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WVU faculty named 2019-2020 Benedum Distinguished Scholars

 A portrait of John Hu in his research lab

John Hu, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Statler Chair in Engineering for Natural Gas Utilization and director of the Center for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization, has been named a 2019-2020 Benedum Distinguished Scholar. (WVU Photo/Paige Nesbit)

Three exceptional faculty members at West Virginia University have been named 2019-2020 Benedum Distinguished Scholars in recognition of the high caliber of their research and scholarly activity:

  • Michael Germana, professor of English in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

  • Joshua Hall, professor and chair of the Economics Department and director of the Center for Free Enterprise in the Chambers College of Business and Economics

  • John Hu, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Statler Chair in Engineering for Natural Gas Utilization and director of the Center for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

The Distinguished Scholars awards, funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, are awarded annually to faculty engaged in “creative research” in as many as four categories: behavioral and social sciences, biosciences and health sciences, humanities and the arts, and physical sciences and technology. This year, exceptional scholars were identified in three of the four categories.

“This year’s Benedum Distinguished Scholars represent the very best in research and creative scholarship at WVU,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed. “They are an inspiration to both their colleagues and their students and are making an impact in their respective fields of study. I am honored to work alongside such scholars at WVU.”

Germana is honored in the humanities and the arts category. An English professor with specializations in American literature and American studies, his research includes two books and over a half-dozen articles as well as presentations and invited talks. This award recognizes in particular Gemana’s 2018 volume “Ralph Ellison: Temporal Technologist,” a unifying theory that weaves its way through the sum of Ellison’s work. The work was published by one of the most prestigious presses in the field, Oxford University Press. The interdisciplinary nature of Ellison’s corpus is reflected in Germana’s approach that draws upon film theory, antebellum visual rhetoric, photomaterialism and music theory. The result is a complete re-evaluation of Ellison’s lifework and a much-needed lens for re-examining the legal, economic and social frameworks through which the body is read in our own time. The work has been praised by reviewers as “the finest and most important work on Ellison to date” and for transforming the field of Ellison studies.

Hall is honored in the behavioral and social sciences category. He is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of economics and is known for creating an annual index of economic freedom in the world that is widely used for research in economics and other social sciences. The various annual editions of his Economic Freedom in the World have received over 4,500 citations. In addition to the index, Hall has published seven books, over 100 peer-reviewed articles in the field and 35 book chapters. Since 2016, 15 of his peer-reviewed articles have investigated the relationship between economic freedom and economic outcomes in areas such as income levels and economic growth. Hall has been an invited speaker at over 40 universities. According to a nomination letter, Hall’s innovative research sparks “new conversations in the literature” and “enriches the discipline.”

Hu is honored in the physical sciences and technology category. His work focuses on two main areas of research: the development of carbon-neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs) and the direct conversion of natural gas to value-added liquid chemicals through single-step dehydroaromatization. In both of these areas, Hu is a world leader and has established a nationally recognized program at WVU. He has undertaken a number of U.S. Department of Energy and other federal agency-funded projects. Hu has published more than 100 journal articles and conference papers and has received 32 U.S. patents, all related to catalysis and reaction engineering. Since joining WVU in 2016, he has published 20 peer-reviewed journal articles, filed seven U.S. patents, presented 30 keynote speeches at national and international conferences, and secured over $12 million in research funding. The selection committee states that Hu’s work has defined major areas of shale gas research, and he continues to make significant research contributions.

All of the 2020 award recipients will be recognized by President Gordon Gee and Provost Reed during a faculty and staff awards dinner at Blaney House, which has been postponed until Fall 2020 due to the University’s closure and COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more about these and other awards.


Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135,Paige Nesbit

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