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WVU consolidates neuroscience research into new department

WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute
WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute
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In a move to help improve people’s lives through innovation in fundamental neuroscience research and education, West Virginia University will bring together some 50 of its laboratories to form a new Department of Neuroscience within the School of Medicine. 

The move, effective July 1, was approved Friday (April 20) by the University’s Board of Governors. 

“Neuroscience as a field is growing rapidly, and the establishment of a centralized department in the School of Medicine will connect WVU’s basic and translational neuroscience research and education to provide integrated, strengthened and focused programs,” said Clay Marsh, WVU Health Sciences vice president and executive dean. 

“Our neuroscience students will have the opportunity to work with the best and brightest researchers and clinicians at the newly expanded WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute on innovative and pioneering exploration of the brain and brain behavior.”  

Neuroscience research and education has a long and rich history at WVU, with faculty distributed across multiple colleges and departments. An interdepartmental doctoral program was first offered in 2003, and to date nearly 30 students have earned degrees, with an additional 22 students currently enrolled. 

The many existing laboratories conduct state-of-the-art neuroscience research ranging from cognitive neuroscience/non-invasive imaging to systems/cellular neurophysiology to molecular signaling and genetic studies of neuroscience. 

Neuroscience at WVU has grown substantially and the recent formation of the WVU Neuroscience Signature Program and the newly established Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute will benefit from a home department from which basic and translational neuroscience research and education can be coordinated. 

Randy J. Nelson, the Hazel Ruby McQuain Chair for Neurological Research, will serve as the inaugural chair of the new department. Nelson recently came to WVU from Ohio State University to direct basic science research in the Rockefeller Institute and the  Neuroscience Signature Program. 

“We are living at a time when rapid and exciting advances in our knowledge about the brain are occurring at an unprecedented pace,” said Nelson, who will report jointly to Laura Gibson, senior associate vice president for research and graduate education at the School of Medicine and Ali Rezai, John D. Rockefeller IV Chair in Neuroscience, executive chair, vice president and associate dean of the Rockefeller Institute. 

“The newly established Department of Neuroscience will serve as an intellectual hub for brain research and education at WVU with a goal of conducting foundational studies of neuroscience, translate these foundational studies to improve brain health in people, and develop novel treatments and cures for brain disorders,” Nelson said. 

“By networking these deep strengths with the new approaches being developed by Ali’s team at the Rockefeller Institute, as well as additional partnering with our clinical colleagues in Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, we will be poised to make strong advances in neuroscience,” he said. 

The board also continued its work implementing changes allowed by the “freedom agenda” adopted by the 2017 Legislature, issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking for an amended and expanded set of financial and administrative rules and giving final approval for six faculty rules. 

The financial and administrative rules either reaffirm current rules under the previous Higher Education Policy Commission policies or codify current practice that was not covered under those rules. 

A copy of the current policies is available at http://bog.wvu.edu/policies and a copy of the proposed rule and the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can be found at http://policies.wvu.edu/. There will be a 30-day public comment period from April 23, 2018 until May 22, 2018 for the submission of written comments, which should be submitted online submission using a link to the rule located at: http://policies.wvu.edu/. 

The rules given final approval are substantially the same as presented in February, with only editorial changes. 

In other business, the Board approved the acquisition of the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Beckley. The 19,922-square-foot building, which the federal government has determined is surplus, would be used to expand West Virginia University Institute of Technology’s forensic investigations program, provide additional office and meeting space and allow Tech to use the former courtroom as a unique classroom and performing arts venue.  

The Board also approved multiple new programs, including: 

·      A bachelor of science degree in environmental and community planning major within the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

·      A bachelor of science in physical activity and well-being in the College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences, incorporating previous degrees in athletic coaching education and physical education teacher education.

·      An artist diploma in music performance certificate within the College of Creative Arts.

·      A certificate in program evaluation within the College of Education and Human Services.

·      A child development and family studies major with the master of arts in educational psychology in CEHS.

·      A master of science in biomedical engineering, as well as a new biomedical engineering major in the engineering doctoral program within the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

·      A master of science in energy environments within the Davis college.

·      A master of health sciences – physician assistant within the School of Medicine.

·      And the termination of the post-masters of science certificate in nursing within the School of Nursing. 

The board also heard annual reports from the University’s Staff Council and Student Government Association. 

“Classified staff are vital to the university,” said Lisa Martin, BOG staff council representative. “We provide many services for our students, administrators and even faculty – from the facility's workers to make our campus beautiful and safe to dining services staff who feed our students to helping our departments run smoothly. 

“Many times staff are the friendly face for students who are far away from home,” Martin said. “They are also compassionate voice on the other end of the line when a parent calls concerned about their son or daughter.” 

But Martin expressed concern over a two-year decline in the number of staff from 2,604 to 2,241 as well as the difficulty in keeping quality employees at current compensation levels. 

“Our existing employees are still playing catchup. We are heading in the right direction, at least as long as we stay on track with marketing adjustments and merit increases.” 

BOG Chairman William Wilmoth appointed J. Robert (J.R.) Rogers as chair of the nominating committee to bring a slate of officers to the June meeting. Other members are: Blake Humphrey, Kimberly Weaver, Tom Jones, Tom Heywood and Marty Becker. 

The next regular meeting is scheduled for June 22 in Morgantown. 

-WVU- 

jb/04/20/18 

CONTACT: John A. Bolt; University Relations/Communications
304.293.5520; jabolt@mail.wvu.edu

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