Three students pursuing doctoral degrees at West Virginia University are receiving funding through the Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellows Program. Jared Beard, Evan Cramer and Kinsey Reed are this year’s Ruby Fellows.
Recipients must be pursuing a graduate degree in one of the following fields: energy and environmental sciences, biological, biotechnical and biomedical sciences, or biometrics, nanotechnology and material science, security, sensing, forensic sciences and related identification technologies. This program allows doctoral students to work closely with recognized professors in their field of study. The fellowship’s financial support allows students to fully commit to expanding their study and research.
“WVU is proud to welcome to campus this exceptional group of scholars, thanks to the Ruby Fellows program,” said Maryanne Reed, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “I am very impressed with these Fellows and their desire to tackle the unknown, willingness to venture into uncharted territory and commitment to creating change in the world. They are already true Mountaineers.”
The program was established in 2011 by the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust. It includes a $34,000 stipend, a $2,000 travel grant and a waiver of University tuition for each student to continue their research at WVU.
Beard is from Moorefield. He attended WVU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in physics. He recently completed his master’s degree and will be starting work on his doctorate in the fall. Beard chose this field of study because he has always been interested in building things and, years later, he is still doing it.
“I wanted to pursue a graduate degree because, in line with building things and being creative, the idea of research always seemed interesting to me because you are generating new knowledge, and it is a fun and rewarding experience,” he said.
Beard has worked on several research projects. While tackling a project focused on additive manufacturing of functional devices in the Flexible Electronics and Sustainable Technologies Lab at WVU, he received a NASA undergraduate research fellowship to study solar cells. He was part of a funded International Research Experience for Students to study in Crete, Greece, for six weeks. In graduate school he wrote tracking software and studied modeling, planning and control of interactive robotic systems at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Beard is writing his master’s thesis about decision-making under uncertainty, which teaches robots how to search for something. In his spare time, he works with the local high school Mountaineer Area Robotics team.
Beard says the fellowship will give him the opportunity to continue research without the pressure of working on the side. He is happy to focus on what he is interested in and fully commit to it.
“With Ruby, this is a way for me to continue research, give back to the community and help train the next generation of engineers,” Beard said. “It is an opportunity not only to do my research but to give back.”
Cramer, from Traverse City, Michigan, earned his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Oakland University in Michigan. While at Oakland University, he did undergraduate research for two years in a biochemistry research lab studying protein interaction, which solidified his decision to go into a field he enjoyed because of the research process. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at WVU.
Cramer has done research on the regulation of centrosome duplication and assembly that focuses on regulation mechanisms and protein interaction.
“I like research that has a clinical relevance to it. Centrosome assembly is a huge step in cellular division, which has ties to cancer research,” Cramer said.
Cramer is interested in mechanisms and hopes to continue that research at WVU with Aaron Robart’s research on telomerase, an enzyme that keeps cells alive.
Cramer chose WVU for graduate school because the atmosphere and culture seemed very student-oriented.
“To be in a program where students drive the research really piqued my interest, because I can have creative control and be able to push myself,” he explained.
“I wanted to pursue a graduate degree because I want to go into research as a career, and in order to really push your own projects, I think having a Ph.D. is a necessary step,” Cramer said. “The fellowship made the most sense for me not only with the culture at WVU but financially and logistically.”
Cramer aims to contribute to the scientific field and push research that finds treatments to challenging diseases.
“I was very excited that I had been accepted into the fellowship. For me, it will ease my mind and allow me to focus so much more on the work I am doing at WVU rather than any other distractions, like financial aid,” Cramer said. “Being able to fund students really makes a huge impact on our studies, and I have a lot of respect for [donors] because it makes such a big difference.”
Reed, a native of Berkeley Springs, earned her undergraduate degree in applied and environmental microbiology and animal and nutritional sciences from WVU. She is staying at WVU to earn her doctorate in plant and soil science.
“I wanted to pursue a graduate degree because it is similar to the field I worked in while in undergrad, and I want to help farmers in the future, and working at a farm after I graduated gave me that experience,” Reed said. “Another reason I wanted to stay at WVU is because it is like a home to me. I love the people and the landscape here.”
Reed’s graduate research will focus on understanding microbes and how they use nitrogen to prevent nitrogen pollution. Reed says her research will have a real-world impact for farmers.
This past year Reed worked at Riverdale Farms, a diversified farm west of Pittsburgh, as a full-time crop production intern to get hands-on experience with management strategies to improve soil health.
Reed says the Ruby Fellowship will allow her to focus completely on research and active participation.
“The Ruby Fellowship means a lot to me because it gives me financial stability to continue my research and it makes me feel like the state really believes in me,” Reed said.
Reed hopes to stay involved in agriculture and apply her research to farms in West Virginia after completing her degree.
The Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust established the Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellows Program in memory of its namesake. Hazel Ruby McQuain was involved in philanthropic giving to support WVU for more than 20 years before she died at the age of 93 in 2002. One of her many gifts includes an $8 million gift towards the construction of J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, which is named after her late husband.
CONTACT: Bill Nevin
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