SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Science professors at colleges and universities across West Virginia are undertaking research projects that impact the state’s communities and economy.
On Tuesday, professors from West Virginia University, Marshall University, Concord University and West Virginia State University gave presentations of their work during a STEM Salon at Bridge Valley Community and Technical College in South Charleston.
Dr. Nadja Spitzer, at Marshall, has been working on a project that deals with silver nanoparticles and how it affects developing brain cells in children.
“A child could be using toothbrushes, using toys, be exposed over years or even decades and their levels are going higher and higher. This is a critical time of brain development, of course. If these nanoparticles are building up in the brain and affecting the development, then that’s of concern,” Spitzer explained.
Research shows, Spitzer said, that the cells behave differently and that they’re cellular function changes when exposed to the nanoparticles.
Dr. Brian Anderson, director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute, is working on a project that involves natural gas hydrates, thermodynamic modeling and geothermal systems. He said these systems will help West Virginia, and the world, develop new sources of renewable and sustainable energy.
“We have, in West Virginia, the most efficient coal burning power plant in the Western Hemisphere at Longview Power just north of Morgantown. We’re working with them on what their next steps will be to further increase their energy efficiency of the utilization of coal,” Anderson said.
Students have teamed up with these professors to get hands on experience. Anderson said it’s important to involve students in research so they can be prepared for careers and so they can teach future generations.
“To get them involved in real world projects is what’s of critical importance because the problems and challenges evolve every day and every year and textbooks can’t keep up with it,” he said.
Spitzer said her students are learning about leadership and communication, not just science.
“They each get their own project, they have to figure out the timelines, they have to maybe supervise or teach things to other students, then they go to international conferences and they have to present their research to scientists, PhD’s from around the world,” she said.
Other presenters included Dr. Joseph Allen from Concord University and Dr. Sanjaya from West Virginia State University.
Allen’s research focuses on understanding earthquakes preserved in deep fault zones. Sanjaya leads an active research program to design plants and microalgae to enhance bioenergy and nutritional value.
Tuesday’s presentations were hosted by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research.