West Liberty students shine at WVAS Meeting

By Hannah Mason, Assistant Editor

On April 11, the 90th Annual West Virginia Academy of Science (WVAS) Meeting was held at West Liberty University, for the first time since 2001. Nine West Liberty students took home awards and recognitions, with two of the three best overall prizes awarded to West Liberty students.

According to Dr. Roger Seeber, Chair of the 2015 WVAS Local Organizing Committee WLU Professor of Biology, over 200 registered individuals were expected to attend the day’s events, between the morning and afternoon sessions.

The event brought faculty and student presenters and Academy members from all over the state, representing Marshall University, Shepherd University, West Virginia University, West Virginia Wesleyan College, Glenville State College, Fairmont State University, and others. Hundreds of presenters, between poster and oral presentations, presented their research work in scientific fields as diverse as ecology, chemistry, engineering, microbiology, mathematics, psychology, geology, and more.

Everyone was welcomed by Dr. Jason Best, President of WVAS, and Dr. Brian Crawford, WLU Provost. With such a spectrum of presentations and topics to follow, from so many undergraduate, graduate, and faculty presenters, Dr. Best helped to bring them all into perspective and set the tone for thinking about all of the presentations.

He reminded everyone that no matter what scientific field you’re talking about—be it his field of astrophysics, or zoology, or engineering, or anything else—all scientists are trying to do the same thing: help us explain and understand some part of the same universe, but by looking at different scales, from microscopic organisms to whole planets. “Science is all about scale,” he said, and as he introduced the plenary session speakers, he called them “three tales of Earth’s scales.”

The plenary sessions speakers, Dr. Susan Leopold, Executive Director of United Plant Savers and ethnobotanist, Dr. Antonio DiGiandomenico, from R&D MedImmune LLC Division of Infectious Disease, and Dr. Matt Lamanna, Assistant Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, taught a full Kelly Theater audience about their respective work in ethnobotany, monoclonal antibodies to treat bacterial infections, and giant titanosaur dinosaurs from the southern hemisphere.

Students and faculty then had their chance to present their work to the judges and moderators as well as to fellow scientists from other universities from around the state, in the poster and oral presentation sessions. The poster presentations were set up and presented in the College Union, while the oral presentations took everyone to Campbell Hall of Health Sciences. An impressive range of scientific disciplines were discussed, from West Liberty’s own Francisella tularensis, crayfish ecology, organic synthesis, and other scientific research projects to the many and varied projects occurring in laboratories by students and scientists around West Virginia.

Finally, the awards ceremony ended the event in College Hall.

Mrs. Kathleen Loughman, secondary education biology teacher at John Marshall High School and alumnus of West Liberty University, won the John Warner Outstanding Teacher Award. “My whole goal,” she said when accepting her award, “is to bring my passion to the classroom.” She expressed how much of a pleasure and motivation it is for her to be the person to teach science to high school students who might not otherwise have much exposure or interest in the sciences.

Thirty-five student awards were given out, with winners recognized for undergraduates and graduates, posters and oral presentations, and in different scientific categories. From West Liberty University, nine students represented the hilltop with awards and recognitions. In psychology, Caitlyn Burt won second place, and Tiffanie Wilson won first place. In molecular biology, Adam Kenney won first place. In general biology, Daniel Lukich won third place. In ecology, Luke Sadecky won second place, and Zachary Dillard won first place. For poster presentations, Becca Barnes won second place.

West Liberty University also boasted two of the three best overall, prize-winning awards:

Stephen Sagun took first place overall for poster presentations. He, along with Elliot Collins, Caleb Martin, E. Joseph Nolan, and Dr. Joseph Horzempa, presented a poster entitled “Antimicrobial properties of trans-2-octenal and trans-2-decenal, the major aldehydes responsible for the scent of Halyomorpha halys, the brown marmorated stink bug.”

Zachary Dillard took first place overall for undergraduate oral presentation. His presentation was titled “Geospatial analysis of Cambarus monongalensis across a habitat gradient.” Also authors on the project were Katie Scott, Matthew McKinney, and Zachary Loughman.

Next year, the WVAS Meeting will take place at Marshall University. For more information, you can visit the WVAS website at http://www.marshall.edu/wvas/index.html.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the WVAS Meeting!

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Thirty-two students were recognized at the awards ceremony of the WVAS Meeting.

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WVAS President Dr. Jason Best presents WLU junior biology student Zachary Dillard with the award for Best Overall Undergraduate Oral Presentation.

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WVAS President Dr. Jason Best presents Mrs. Kathleen Loughman with the John Warner Outstanding Teacher Award.

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Leanne Mazzella

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Nancy Isner

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WLU biology student Becca Barnes won second place for her poster presentation.

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Aleksandr Florjanczyk

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Taylor Rogerson and Ashley Haught

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Evan Venskoske

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Jesse Hall

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Michael Bates and Josh Benfield

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MacKenzie L. Davis

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James Horner and McKensie Mason

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Dr. Susan Leopold, Dr. Antonio DiGiandomenico, and Dr. Matt Lamanna were the speakers for the plenary session of the WVAS Meeting.

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