The New Year Begins

The 2013 – 2104 academic year is off to a fast start. Faculty came back to campus on the 22nd of August and we had a retreat followed by a social gathering of the faculty and staff of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Changes for the upcoming year include:

  • Dr. David Wing taking over as Chair of the Department of Biology.

New faculty members:

  • Dr. Karen Adams, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
  • Dr. Jacquelyn Cole, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • Dr. Kyle Hassler, Lecturer in Chemistry
  • Dr. Sangho Park, Visiting Assistant Professor of Computer Engineering
  • Dr. Laura Robertson, Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Dr. Perry Wood, Lecturer in Mathematics

Departures of faculty members:

  • Dr. Christopher Elmer, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
  • Dr. Seung-yun Kim, Assistant Professor of Computer Engineering

On Friday August 23rd Shepherd held the final registration session and the academic convocation for new students. The School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics welcomed a total of 77 new students. Biology was by far the most popular major with 61 new students. Computer science, mathematics and engineering welcomed 47 new students while 18 new environmental sciences majors and 11 new chemistry majors joined us.

Classes started on the 26th and have been moving full speed since then. All of us are excited at the prospect of the upcoming year. We look forward to working with our new and returning students. A number of students are already talking with faculty about conducting research in their labs and I know that great things will come from these collaborations. The student organizations are starting to plan for the upcoming year and if this year is like last year there will be a lot for students to become involved in with the different clubs and organizations in their major and others that fit specific interests.

Look for updates on student and faculty activities in coming blogs.

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Good Bye to the 2012 – 2013 Academic year

The 2012 – 2013 academic year it was a year that celebrated the successes of the faculty and students in the School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics. We graduated a new group of biologists, chemistry, environmental scientists, mathematicians, and computer scientists. Some of our students will be continuing their education in professional or graduate programs while others will join the work force. One of our faculty members (Dr. Qing Wang) received tenure, a number of faculty members in all departments were successful in securing grants to fund equipment purchases, many mentored students in research and club activities, and a large number published their research results in scientific journals. Our students presented the results of faculty-mentored research projects, some receiving accolades for the quality of their work and presentation and other students competed in robotics competitions, placing in local and international competitions.
In the fall we will welcome three new assistant professors (one each in biology, chemistry and mathematics) and two new lecturers (one each in chemistry and mathematics). We will welcome a new group of entering freshman and transfer students, some of whom will receive scholarships through the recently awarded National Science Foundation S-STEM grant. Dr. David Wing will begin his tenure as the new Chair of the Biology Department while the other three chairs will continue for another year.
I look forward to an exciting year and one where we can continue to celebrate the successes of the students and faculty in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

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Science majors having fun!

Howdy everyone!! My name is Maria Espiridion (but everyone calls me Maggie) and I am a graduating senior biology major here at Shepherd University.

 I would like to extend a very well-deserved congrats to everyone: You have officially survived the Fall 2011-2012 semester! From all the final projects and final examinations we had to complete, it must be quite a breath of fresh air to be out of the classroom for winter break, right? Hopefully everyone achieved the scores they hoped to achieve in all their classes and have settled in at home for the holidays.

 Although it’s less than a month away, the spring semester is upon us! I would like to extend a warm welcome to all those Biology/Chemistry/Biochemistry majors and minors, or even those simply interested in the sciences, to consider rushing Beta Beta Beta and/or Sigma Pi Epsilon!

 For those of us not in the know, Beta Beta Beta is Shepherd University’s nationally recognized and Sigma Pi Epsilon is the university’s chemistry fraternity. Every semester, each group will host a rush week, which is an entire week of various events dedicated to inviting interested students into the club. These events range from group breakfasts before labs to games of chemical jeopardy! Not only will interested students get to have the opportunity to join the organizations, but they will also get the chance to make friends with other students within their majors. 

BBB president Lauren Gates making apple-nutella-marshmallow mouth treats at Shep-O-Treat

Of course, the fun doesn’t end there! Throughout the year, members are encouraged to attend weekly meetings, where we discuss ideas for fundraisers, community service events, organizational unity events, and much more! For the upcoming semester, our biggest project to be discussed revolves around Relay for Life, the overnight fundraising event that is annually hosted at Shepherd. Usually, members look forward to hosting the annual Chili Cook-Off fundraiser for Relay!

 While each organization dedicates plenty of time to community service and fun events, Beta Beta Beta and Sigma Pi Epsilon take pride in their academic requirements and expect their members to uphold them. Because the majority of the members are science majors, it’s not difficult to find a friend or two to study with for upcoming exams in certain courses. 

This year’s Sigma Pi Epsilon Quiz Bowl representatives!

At the end of the year, each organization hosts their respective banquets where members, faculty, and alumni are invited to mingle and have a great time outside of the labs and classrooms. Throughout the course of the semester, members vote on the location, cost, and the menu for the end of the year banquets and members are encouraged to attend and have a good time. 

A lovely group picture from the 2011 SPE banquet.


 So if you are a science major, or simply have a passion for the sciences, and are interested in expanding your social and academic network, keep an eye open for various poster advertisements or whiteboard/chalkboard messages around Byrd and Snyder regarding each organization’s respective rush weeks! Beta Beta Beta and Sigma Pi Epsilon have several events planned for the upcoming semester and we’d love for you to be a part of our family!



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Ana’s Getting Ready to Graduate!

Hello Everyone!

My name is Ana Manzano and I am a Senior Biology major. I cannot believe I only have my Senior Research Presentation before completing my time here at Shepherd! It is definitely a joyous and bittersweet realization.

I will be sincerely sad to leave when I graduate, because I have grown to think of campus as a second home. However, I will be leaving with a degree that I worked hard for, and a huge sense of accomplishment.

I am in the process of visiting and applying to Graduate Schools. Like most of you, I am nervous of where I will be spending the next four years. When you are selecting a school, please be aware of what experiences you hope to accomplish. I chose Shepherd because I knew I would be fortunate to connect my two passions, biology research and community service.

One of the advantages directly related to the location of Shepherd University as student in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics are the many research facilities we have located within 50miles. Students in Beta Beta Beta and Sigma Pi Epsilon sometimes carpool to visit the research facilities, which sometimes offer internship opportunities.

Susan Kurian, Ana Manzano, and Lauren Gates visiting the Science Museum in Baltimore, Maryland with Beta Beta Beta

Currently, I serve as a Biology Aide in Molecular Biology at the United States Department of Agriculture at the Appalachian Fruit and Research Station in Kearneysville, WV. I am using Next Generation Sequencing for analyzing transgene insertions in plum. My main task is to use PCR techniques to identify the introduced or absented genes in the HoneySweet plum. If you have ever done PCR, you know how time-consuming it is!

Ana's USDA lab notebook, which must remain in the Molecular Biology lab at all times!



This technique is reliable but many complications do arise, such as multiple insertion sites, rearrangements or duplications of transgene sequences. If you are interested in research, you will have numerous facilities around campus where you can gain invaluable knowledge and put your laboratory background to great use!

Here at Shepherd, service is the norm, not the exception. When you are a student here, you will find yourself participating in many service projects. Every spring semester, Beta Beta Beta and Sigma Pi Epsilon participate in Relay For Life and host the annual Relay For Life Chili Cook-Off. Shepherd’s Relay is #4 in the Nation!

Ana Manzano and Ben Hackett at a Shepherdstown Parade representing Relay for Life

 I am Relay For Life’s Advocacy Chair, I work closely with the WV American Cancer Society Lead Ambassador to provide a platform for cancer research at the community and state level. This opportunity has given me the ability to meet many representatives and state officials. I am looking forward to visiting and observing scientists at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD this spring.

If you are passionate about a subject, you should try to build upon it. Shepherd provides you with many opportunities in and out of the classroom. Time goes by fast, so take in everything Shepherd has to offer while you can! You will soon discover how great it is to be a Shepherd Ram!

Ana with Zan, the Shepherd Ram, at her last home football game

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Being a Biology Major

Hi! My name is Susan Kurian, and this is my second year at Shepherd University as a biology major.

 I know that a lot of students are curious about college schedules, and wonder what being a science major looks like on a daily basis. Therefore, I’m sharing an example of one of my weeks at Shepherd University:

 On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Organic Chemistry class starts at 10:10 A.M. in Snyder Hall. Dr. Eugene Volker has been teaching this class for a number of years, and he enjoys punctuating his lectures with anecdotes and funny catchphrases. On Wednesdays at 4 P.M., I have a weekly lab with Dr. Volker, and students in my class perform distillations, mass spectroscopy, IR spectroscopy, and assemble models of carbon compounds. Every Friday in lecture we have a short quiz, which keeps students on their toes.

Dr. Volker and the GC-MS Spectrometer

 After Organic Chemistry in the morning, I go down the stairs to Microbiology with Dr. Adam Parks. Dr. Parks likes to ask questions during his lectures, and his powerpoints sometimes have sound effects or unexpected animations! He also expects us to ask at least one question while in lecture, so that he knows we were making connections while listening. My lab periods with Dr. Parks are on Tuesday and Thursday at 3 P.M., and we have lot of fun plating bacteria using aseptic technique and checking for growth under specific conditions.

 My schedule also includes a number of non-science classes, including Introduction to Art, Honors World History, and a literature seminar on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I have each of these classes twice a week, and they involve a lot of reading and essay writing. Personally, I enjoy the fact that Shepherd University requires classes like these, because they make students well-rounded, and can be a nice break from science.

 There are other things about being a biology major in college besides the classes. For example, I am pre-med and in the MedSTEP program, and I hope to take my MCAT soon. I joined the science fraternities Sigma Pi Epsilon and Beta Beta Beta, which both meet on Monday afternoons in the Byrd Science Building.

Shepherd University’s Sigma Pi Epsilon 2010 Highlight Video from Joey Stevenson on Vimeo.

My advisor is Dr. Lidgerding, and I am in the Honors Program at Shepherd, along with a few other science majors in my year. I tutor Physics and Math at the Academic Support Center, and I live on campus with an economic major, a political science major, and another biology major.

Being a biology major, or any kind of science major, can be a lot of work, but at Shepherd there is a big focus on enjoying what you learn, balancing subjects, doing exciting extracurricular activities with friends, meeting people with diverse goals and interests, and planning for the future. Seriously, what’s not to like? No matter how busy my week gets I still love science, and I can’t wait to learn more!

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Update from Dean Nolan!

Wow it’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is almost upon us!  As you can tell this has been a busy semester for one and all.  In addition to teaching their classes faculty members in all departments have been mentoring students conducting research projects and outreach activities.  A number of students have presented their research at regional meetings and many have submitted abstracts for the “Research Day at the Capitol” in January 2012.  In fact we have more students submitting abstracts this year than ever before!    We received some wonderful news today that Drs. Carol Plautz (Biology) and Dan DiLella (Chemistry) were awarded funding to purchase some new laboratory equipment.  This equipment will give students in different biology and chemistry courses the opportunity to gain valuable experience with commonly used research equipment and support both student and faculty research.
We’ve hosted a number of prospective students at different open house events and watched as members of Beta Beta Beta and Sigma Pi Epsilon competed in the Quiz Bowl during homecoming.  Both of these professional honor societies have welcomed new members and continue to be active on campus.  We’ll see a number of students graduate in December and move on to the next stage of their careers.  The Biology, Chemistry and Computer Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering Departments are all beginning the process to select candidates to interview for new faculty positions for 2012 – 2013.  No wonder we all need some time to enjoy family and friends!

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Interview with Dr. Burt Lidgerding

Hi!  My name is Laura Bradel, a biology major at Shepherd University, and below is my Q&A with one of my professors, Dr. Burt Lidgerding:

1) What is your postion at Shepherd University? – Associate Professor of Biology

2) Where are you originally from? – Minnesota

3) What are your favorite hobbies? – Bicycling, racquetball, reading, cooking, and foreign travel

4) Where did you receive your undergraduate degree? – Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota

5) Your graduate degree? – Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon

6) How long have you been teaching at Shepherd University? – since 1991

7) Have you had any previous professions? – Yes, Post-doctoral position in cancer research at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY; Cell physiologist for the U. S. Department of Fish and Wildlife at the Fish Health Research Lab in Kearneysville, WV; Chief of Hybridoma Research and Cell Culture for the U. S. Department of the Army at Ft. Detrick in Frederick, Maryland

8) What courses do you teach at Shepherd University? – Cell biology, Principles of Biological Research, Virology, Immunology, and General Biology

An image taken during a recent cell biology lab. In In this cell biology experiment, chromatin was digested by nuclease and the histone-DNA component (nucleosomes) were separated by electrophoresis.

9) How many students do you teach per semester? Between 100 – 120.

10) What particular field of science interests you most? I would say Cell Biology and Virology. I’m also interested in the history of science and the interaction of science and society.

11) What has been your most exciting science experience or Shepherd experience? Developing the virology and immunology courses.

12) What advice would you give incoming students interested in going into the field of Biology? If they don’t have a passion asking and answering questions then perhaps biology and science in general is not the career for you. Science should become a “habit of mind” or “a way of thinking” not merely a job or profession.

13) What about to a student interested in taking your courses? Again, they need to want to learn not merely attend class, memorize material and pass the course.

14) 5 things or as many as you can list that students don’t know about you?

– My wife is a graduate of Shepherd in biology

– My father never completed high school

– I have no brothers or sisters

– My first experience in research was living in Alaskan Tundra in 1967 and trapping small mammals as part of studies in preparation for the Alaskan pipeline.

– My first scientific publication was in the Minnesota Academy of Sciences Journal in 1968



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