CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – West Virginia has been awarded a highly competitive, five-year $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).
The funding will help boost academic scientific research and upgrade infrastructure at West Virginia University (WVU), Marshall University (MU), West Virginia State University (WVSU) and Shepherd University. EPSCoR is facilitated by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science, Technology & Research (STaR).
This funding establishes the WV Network for Functional Neuroscience and Transcriptomics (WV-NFNT), a statewide collaboration of neuroscientists and bioinformaticists working to position West Virginia as a center for impactful neuroscience research.
“I’m thrilled to see that West Virginia has been awarded such important funding, and it’s further proof that we’re leading the way in education, innovation, science, and technology,” Gov. Jim Justice said. “This will provide a significant boost to the research programs at our state’s leading universities, and is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. We look forward to the positive impact this grant will have on our state’s academic and scientific community and economy.”
“West Virginia’s universities continue to make our state and country proud with innovative scientific research projects, and I’m thrilled the National Science Foundation is investing $20 million over five years to establish the West Virginia Network for Functional Neuroscience and Transcriptomics (WV-NFNT),” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. “I was proud to support this historic investment, which will allow our hardworking students, faculty and staff to continue to make groundbreaking strides in neuroscience and related research.”
“West Virginia has been a leader in neuroscience capabilities and research for years, and it’s important that our higher education institutions have the resources and tools they need to continue that leadership into the future, especially when they are able to collaborate as they are in this effort. I have been a steadfast supporter of ESPCoR programs, as they give our students and professionals unprecedented opportunities to advance scientific progress right here in West Virginia. I will continue to advocate on behalf of our institutions in West Virginia, and work to provide the resources they need to develop innovative solutions that impact our state, country, and world,” U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito said.
Project leadership includes:
- Principal Investigator: Dr. Juliana Serafin, senior director of science and research at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission
- Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Suzanne Strait, associate director of science and research at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission
- Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Randy Nelson, professor & Hazel Ruby McQuain Chair for Neurological Research at West Virginia University
- Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Nadja Spitzer, associate professor of biological sciences at Marshall University
- Co-Principal Investigator: Dr. Umesh Reddy, professor of genetics and genomics at West Virginia State University
“Neuroscience researchers and STEM education leaders in West Virginia are honored by NSF’s selection of the WV-NFNT project for funding,” said Dr. Serafin. “We are looking forward to significant growth in neuroscience and related STEM fields during the grant period.”
West Virginia has now received more than $105 million from NSF EPSCoR as funding or co-funding over the past 22 years, according to Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor of Higher Education.
“Together with our research and university partners, West Virginia has made great progress in positioning our state as a leader in scientific research,” said Chancellor Tucker. “We are tremendously grateful to the NSF and to Senators Manchin and Capito for their support, and for their continuing faith in West Virginia’s faculty and student researchers. With this funding, we have the opportunity to take neuroscience and related research to new levels of discovery – which could impact real lives and our economic future in tremendous ways.”
“For the United States to remain the global leader in science, engineering and technology, we must energize talent in every region and every state in our nation. Through EPSCoR, NSF catalyzes the development of research capabilities across the country, creating sustainable scientific infrastructure and communities of innovation,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “This year’s EPSCoR awards will serve individual states and the country as a whole with critical research on wildfire management, climate change resilience, biomanufacturing and advanced biomedical devices, and data science in the service of all disciplines.”
Neuroscience and data science were identified as areas of existing strength with high potential for growth in the West Virginia Science & Technology Plan, published in 2021.
The WV-NFNT will foster collaborations among neuroscientists and bioinformaticists from the four universities while positioning the state as a center for one of the most impactful neuroscience research areas – circuit and synaptic plasticity, the study of changes in neurons and the connections between them as the result of developmental or environmental changes.
The WV-NFNT will expand the capability and diversity of those working in the fields of neuroscience and data science by implementing specific education and workforce development activities to engage students, especially those who are rural, first-generation college students, and other underrepresented groups.
The National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) enhances the research competitiveness of targeted jurisdictions – whether state, territory or commonwealth – by strengthening science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) capacity and capability through investments, from talent development to local infrastructure.
EPSCoR envisions its jurisdictions as recognized contributors to the national and global STEM research enterprise. West Virginia’s most recent EPSCoR-funded Track-1 project was awarded in 2015 and wrapped up this year.