West Virginia State University Receives $3.1 Million for Water Quality Study

August 3, 2015

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West Virginia State University (WVSU) will receive $3.1 million from a competitive grant program to study water quality in the state over the next five years.

The announcement was made today as part of a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to West Virginia’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to boost academic scientific research and upgrade infrastructure at WVSU, West Virginia University (WVU), Marshall University (MU) and other state institutions.

“This activity will benefit our researchers here at State because they will have the opportunity to be actively involved in the field,” said Dr. Jose Toledo, WVSU’s principal investigator and associate dean for administration. “While at the same time creating opportunities for our students to be involved in hands on research, an area in which we have developed a proven track record.”

As part of the funding two new research, faculty positions will be created at the University, as well as support for four graduate research assistantships and four undergraduate research assistantships. The funding will also be invested in the acquisition of additional scientific equipment related to the project.

The water resources research, coordinated through the Appalachian Freshwater Initiative, will investigate water quality in West Virginia as it relates to certain stressors. The project also will bolster the STEM workforce in the state by providing specialized training in data mining, water quality monitoring, signal processing and electronics design techniques.

“This definitely creates opportunities for our students,” said Dr. Gerald Hankins, associate professor of biology and research coordinator for the EPSCoR program at WVSU. “Scientific training at its best is not just something that happens in the classroom, but involves doing research alongside more senior researchers. This creates a very important training opportunity that will really prepare our students to move to the next level.”

Seven faculty members at WVSU are expected to be involved in the water quality initiative. Some of the types of activities they will be involved with will include studying the effects of water quality on microbes in the Kanawha River Basin, and looking at the effect of pollutants on the development of native fish species in rivers throughout the state.

WVSU researchers will work with their counterparts at WVU and MU on the water quality initiative.

In addition to the research work, the initiative will also include an outreach component, and WVSU faculty and staff members will work to educate the public on issues of water quality. In addition, those involved with the research project will engage with state K-12 classrooms to educate students about water quality and underlying science.

This is the second time that WVSU has been awarded a portion of EPSCoR funding.

In 2010, West Virginia was awarded a $20 million grant, the largest award in state history at the time. It was matched by an additional $4 million from the state and has supported bio-nanotechnology research at WVU, MU, WVSU and other institutions for the past five years.

EPSCoR is a program designed to fulfill the NSF’s mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide. Twenty-four states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam are currently eligible to compete for EPSCoR funding. Through this program, NSF establishes regional partnerships with government, higher education and industry that effect lasting improvements in a state’s or territory’s research infrastructure and research and development capacity, and its academic competitiveness.

EPSCoR is facilitated by the state Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research. West Virginia has received more than $60 million from the NSF for the state’s EPSCoR program over the past 14 years.

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