WVU names 2023 class of Ruby Fellows
Five students, each deeply passionate about their education and research, are receiving funding from the Ruby Scholars Graduate Fellows program to aid in their future academic endeavors at West Virginia University.
Story by Cassie Rice, Senior Communications Specialist, WVU Foundation
Photos WVU graphic
This year's fellows are Christopher Anderson, Jessica Hovingh, Annalisa Huckaby,
Nicole Krahulik and Travis Rawson. Each student will receive a $34,000 stipend,
a $2,000 travel grant and tuition waiver to allow them to continue their research
Established in 2011 by the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, the fellowship provides financial support that allows incoming doctoral-level scholars to dedicate themselves fully to expanding their studies and using their research to benefit the people of WVU, the nation and the world. 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.
Since the Ruby Fellows program’s inception, a total of 50 students have received financial support to continue their research at WVU.
“We are proud to welcome yet another exceptional group of scholars to our campus this fall through the support of the Ruby Fellows program,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said. “I’m continually impressed by these fellows — their curiosity and creativity, their commitment to learning and their dedication to serving others through their work.”
Preston County native and first-generation college student Christopher Anderson came to WVU as an undergraduate studying civil engineering with hopes to pursue a career in architectural design. However, that changed as Anderson found his true passion and enjoyment on the environmental side of engineering.
“I really like to be challenged and keep my mind working,” Anderson said. “In environmental engineering, no matter what you do, there is always something to learn in the world around you.”
While looking for part-time work to help offset college and living costs, Anderson was introduced to research within the field. Anderson took advantage of undergraduate research opportunities, which led him to work with Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources faculty members Lian-Shin Lin and Emily Garner. Through these experiences, Anderson was able to see different areas of environmental engineering and discover his interest in microbiology.
After receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering at WVU, Anderson continues to work under Garner as a graduate research assistant in the environmental engineering biotechnology lab, where much of his work focuses on wastewater-based epidemiology for genetic detection of COVID-19 and other targets of interest as it relates to rural infrastructure characteristics.
“I’ve noticed that one thing remains consistent in my life — curiosity,” Anderson said. “No matter the endeavor, my curious nature has guided the ship and has allowed me to pursue my interests without accepting mediocrity.”
Anderson aspires to continue his education to obtain a professorship and develop a research group of his own after graduation.
Jessica Hovingh, of State College, Pennsylvania, never pictured herself being in the field of science. It was not until she took a crime scene investigation class in high school that she discovered her interest in forensics.
“I was never super into science, but I discovered it wasn’t entirely what I thought it was,” Hovingh said. “Finding something that allowed me to still exercise that part of my brain and utilize creativity is what drew me into it in the first place.”
When it came time for college, an introductory forensics class sealed the deal for her future career path. During her education at Penn State University, she did a research project focused on the force required to make fabric impressions on a vehicle.
After completing her undergraduate degree, Hovingh received her master’s at University of Lausanne in Switzerland, where her research focused on the visual differences between a bloody fingerprint pressed onto a surface versus a latent fingerprint — one that is there by chance — that encounters blood.
“My academic and professional experience have given me a strong foundation in forensic science that I’m eager to build upon,” Hovingh said.
After her PhD, Hovingh said she hopes to do lab work, teach and gain professional recognition to focus on what she enjoys most — crime scene reconstruction.
Annalisa Huckaby, a Morgantown native, initially attended college with the intention of becoming a doctor. However, she changed course when she found her enjoyment of research while fulfilling a requirement for medical school.
“I enjoy learning new things and, with research, I get that and even more,” Huckaby said. “There is just so much I love about research and I could not imagine myself not doing it.”
Huckaby earned her bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology at WVU. During her undergraduate years, she took advantage of research opportunities and worked under Mariette Barbier. These experiences provided her with valuable knowledge and inspiration to pursue a career path in research.
Currently, Huckaby works in an immunology pathogenesis lab where she helps others with their projects as they try to develop a new vaccine for Lyme disease.
“It is inspiring to see how much knowledge, confidence, self-assurance and technical skills they have gained, and this motivates me to continue learning and developing as a scientist,” Huckaby said.
Huckaby will continue to do research during her doctoral studies at WVU. After graduation, she plans to become a research scientist working on biomedical assay development.
Nicole Krahulik graduated from Grove City College in Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Krahulik discovered her passion for chemistry in a high school class.
“I went into chemistry thinking I was going to hate it,” Krahulik said. “My teacher was really good at taking what we learned and applying it to the real world, which got me fascinated that you could see the world in a totally different way.”
During her undergraduate education, Krahulik conducted research on the synthesis of dyes with the goal of finding molecules that could be linked together. She continued synthesis research at the University of Cincinnati where she made precursors with organic compounds for medicinal purposes to see if they would be effective with the molecules they interacted with.
As someone who experiences health problems herself, she made it a goal to help others regardless of the career path she takes. Originally, Krahulik wanted to go to medical school, but she realized she could have the same impact in the field doing something she loved — working with medications.
“There are everyday things that everyone looks at, but they do not talk about the chemical composition that is making it up, the thought and testing that goes into it. They just take it,” Krahulik said. “I want to know what functional groups there are to make it work so well for this and it ties back into a big part of my life, which makes it cooler.”
Krahulik plans to continue her synthesis research at WVU. After graduation, she wants to go into pharmaceutical research and development.
Travis Rawson, a Ravenswood native, has always been driven by the love for his state and the urge to learn more. When people told him West Virginia offered nothing for a successful career, he feared he would have to leave the people and place he called home.
However, upon discovering that world-changing research was being done close to home, he attended WVU where he fell in love with what he studied and received his bachelor’s degree in immunology and medical microbiology.
“There were a lot of labs where I got hands-on experience,” Rawson said. “Just learning about the immune system and how complicated it is intrigued me.”
As an undergraduate, he did a lot of work with neonatal sepsis under Cory Robinson. Now, Rawson is a lab technician in Ivan Martinez’s lab, where most of his work focuses on SARS-CoV-2 infection, human papillomavirus and different types of cancer.
“I love teaching and sharing science in a way that is easy to understand,” Rawson said. “Science is very complex and it is important that scientists make it accessible to all people.”
Rawson aspires to pursue a career in academia and eventually have his own lab where he can teach others valuable information.
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.
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Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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