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WVU grad students awarded Ruby Fellowships for innovative doctoral and graduate work

on Tue, 10/28/2014 - 18:08

Three West Virginia University graduate students have been named to the third class of Ruby Scholars – graduate fellowship awards designed to assist talented graduate students pursuing careers in predominantly energy-related or science and engineering disciplines.

In addition to graduate and tuition fee waivers, Jessica Allen, Matthew Boots and Alice Millikin will each receive a $30,000 stipend, a $2,000 travel grant for professional development opportunities and graduate and tuition fee waivers as part of the Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellowship Program, established three years ago with a $5 million gift from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust and was matched by the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, bringing the total value of the fellowship program to $10 million. 

"Supporting graduate students as they work to advance the world of science is a great cause," said President Gordon Gee. "I thank the Ruby Trust for its support of these talented students and congratulate Jessica, Matthew and Alice on their respective career choices."

The program is designed to attract and assist talented students from across the country to further develop their talents, benefitting the people of West Virginia, the nation and the world.

“When we created the Ruby Fellows program, we recognized the importance of attracting exceptional young scholars from throughout the United States to pursue their doctorate degrees at West Virginia University,” said Steve Farmer, member of the Hazel Ruby McQuain Trust board. “As evidenced by the qualifications of the first three classes of Ruby Fellows, the program is succeeding.”

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.

Jessica Allen

Jessica Allen is the first Ruby Fellow who will be conducting graduate research in the WVU School of Medicine.

At a young age, Allen lost her father to pancreatic cancer. But this difficult challenge created groundwork for a strong, persevering personality. Overcoming this tragedy generated an increased interest in pursuing a career in the field of science, she said.

“I was born and raised in southern West Virginia, and the people of this state are not just fellow citizens –they are also my family,” said Allen.

By gaining hands-on experience through formal biomedical research training while expanding her learning experience as a West Virginia IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence  intern at WVU, Allen’s decision to apply to become a Ruby Fellow matched perfectly with her new concentration.

 “This wonderful state has played a part in making me the person I am today,” said Allen. “I hope to use all the opportunities God has blessed me with to give back to it in every way possible.”

After completing her graduate studies, Allen plans to continue her work as a researcher with the goal of improving the health and well-being of individuals in the area of oncology.

Matthew Boots

Matthew Boots earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. As a Ruby Fellow, he will be conducting research at WVU’s Biomedical Research Center with a goal of helping people through assistive devices.

Through life experiences growing up on a farm in Fombell, Pa., Boots believes his mission in this field aligns remarkably with the Ruby Fellowship and the program’s goal to help the nation’s future.

“My career goal is to work to improve the quality of life through the development of technology,” said Boots. “The Ruby Fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to make important connections and work on a variety of projects geared towards improving people's lives.”

The Fellowship will give Boots the resources to continue his research on the development of interactive devices that restore functions lost after injuries to the nervous system,  and provide a foundation to learn neuroscience and biomedical applications of engineering.

After completing his studies at WVU, Boots aspires to become a leader in his chosen field of assistive technologies.  

Alice Millikin

Alexandria, Va., native Alice Millikin earned a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation at George Mason University and her master’s degree in biology at the University of South Dakota. She has worked at county, state and national parks where she learned to work with the public and conduct scientific research.

Millikin will study restored wetlands and their salamander populations as a WVU Ruby Fellow to promote stewardship of water resources by incorporating ecological concepts in natural resource management.

“I grew up with a wetland in my backyard, watching turtles hatch and listening to frogs calling in the hot summers. I want future generations to experience that,” said Millikin.  “I want to protect these treasures that bring joy into our lives and provide ecosystem services for our communities.”

The Fellowship will allow Millikin to work toward a career as a natural resource manager, wildlife biologist or professor, to conserve natural areas and wildlife populations through the incorporation of methods developed by scientific research.

“I hope to earn the title of restoration ecologist on my career path,” said Millikin. “I would enjoy working with multiple ecosystems to help protect our natural resources across the country."

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 $1 billion million by December 2017.

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