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Shepherd NASA fellows present research

SHEPHERDSTOWN,WV—On Wednesday, April 21, 13 recipients of the West Virginia Space Grant Undergraduate Fellowship Program presented their research as part of the 2010 NASA Day.

Fellowships are made possible by the NASA West Virginia Space Grand Consortium and Shepherd’s School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The grants, which range from $300-500, are matched by the Dr. Suzanne Shipley and the Office of the President.

According to Reza Mirdamadi, associate professor of engineering and chair of the department of computer science, mathematics, and engineering, who coordinated Wednesday’s event, 30 students applied for the award. Mirdamadi also serves as a board member on the NASA West Virginia Space Grand Consortium. Each year, 10-15 students are accepted into the program.

Students made their proposals in October to a committee of faculty members, including Dr. Jason Best, professor of astronomy and astrophysics; Dr. Ruth Conley, assistant professor of biology; Dr. Dan DiLella, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry; Dr. Seung-yun Kim, assistant professor of computer and information sciences; Dr. Nicholas Martin, associate professor of mathematics; and Dr. Zhijun Wang, assistant professor of computer and information sciences. Awards were given in November and students began their research immediately. Research topics included water quality testing, robotics, H1N1 propagation, genome preservation, and gene expression in the development of vertebrate eye.

Mirdamadi said that as part of the stipulations of the award, the students must do meaningful research and present a paper and have the paper published.

“For us, it’s another way to emphasize undergraduate research,” Mirdamadi said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for their résumé to work with faculty on research on a tangible topic. It’s quite an accomplishment.”

The 13 fellowship recipients include James Arndt, of Martinsburg; Robert Auld, of Gerrardstown Kyle Crapster, of Walkersville, Maryland; Jessica Curtis, of Martinsburg; Chase Dowling, of North Potomac, Maryland; George Gaiter, of Winchester, Virginia; Ryan Hernandez, of Falling Waters; Brett Shaffer, of Montgomery Village, Maryland; Phillip Sinsky, of Frederick, Maryland; Kristen Trevey, of Keedysville, Maryland; Brett Zirkle, of Fishersville, Virginia; Caleb Rice, of Kearneysville; Andee Soccino, of Martinsburg.

Photo: This year’s NASA fellowship recipients are (pictured l. to r.) George Gaither, of Winchester, Virginia; Andee Soccino, of Martinsburg; Ryan Hernandez, of Falling Waters; Kristen Trevey, of Keedysville, Maryland; Kyle Crapster, of Walkersville, Maryland; Jessica Curtis, of Martinsburg; Robert Auld, of Gerrardstown; Chase Dowling, of North Potomac, Maryland; Caleb Rice, of Kearneysville; and Brett Zirkle of Fishersville, Virginia. Not pictured is Phillip Sinsky, of Frederick, Maryland.