Three West Virginia University graduate students have been named to the second class of Ruby Scholars – graduate fellowship awards designed to assist talented graduate students pursuing degrees in predominantly energy-related or science and engineering disciplines.
In addition to graduate and tuition fee waivers, Brandon Kelly of Wheeling, Justin Mathias of Wardensville and Mitchell McAdoo of Morgantown will each receive a $30,000 stipend and a $2,000 travel grant for professional development opportunities as part of the 2013-2014 Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellowship Program, established two years ago with a $5 million gift from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust and matched by the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, bringing the total value of the fellowship program to $10 million.
The program is designed to attract and assist talented graduate students from across the country to further develop their talents, benefiting the people of West Virginia, the nation and the world.
“This second class of Ruby Fellows is an exceptional group of graduate scholars,” said George Farmer, member of the Hazel Ruby McQuain Trust board. “The selection committee has chosen three outstanding students whose aspirations fit perfectly with this fellowship program. We are pleased the Ruby Fellowships are making it possible for them to pursue their doctoral degrees at WVU.”
The program requires that the student must be pursuing a graduate degree in a field that focuses on research in energy and environmental sciences; nanotechnology and material science; biological, biotechnical and biomedical sciences; or biometrics, security, sensing, forensic sciences and related identification technologies.
Brandon Kelly has already earned three degrees from WVU – bachelor’s degrees in both computer and electrical engineering, as well as a master’s in electrical engineering. As a Ruby Fellow, he will be pursuing his doctorate degree with the goal of designing biology-inspired, energy-efficient analog and mixed signal systems.
“No task gives me a deeper level of satisfaction that creating something new,” Kelly said. “This is why I became an electrical engineer.”
The fellowship will give Kelly the resources to continue his research on low-power electronics while exploring the integration of biological concepts into electronic design. With such a significant need for technology that can last for long periods of time out in the field, Kelly believes his work will have a transformative impact on multiple areas of research.
In addition to his doctoral studies, Kelly hopes to become more involved in outreach activities to first generation students from rural Appalachia. Along with his contributions to the local community, he has participated in both undergraduate and graduate research resulting in various presentations and publications. Upon completion of his studies at WVU, Kelly aspires to continue his research as a professor at a university.
Having just completed his undergraduate biology degree with honors, Justin Mathias is the youngest person yet to be named a Ruby Fellow. But he doesn’t lack experience as he has already assisted on numerous research endeavors, including one of his own investigations, and been a field assistant, teaching assistant and tutor.
He plans to continue his research on nutrient cycling while pursuing his doctorate degree in biology. At the same time, he hopes to explore global environmental change and the consequences it poses for terrestrial ecosystems.
For Mathias, the study of biology and his natural surroundings has been a long time passion.
“I grew up in rural West Virginia and spent most of my free time outdoors, however it wasn’t until doing fieldwork that I realized I had been interested in our environment all my life,” said Mathias. “To know that I am contributing to the increase in knowledge within the scientific community is one of the most euphoric feelings I’ve had to date.”
After completing his doctorate, Mathias plans to continue his work as a researcher.
Following a six-year stint in the U.S. Army, McAdoo earned his bachelor’s degree in geology at Clarion University in only three years and continued his studies at WVU earning his master’s, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. As a Ruby Fellow, he will be pursuing his doctorate to further his understanding of geology.
“I want to continue to be a part of an institution that is world renowned for its production of quality geoscientists and ground breaking research,” said McAdoo. “WVU is known for its dedication to scientific inquiry and I would like to be given the opportunity to aid in the promotion of useful ideas.”
For McAdoo, the fellowship means much more than simply continuing his education.
“I feel as though I still have something to contribute,” he said. “The Fellowship will not only be an excellent opportunity for my professional goals, it will afford me the opportunity to help an organization focused on solving problems that affect our past, present and future existence.”
After finishing his doctorate, McAdoo and his wife plan to start a family and give back to the community while teaching at a university.
The Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, a renowned WVU and community benefactor, was established by Mrs. McQuain, who died in 2002 at the age of 93. The retired president of Ruby Enterprises Inc., Mrs. McQuain engaged in philanthropic endeavors of benefit to the University and local organizations for more than 20 years, including an $8 million gift toward reconstruction of Ruby Memorial Hospital, which was named after her late husband, J.W. Ruby.
The gift establishing the fellowship program was made through the WVU Foundation, the private non-profit corporation that generates and provides support for West Virginia University. The Foundation is currently conducting A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The largest fundraising effort in the history of the University hopes to raise $750 million by December 2015.