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Fifth class of Ruby Fellows selected for graduate research funding at WVU

on Fri, 09/16/2016 - 17:05

Five students from across the country, all pursuing doctoral degrees at West Virginia University, have been named 2016 Ruby Fellows.

They are Quinn Jones, Eric Law, Julia Mouch, Kayla Steinberger and Benjamin Woods.  

Each fellow receives tuition waivers, $30,000 stipend and $2,000 travel grant to assist them with furthering their research as graduate students and preparing them to enter science and engineering fields.

 “The Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellowship Program is not just our most prestigious graduate fellowship here at WVU, it’s also our most exciting,” said Provost Joyce McConnell. “In making these awards, our selection committee looks for young scholars who have both a depth and breadth of research in their field and a passion to truly change the world through their work. We are very proud to have these students on campus.”

The mission of the fellowship is to encourage committed, driven students to conduct research at WVU and to use their talents to improve the lives of West Virginia, United States and world citizens.

Students are required to pursue graduate degrees in the fields of or related to energy and environmental sciences, nanotechnology and material science, biological, biotechnical and biomedical sciences, or biometrics, security, sensing, forensic sciences and related identification technologies.

The fellows program, established in 2011, was made possible by a $5 million gift from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust. That amount was matched by the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, bringing total funding for the program to $10 million. This is the fifth class of Ruby Fellows.

“We congratulate our most recent scholars, who without question, are some of the most talented graduate students from across the country,” said Stephen B. Farmer, member of the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust Board of Trustees. “The Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellowship Program is enabling exceptional graduate students to excel even further in scholarship, research, leadership and service.”

Quinn Jones

Originally from Fairchance, Pa., Jones earned his bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering from WVU in May. He plans to pursue his doctorate degree in the study of computer vision, specializing in the field of medical image segmentation.

Jones served as an undergraduate research assistant within WVU’s Sensory Neuroscience Research Center and as a software development intern at the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Center in Fairmont. 

“With the award’s aid, I will be able to fully focus on my research into advancing the field of medical image segmentation in neuroscience,” Jones said. “This will hopefully add in some part to the speed and efficacy with which my colleagues in neuroscience can research and solve such problems as connectome disorders like Alzheimer's disorder, causes of sensory problem such as deafness, and even bring us closer to mapping the human brain.”

 Jones has big plans beyond his doctoral studies at WVU.

“My future plans are to become an esteemed researcher in my field of computer vision and to go on to become either an industry researcher in the field, or perhaps give back to academia as a professor," he said.

Eric Law

Eric Law is pursuing a degree in WVU’s new doctoral forensic science program. Originally drawn to WVU’s undergraduate forensic science program from Cape Girardeau, Mo. Law is looking forward to continuing his education in the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science.

Law received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in forensic and investigative science at WVU. For the past six years, Law has called the forensics department home and one of his long term goals includes one day teaching within it.

“The Ruby Fellowship has provided me with the opportunity to work with nationally recognized faculty who are leaders in the field of forensic science,” Law said. “I will use the Ruby Fellowship to advance this new PhD. program so WVU can remain the top school in forensic science education”

Law served as a teacher at WVU’s Forensic Science Camp for three years, educating middle and high school students in the field of forensic science. He has also worked as a graduate teaching assistant in the forensic science department since August 2014.

In the summer of 2013, Law interned at the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Forensic Science Laboratory. He assisted in the reduction of a large case backlog in the fingerprint department and had the opportunity to go on “ride alongs” with police.  

Julia Mouch

Julia Mouch of Toledo, Ohio graduated from Bethany College with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in the biochemistry track. She is looking forward to earning a doctoral degree in chemistry from WVU.

This won’t be Mouch’s first time at WVU, however. She conducted research in the summer of 2015 within WVU’s STEM NANO-SURE program, working with capillary electrophoresis instruments to determine the effect of carbon nanotubes on DNA.

Mouch, who has been interested in medicine for years, hopes to build a career focusing in pharmaceuticals, either within the government or a private industry.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to be at WVU and having the opportunity to continue research in the chemistry field,” Mouch said. “I am excited to finally have started this chapter in my life and I am very lucky to have received this funding through the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, which will allow me to focus the majority of my time on research.”

Kayla Steinberger

Steinberger, of Belle Center, Ohio, will pursue a graduate degree in biomedical sciences at WVU. She graduated from The University of Findlay with a bachelor’s degree in biology in spring 2016.

Steinberger, having research experience in the areas of cancer cell biology, epidemiology, urology, and field biology, is looking forward to conducting research in cell and molecular mechanisms involved in pathology.

“I have been inspired by my twin sister's cancer diagnosis and my hopes are to join the modern mission in cancer biology,” Steinberger said.

Steinberger worked as a teaching assistant in the organic chemistry lab at The University of Findlay and a biology and chemistry tutor within the university’s academic support center.

“Through this fellowship, I’m able to focus not only on my coursework and research, but also on joining a professional network which directly benefits the community, nation, and world by enhancing scientific communication, performing research, and providing service,” Steinberger said.

Benjamin Woods

Woods of Grand Forks, N.D., is pursuing a doctorate in condensed matter physics at WVU. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics and a minor in mathematics earlier this year from the University of North Dakota.

Woods’ interest in condensed matter physics developed while he was conducting research on the fractionalization of Josephson Vortices under the supervision of Dr. Ju Kim. His six months of research ended with a final presentation of his findings at the 2015 Red River Valley Undergraduate Physics and Astrophysics Research Symposium.

"The Ruby fellowship provides me the opportunity to put forth all my efforts into becoming a great physicist,” Woods said. “I am so thrilled to be at WVU in the exciting city of Morgantown. I really can't thank the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust and WVU Foundation enough."

The Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust was established by Mrs. McQuain, wife of the late J.W. Ruby. Mrs. McQuain died in 2002 at the age of 93. She was the retired president of Ruby Enterprises Inc., and was involved in philanthropic giving that benefitted not only the University, but also local organizations, for more than 20 years. One of the many donations included an $8 million gift for reconstruction of Ruby Memorial Hospital, named after her husband.

The gift establishing the Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellow Program is part of A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion fundraising effort by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.