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Statler students, alumni and faculty collaborate and network as 2024 Research Week concludes

Kerri Phillips

Kerri Phillips, alumna and chief scientist in Johns Hopkins applied physics lab, delivers the 2024 Research Week distinguished lecture on emerging technology in defense spaces (WVU Photo/J. Paige Nesbit).

The Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources was abuzz with scholarly pursuit and inquiring minds on Friday with the culmination of the 2024 West Virginia University Research Week. Chief scientist at Johns Hopkins applied physics lab and Statler College alumna Kerri B. Phillips delivered this year’s distinguished seminar and students from across the College presented their posters as part of this year’s symposium.

Story by Kaley LaQuea, Communications Specialist
Photos by Marketing and Communications Team


This year’s winning graduate research group, working in the biomedical and engineering sciences team lab directed by Assistant Professor Margaret Bennewitz, are looking at research in mice and hoping to move to human trials to determine the impacts of vaping on the lungs.

“We’re trying to figure out how e-cigarettes can cause inflammation in the lung microvasculature in mice and then apply that to a human understanding,” biology major Sara Demircan said. “This is the beginning, and then eventually we’d like to advance to a clinical study and apply everything we find out to understanding how the pathway that we’re working with right now can contribute to popcorn lung development.”

Damage to the tiny air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, can cause the condition called ‘popcorn lung.’ Ongoing research like this in the biomedical engineering fields continues to play an important role in public health messaging around the negative effects of vaping and e-cigarette usage. Demircan presented the group’s work at Friday’s symposium.

“This recognition is a really great way to start off this research,” Bennewitz said. “This is the first time we’ve received recognition for this project.”

Biomedical graduate researchers Hassan Alkhadrawi and Dhruvi Panchal are actively working on the project, along with health sciences Assistant Professor Duaa Dakhlallah and undergraduate biology researchers Michael Elkins, Jenna Abdalrahman and Jenna Ostasiewski. 

Second place was awarded to electrical engineering graduate researcher Mehdi Jabbari Zideh, whose work is focused on cyber-physical security, modeling and optimization of smart microgrids using physics-informed neural networks.

Researchers Chelsea Pack and Daniel Duque Urrego were awarded first place for undergraduate research in novel devices to measure force required to administer eye drops. Pack currently collaborates with Assistant Professor Moriah Katt on microfluidic device modeling in the blood-brain barrier. Urrego is a PhD student collaborator in the Advancing Wearable Systems for Out-of-the-lab Measurement and Evaluation (AWeSOME) research laboratory focusing on biomechanics under Assistant Professor Stephen Cain

This year’s seminar focused on trends in security and defense. In her lecture, Phillips shared insights with attendees about the implications of emerging technologies in air and missile defense sectors. She discussed the ways that artificial intelligence and autonomous systems are changing the economic and technological landscape of defense strategies.

“Department of Defense priorities will continue to evolve and drive research funding in these areas,” Phillips shared. “Research being conducted in academia today will continue to press technology forward, introducing solutions and new challenges.”

Phillips speculated that advanced materials like 3D printing, quantum science and human-machine learning hold significant potential to impact defense engineering spaces in the near future.



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

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135