Scientific research at West Liberty University received a meaningful endorsement through the acquisition of a grant providing over $156,000 to support a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

From left, Professors Zac Loughman, Joe Horzempa, Doug Schwartz, Karen Kettler and Matt Zdilla announce the grant in the biology labs.

From left, Professors Zac Loughman, Joe Horzempa, Doug Swartz, Karen Kettler and Matt Zdilla announce the grant in the biology labs.

“We are excited to host a summer research program at West Liberty University. The College of Sciences at West Liberty University has an outstanding research infrastructure. Through these facilities and with the support of the administration, we feel that our group of investigators can provide undergraduate students with a summer research experience that will solidify their future in a science field,” said Dr. Joseph Horzempa, the principal investigator who worked along with other WLU faculty members to prepare the grant.

He was assisted by fellow professors, Drs. Douglas Swartz (chemistry), Karen Kettler, Zachary Loughman and Matthew Zdilla (biology).

The faculty members entitled their grant “TOPPER” which stands for Training Opportunity for Pre-Professionals, Educators, and Researchers in undergraduate STEM investigations and honors the WLU nickname of Hilltopper.

“The grant dollars are especially important as a recruiting tool for prospective science majors as they consider the opportunities available at different colleges. Often a paid internship makes all the difference in the total college experience,” Horzempa added.

“This money will be used over the next three summers and will allow us to offer stipends, room and board to qualified student interns, and will pay for educational workshops and seminars. This experience will be a great opportunity for our students and others throughout the state to step into the professional world of science and research,” he said.

Twelve students will be selected to take part in the TOPPER research program. These interns have the opportunity to work with West Liberty scientists to develop novel vaccines, survey crayfish biodiversity, perform in-depth anatomical studies, or determine the environmental impact of “fracking” in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.

“The dedication of West Liberty science faculty in providing students with significant research opportunities contributes to the 85 percent acceptance rate of alumni into graduate and professional programs over the last five years. Because of this success, the biology program has been deemed a Program of Distinction by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. Notably, WLU has the only Program of Distinction in Biology in the state,” said Dean Robert Kreisberg, who leads the College of Science.

The grant was awarded by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research through the Research Challenge Fund, under the direction of Dr. Jan R. Taylor.

Students interested in participating in the TOPPER summer research program should contact Dr. Kettler at [email protected] For more information on WLU’s College of Science, please call 304-336-8062.

To view Channel-7 news TV coverage of the grant, please click here.