She earned her doctoral degree in immunology at the University of Pittsburgh.
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