The Times West Virginian

October 6, 2013

Science, Technology and Research Symposium scheduled for Morgantown

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — An upcoming Morgantown conference is giving people the chance to learn about the energy future of West Virginia.

The Science, Technology and Research, or STaR, Symposium is coming up Oct. 22 and 23 at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown.

The event, organized by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research, takes place every 18 months in either the fall or spring. The conference, being held for the fifth time, rotates locations and is typically held in either Huntington, Charleston or Morgantown.

Dr. Jan Taylor has been working with the state Higher Education Policy Commission for 10 years and has served as director of the Division of Science and Research for about a year and a half.

One of the Division of Science and Research’s tasks is to manage the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program in West Virginia, she said. Through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the division is able to hold the STaR Symposium.

“We were interested in sharing the research or information about science topics that were in the news or important to West Virginia,” Taylor said of the origins of the conference. “We developed the symposium to highlight not only our faculty but student work as well.”

She explained that part of the division’s mission is to help faculty at state and private higher education institutions who are in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields become more competitive for federal funding and money from foundations. The entity provides seed grants to individual faculty, and its largest grant program is the Research Challenge Fund.

“We look for really good science and economic development potential when we have those proposals reviewed,” Taylor said. “All of our grant programs are competitive.”

Everyone is invited to attend the conference later this month to learn about research in West Virginia. The STaR Symposium is an excellent way to inform the public of the great research and educational programs going on around the state, she said.

The theme of this year’s event is “The Evolution of Energy: From Scarcity to Abundance.”

“With the development of both traditional fuels — coal and shale gas — and the increasing development of alternative fuels — wind and solar — and with the importance of energy in the national conversations, we felt it would be a timely topic for our STaR Symposium,” Taylor said.

“We do have several folks in West Virginia who are focusing on energy, and we thought this was a good time to take a look at their research and what is going on statewide in both traditional and alternative energy.”

The keynote speaker will be David Pogue, science author, New York Times columnist and host of PBS’s “Nova Science Now.” People will have the opportunity to interact with him during a reception following his presentation on Oct. 22.

“We’ve had some really interesting speakers over the years, and I expect David Pogue to be among them,” Taylor said.

She said the conference will feature several panels on various topics, including energy research in West Virginia, the realistic long-term future for coal, the opportunities and challenges of the state’s abundant energy, the impact of the shale gas boom, energy and the response to climate change, energy efficiency, and the energy workforce.

About 90 percent of the speakers are West Virginians. The STaR Symposium strives to focus primarily on colleagues and stakeholders in the state and highlight the work that they are doing here, Taylor said.

During the symposium, the Division of Science and Research will conclude its new science video competition for college students.

The division announced the competition in May of this year, and Sept. 22 was the deadline for students to submit their videos. There are 11 participants, from West Virginia University, Marshall University, West Virginia State University and Alderson Broadus University, Taylor said.

She said a room will be set aside during the conference where the creative finished products will be played continuously. The division will give awards to the top two science videos in both the undergraduate and graduate categories, and a People’s Choice Award will also be presented.

The Division of Science and Research is interested in technology-based economic development, Taylor said. The group likes to see success that will lead to commercialization, and supports student programs that help young people become more interested in research and graduate education in the STEM fields.

The division publishes a quarterly journal called “The Neuron,” and a West Virginia regional edition of the kids journal “Nanooze” for eighth-graders.

The symposium targets faculty, administrators and universities, as well as business people and the general public. The event will give members of the community a good overview of the energy environment in West Virginia, Taylor said.

She encouraged anyone interested in energy development and energy use in West Virginia to come.

The cost to attend is $150. Interested persons can register online at www.wvresearch.org through Oct. 14. Walk-in registration will also be accepted the day of the conference.

“I’m expecting this to be a very interesting symposium,” Taylor said.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.