WVWC students spends summer researching

As the school year ended in May, some students and faculty members were gearing up to begin summer research projects, and the School of Science at West Virginia Wesleyan College has been busy this summer with many such endeavors.

Dr. Bruce Anthony, visiting instructor of chemistry, continued his research on alcohol-induced cell cycle changes in G1-S phase transition in rat neuronal embryonic dorsal root ganglion stem cells. Student researchers were Victoria Moser-Cartagena, a senior biology major from Miami, Fla., and Alexandra Roberts, a senior chemistry major from Bradenton, Fla.

Dr. Kim Bjorgo-Thorne, assistant professor of biology, worked with the Buckhannon River Watershed Association doing background research on Swamp Run Creek near Alton in Upshur County. In conjunction with West Virginia University and the Department of Environmental Protection, Bjorgo-Thorne and student researcher Alyssa Leach, a junior environmental student major from Beverly monitored the water at this location for acid mine drainage from a legacy coal mine. The data collected will be used to help secure funding for a grant to repair the mine drainage.

Dr. Melissa Charlton-Smith, chemical hygiene officer and chemistry lab coordinator and lecturer, researched the adaptation of gas detection tube chemistry to wet analysis of organohalide liquid waste compounds. Due to the associated hazards of organohalides, the waste must be identified and disposed of properly. Charlton-Smith, along with student researcher Donald Paul Mallory, a junior chemical hygiene officer major from Charleston, is in Phase 1 of the ongoing project designed to convert current gas phase air analysis of halogenated hydrocarbons to detection of halogenated hydrocarbons in liquid organic wastes.

Dr. Tracey DeLaney, research assistant professor of physics, has been mapping the three-dimensional structure of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. DeLaney, along with student researcher Matt Stadelman, a junior physics major from Fairmont, has been calibrating the radio data from observations carried out last year. When the calibration and mapping is finished, it will be compared to the 3-D polarization structures found when the X-ray images of Cassiopeia A were made with NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory. This research will give new insight into the star remnant’s explosion and narrow down which mechanism plays a major role in the explosion of stars.

Dr. Luke Huggins, associate professor of biology and director of the School of Science, and Katharine Lambson, visiting instructor of chemistry, researched how the extraction and isolation of phytoalexins from Centaurea nigrescens exhibit inhibitory action against Staphylococcus aureus. The group was seeking to extract, isolate, purify and identify novel phytoalexins produced by C. nigrescens to serve as lead compounds for development of new antibiotics to treat CA-MRSA. Student researchers were Haven Clay, a senior biology major from Huntington; Notashia Baughman, a junior chemistry major from Fenwick, W.Va.; Patrick C. Milkowski, a sophomore biology major from Erie, Pa.; and Jared Rock, a junior biochemistry major from Buckhannon.

Lambson also worked on several research projects herself this summer. She is in the process of five separate research projects: monitoring three West Virginia terrestrial orchid populations; researching the species and varieties of vascular plants living in the 7.3 hectar Beaver’s Meadow in Barbour County; conducting a floristic study of a 48-acre property in southern Upshur County to allow biology students to work with a research project for the required experiential credit for the major; a 5-year monitoring rotation to monitor the populations of a rare orchid on U.S. Forest Service and W.Va. State Park lands; and digitizing and imaging the specimens in the College’s George B. Rossbach Herbarium. Lambson had the assistance of two community members with databasing and imaging the Herbarium.

Dr. Bert Popson, professor of physics and engineering, has been conducting investigative research of flowing liquids in order to make improvements to the fluid mechanics labs at the college. Topics include viscosity, water flowing in open channels and pipes, weirs, sluice gates, Bernoulli’s principle, pumps and turbines. Travis Hanson, a senior physics and engineering student from Morgantown, has been assisting Popson with research.

Dr. Melanie Sal, assistant professor of biology, worked on the characterization of Putative Shape Determining Genes mreB and mreC in the Lyme Disease Spirochete Borrelia burgadorferi. Sal’s goal for the research is to better understand the basis of unique morphology in B. burgadorferi in hopes that the information may lead to new methods for treatment or prevention of Lyme disease. Student researchers were Caleb Judy, a junior biology major from Beverly; Zachery Lonergan, a senior biology major from Elkins; and Jillian Teubert, a senior biology major from Lewisburg.

Dr. Robynn Shannon, assistant professor of biology, has spent her first summer at West Virginia Wesleyan College researching West Virginia plants to add to the college’s herbarium, which is already approzimately 30,000 species strong. Shannon is trying to fill in the gaps of the collection from the state, finding which have not been cataloged since 1976 and ones that not been cataloged. She has also been working with zoologist Randy Miller from Baker University in Kansas to collect samples of tardigrades from moss and fungi around the area. Tardigrades are a microscopic species that is relatively new to the state.

Dr. Jeanne Sullivan, associate professor of biology, has continued her study of the behavior and ecology of the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), particularly in agricultural systems. Her current project examines the sublethal effects of older insecticide residues on the locomotion, feed behavior and reproduction of this invasive bug. She is working with the Buckhannon-Upshur Farmer’s Market, whose participants are reporting any invasive species, including the BMSB, to a group of faculty members who distribute information on invasions at the Saturday Farmers Market in Buckhannon. Faculty members who are in the group include Dr. Robynn Shannon, Dr. Kim Bjorgo-Thorne and Sullivan. Sullivan is hoping to determine whether older insecticide residues have enough negative effects on the BMSB to help reduce their population over time. Kris Sarver, a junior environmental science major from Huntington, has helped Sullivan with her research.

The research of Dr. Joseph Wiest, professor of physics, involved creating an improved green tunable Nd: YAG laser. Wiest, along with student researcher Emily Biggs, a junior physics major from Helvetia dissected samples of existing Nd: YAG lasers to carefully study how they worked. Biggs employed a Peltier chip to regulate the temperature of the AlGaAs semiconductor laser. By regulating the temperature with an electronic feedback circuit, a range of energy level transitions within the conduction and valence energy bands were produced.

Additional students were supervised on separate research projects happening during the summer as well. Many of these projects are on-going.

Russell Gillespie, a senior physics major from Lost Creek, is studying the fine-structure of rubidium in the College’s laser lab, supported by a SURE grant under the supervision of Dr. Wiest.

Lucas Greza, a senior physics major from Morgantown, is constructing a hypersonic blow-down wind tunnel under the supervision of Dr. Wiest. This research is funded by the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium.

Josh Hiett, a senior physics major from Bloomery, W.Va., and Andrew Knotts, a senior physics major from Martinsburg, are building an electronics package to be launched into Earth’s orbit under the supervision of Dr. DeLaney. The project is funded by the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium.

David Rhodes, a senior physics major from Hambleton, W.Va., researched turbine engines under the supervision of Dr. DeLaney. Financial support was provided by a Ledford Grant from the Appalachian College Association.

Matt Spicer, a junior physics major from Bridgeport, and Conor Forrester, a senior physics major from Swanton, Md., are working at the West Virginia Split Rail Corporation, studying environmental protection and new products under the supervision of Dr. Popson. Funding is provided by the Split Rail and the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium.

Colin Winkie, a junior biology major from Bridgeport, researched the potential of amino acid nanoparticles as a form of drug delivery. He was supervised by Bingyun Li of the Department of Orthopedics, School of Medicine at West Virginia University.

Much of the research done by the School of Science is grant-funded research. This summer, Dr. Huggins received a $30,000 grant award from the WV-INBRE project; Dr. Sal received a $29,992 grant from the WV-INBRE project; and Dr. DeLaney received a $5,000 grant from the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium.

For more information about the School of Science at West Virginia Wesleyan College, please contact Dr. Luke Huggins at huggins@wvwc.edu or 304-473-8097, or visit www.wvwc.edu.