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Fall 2017

Who is the Real Cook?


When a TV show pitted home cooks against the professionals, an alumna home cook won. Brittany Furbee, BSJ ’14, MSJ ’15, took home the $10,000 prize in the August finale of Cooks vs. Cons on the Food Network. Furbee, a public relations specialist in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, faces off with chefs from all over the world in November to compete for a $100,000 prize.

Surging in Neuroscience

RezaiDr. Ali Rezai has been chosen to serve as executive chair and vice president of neurosciences at the newly formed WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. Rezai is a neurosurgeon whose expertise includes the areas of Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, chronic pain, brain and spinal cord injuries, and severe mood and anxiety disorders. He was formerly at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in several roles, including director of the Neurological Institute. He holds 54 U.S. patents for medical devices and technologies, and his innovations have resulted in the creation of five start-up companies. His work is recognized across the globe, and his research involving a brain-computer interface to treat paralysis was published in the journal Nature last year and also generated front-page news in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times. He has also developed pioneering technologies that led to the creation of a company that produces micro-implants to treat chronic pain and headaches.

The Dietician Will Skype You Now

Dietician Researchers wanted to see what would happen when rural residents received nutrition advice via Skype and Facetime. Melissa Ventura Marra — assistant professor of human nutrition and foods in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design — and her team found that 70 percent of patients in the intervention group lost at least five percent of their body weight compared to 40 percent of those in the control group. The program was more effective for patients who had weekly interactions with a registered dietician nutritionist to help with weight loss than for patients who only received diet-related literature.

Art That Humanizes

Homeless While he was getting his MFA at WVU, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Kofi Opoku decided he wanted others to meet the homeless people he got to know in Morgantown through volunteering. He made homelessness the focus of his master’s thesis and ended up creating the website, where you can read and hear the stories of the people he met. “Everyone I interviewed was very willing to get their stories out there, and I think that’s because they are frustrated with how people view them and feel silenced,” Opoku said. “There’s a tendency to broad brush the homeless population, but each individual in that population is unique.”

Quote Solo


“Our research and reconnaissance flights can’t stop the storm, but we can give people enough warning to get out of the way. Evacuation orders aren’t just issued for no reason; they save lives.” -- Nick Underwood, alumnus hurricane researcher

When Hurricane Irma had its sights on the Caribbean and Florida, Nick Underwood, BS ’14, Aerospace Engineering, was on flights that helped measure the storm that was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin at more than 185 mph. Underwood is an engineer and aircrew member for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center. On the flights, he deployed scientific instruments into the storm that relayed temperature, pressure, humidity and wind data back to the aircraft. You can follow his work on Twitter @TheAstroNick.

Not So Fast

Cig The No. 1 cause of preventable death is on the decline, but not for everyone. While cigarette smoking has dropped nationwide, minority groups are at higher risk for tobacco-related diseases than others, according to a new report led by Linda Alexander, associate dean of academic affairs for the School of Public Health and professor of social and behavioral sciences. The report, “Monograph 22: A Socioecological Approach to Addressing Tobacco-Related Health Disparities,” published by the National Cancer Institute, reveals that racial and ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQ community and low-socioeconomic-status women and girls have benefited relatively slowly from evidence-based practices that reduce cigarette smoking. In their cases, the “needle hasn’t moved far enough for us to discontinue our focus on these and other populations,” says Alexander.

Gaming Vets

Gaming Vets Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Jaime Banks and instructor John Cole found in a study that half of the military and veteran gamers they surveyed used video games to cope with challenges associated with military service. Coping mechanisms included escapism, managing self-diagnosed physical and/or psychological ailments, connecting with civilian life and seeking social support (particularly through massively multiplayer online games). Fantasy games topped the list, but military themed games were a close second.

Oh The Humanities


WVU is opening a humanities center, to be led by founding interim director Ryan Claycomb, who has served as an associate dean for the Honors College. The center will support innovative, collaborative and interdisciplinary faculty research through promoting humanities research and pursuing grants.

Stopping Outbreaks

WV Overdose Deaths West Virginia has the highest rates of drug overdose deaths and hepatitis in the country. That’s why the University is working to halt — in addition to the opiate crisis — the hepatitis C outbreak and a likely HIV outbreak. The program — led by Dr. Judith Feinberg in the School of Medicine and Dr. Gordon Smith, Stuart M. and Joyce N. Robbins Distinguished Professor at the WVU School of Public Health — combines research, health services and community involvement in harm-reduction strategies. It will target eight West Virginia counties: Boone, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Raleigh and Wyoming. Titled “Rural West Virginia Responds to Opioid Injection Epidemics: From Data to Action,” the effort is supported by a $1 million grant for two years from the National Institute of Drug Abuse and is also supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

From Her Camera to Your TV

Heroine One alumna has told the story of three women who are fighting the heroin epidemic in Huntington, W.Va., the epicenter of the country’s overdose crisis. Elaine McMillion Sheldon, BSJ ’09, a Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker, directed and produced the short documentary “Heroin(e),” which was screened at the Telluride Film Festival and is now available on Netflix. Learn more at

You Grow WVU

As “A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University” rolls toward its end, donors have given more than $1.153 billion to the campaign. Included in those gifts is a record $21.6 million given this past fiscal year to the Foundation’s annual giving program, the University Fund. Nearly 60 percent of the donations to the Campaign are for direct student support, mostly through scholarships. A special mini-Campaign — “Dream First” — that was started in 2015 to raise $50 million for student scholarships, has brought in more than $65 million. Through Sept. 30, 795 scholarships, 55 faculty chairs and professorships, and 222 new funds to assist research efforts have been created during the campaign. “We are driving to the finish line full speed,” said WVU Foundation President and CEO Cindi Roth. “We are very thankful to our alumni and friends who have helped put us well over our $1 billion goal early, but the needs of the University remain great. We are going to keep our foot on the accelerator, and encourage those who have not given to the Campaign to do so before Dec. 31.”

By The Numbers

In 2016, the College of Law’s nine clinics provided:

40,200 HOURS of pro bono legal services for more than 500+ CLIENTS in West Virginia. The National Jurist magazine placed the college in second place (behind the University of Idaho) on its national honor roll of law schools with the greatest community impact.

PE Teachers Are Tops

The Physical Education Teacher Education program in the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences has been nationally recognized by the Society of Health and Physical Educators. The society found that WVU’s program met or exceeded the Initial Physical Education Teacher Education Standards in preparing its undergraduate students, including having a student pass rate of 100 percent on the Praxis II physical education exam.

The Rocketeers

Rocketeers A WVU team captured first place in the 10,000-foot launch category in the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition during the Spaceport America Cup. Engineering students Matt Hines, Nick Haynes, Zach Maddams, Kevin Nadler, Cameron Hale and Austin Hodges created a fiberglass rocket with the words “Wild and Wonderful” on the body that went to an altitude of more than 9,600 feet.

Matter of Fact Archive

Fall 2014

From the new art museum to acupuncture to shoe research, there’s a lot happening at WVU.

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Fall 2015

The WVU Beckley campus opened, an alumna took a case to the U.S. Supreme Court and new students prepared for zombie wars. Catch these and so much more in Matter of Fact.

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Fall 2016

WVU surpassed $1 billion in its State of Minds campaign and the robotics team was again the only team to win NASA's competition.

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Fall 2017

One alumna beat the pros in the Food Network show "Cooks vs. Cons" and another alumnus was on flights measuring Hurricane Irma. See what else is cookin' among WVU faculty, staff, students and alumni.

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Spring 2015

A 94-year-old grad. An artificial hand that works like a real one. A tree from Isaac Newton’s backyard. Learn about these and more.

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Spring 2016

This issue, the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute prepares to open, a professor takes cameras into classrooms and Morgantown breaks ground on a new $30-million swimming, diving and track complex.

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Spring 2017

We bid farewell to Arnold Hall, "meet the press" and applaud WVU's online grad program in software engineering.

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Spring 2018

Much is happening at WVU. We have a new Mountaineer, raised $1.2 billion and are adding a 10-story tower for Medicine Children's.

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Summer 2016

Mountaineers went first in assisting with flood relief efforts in West Virginia this summer.

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Summer 2017

An ice drilling team took home top honors in a NASA competition, the sports management graduate program is ranked 10th in the U.S., and an alumna wrote the book on pepperoni rolls.

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Summer 2018

We're talking trash, saluting scholars and bidding farewell to the chief.

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