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Bucks for Brains Fellowships Awarded to Two Science Students

West Liberty University Seniors Raquel Fagundo and Leah Starkey were informed recently that they were selected as new Bucks for Brains Fellows. The initiative is funded by a grant from West Virginia EPSCoR and private donations.

Biology major Raquel Fagundo

Raquel Fagundo, biology major.

Fagundo is using her grant to study the taxonomic relationships of two West Virginia crayfishes that she collected last summer during fieldwork with Dr. Zach Loughman, WLU assistant professor of biology.

“We also went to Virginia and collected specimens to describe a new crayfish species that occurs there and we did field work in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is the first study on the national park’s crayfish and part of a much bigger project determining all living organisms in the park,” she explained. “During the school year, I curate the specimens for the WLU Astacological Collection, which has over 6,500 preserved crayfishes and is soon to grow tremendously after we input last summers specimens.”

“This fellowship is going to make a real difference for me. I’ll be working in a different way, since I’m used to biological fieldwork and systematics. This opportunity allows me to learn the first step in determining a new species molecularly,” she said. Fagundo is from Wheeling and studies ecological evolution and organismal biology.

Starkey, who is from New Martinsville, W.Va., works in a different branch of science and will be working at the Schiffler Cancer Center of Wheeling Hospital thanks to her fellowship. She is a chemistry/biology major who plans on becoming a medical doctor.

Leah Starkey, chemistry/biology major.

Leah Starkey, chemistry/biology major.

“I want to work in oncology, specifically pediatric oncology, so this is a great opportunity for me. It’s the first instance I’ll have to study cancer in depth,” Starkey said. She is looking forward to working with Gregory Merrick, M.D.

Starkey spent this past summer working as an intern with the WV-INBRE Summer Research Program. This nine week-graduate-level research opportunity in the field of biomedical sciences gives interns the opportunity to perform mentored research projects at West Virginia University and Marshall University.

She also interns with Dr. Matthew Zdilla, WLU’s assistant professor of biology.

“Bucks for Brains,” also known as the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, was introduced by then-Gov. Joe Manchin and approved by the state legislature in 2008, state lawmakers increased it by two years, to 2015, in legislation approved last year. For more information on the program and it application process at West Liberty University, please click here.