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Eight WVU graduate students receive Foundation scholarships to support research

Eight photos of WVU graduate students are lined up in two rows.

WVU Foundation scholarship support is aiding graduate students pursuing meaningful research. Recipients of the WVUF Distinguished Doctoral Scholarship include (top row, from left) Cheryl Brandmeir, Megan Hut, Kent Marshall and Tobi Ore. Recipients of the Carl del Signore Graduate Scholarship include (bottom row, from left) Connor Lambert, Lacey Leatherland, Eden Nitza and Abigail Wellings. (WVU Graphic)

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Eight West Virginia University graduate students from across the U.S. and beyond are engaging in meaningful research as they complete their degrees with support from WVU Foundation scholarships.

The Office of Graduate Education and Life announced four doctoral students selected to receive the WVU Foundation Distinguished Doctoral Scholarship and four master’s students chosen to receive the Carl del Signore Foundation Scholarship. The awards help students defray costs and support the completion of their theses or dissertations. 

WVU Foundation Distinguished Doctoral Scholarship Awardees

A native of Severna Park, Maryland, Cheryl Brandmeir is working toward a doctorate in pathophysiology, rehabilitation and performance at the WVU School of Medicine.

“This scholarship will be instrumental in facilitating the completion of my dissertation work, which seeks to provide insight into the mechanisms surrounding gait dysfunction in people with Parkinson’s disease,” Brandmeir said. “By advancing the understanding of limb speed perception and postural stability, I aim to contribute to the advancement of evidence-based rehabilitation, ultimately improving the quality of life for those affected by this condition. My foundational research will pave the way for novel therapeutic techniques and provide a foundation for educating future physical therapists at WVU.”

Megan Hut is an international student from Tiel in the Netherlands. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in educational theory and practice from the WVU College of Applied Human Sciences.

“I am extremely grateful to receive this award and appreciate the value it places on educational research aimed at supporting preservice teachers to become compassionate, social justice educators equipped to create equitable educational opportunities for their future students,” Hut said. “I hope my research will positively contribute to the field of teacher education. This award will continue to help me forge and expand connections between my research and teaching practice and will make it possible to share and distribute my work.”

Kent Marshall, of Saint Albans, is enrolled in the dual MD/PhD program at the School of Medicine. His PhD will be in clinical and translational science.

“This eminent award not only recognizes our individual achievements but also underscores the Foundation’s commitment to supporting biomedical sciences, young investigators and cancer research at WVU,” Marshall said. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to pursue my doctoral studies in Morgantown, and the financial assistance provided by this scholarship will allow me to purchase materials to use cutting-edge methods in my dissertation studies. It will also allow me to continue extracurricular research when I return to the clinic to finish my medical degree. This scholarship inspires me to continue striving for excellence in my research and academic pursuits.”

An international student from Ekiti, Nigeria, Tobi Ore is pursuing a doctorate in geology from the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

“This award holds immense significance to me, as it will assist in successfully finishing my dissertation on advancing machine learning-aided seismic interpretation and inversion for subsurface characterization,” Ore said. “Through this work, I aim to enhance current industry automated interpretation workflows, offering better flexibility to complex geological structures and stratigraphy. The anticipated outcome of my dissertation holds promise for more efficient subsurface characterization, making a substantial contribution to the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions and the transition to a carbon-neutral future.”

Carl del Signore Foundation Scholarship Awardees

Connor Lambert, of South Royalton, Vermont, is working toward a master’s degree in psychology with a focus on behavioral analysis at the Eberly College.

“The use of this award will help to fund my current research project, understanding factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of pathological gambling disorder, and will aid in the development of my dissertation and other research concerning maladaptive decision-making,” Lambert said. “This scholarship will help me to focus on my academic pursuits without worrying as much about the associated financial burdens.”

A native of Olathe, Kansas, Lacey Leatherland is completing her master’s degree in forensic and investigative science at the Eberly College.

“This award has assisted me with travel costs associated with participation at conferences where I can share my research findings on the forensic examination of electrical tapes,” Leatherland said. “Specifically, my project focuses on the elemental analysis of electrical tapes using micro-X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, while further assessing a previously developed quantitative spectral similarity metric, the spectral contrast angle ratio, to provide a foundation for the future development of consensus-based protocols. In addition to this, I am evaluating how common fingerprint development chemicals affect the elemental profiles of electrical tapes, to provide forensic examiners with recommendations for the proper workflow for cross-disciplinary tape evidence examinations.”

Eden Nitza, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is pursuing a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries resources at the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.

“I am so grateful for the Carl del Signore Scholarship because it allows me to focus on data analysis and writing during the final year of my master’s studies,” Nitza said. “My thesis research focuses on assessing river otter diet and population genomics across West Virginia. With the support of this scholarship, I am able to dedicate my time to ensuring my thesis meaningfully contributes to conservation science.”

Abigail Wellings hails from Frostburg, Maryland. She is completing a master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis on clinical mental health from the College of Applied Human Sciences.

“This award is not only a great honor to receive as a first-generation student but will also help alleviate the financial costs of graduate school and allow me to focus more on my academic career and thesis project,” Wellings said. “My thesis examines the prevalence of suicidal ideation in first-generation college students as compared to their non-first-generation peers. My hope is that it will be a beneficial addition to the existing literature on first-generation college students’ mental health.”

For more information about WVU Foundation graduate scholarships, contact Jessica Queener, assistant provost for graduate education policy, at

Gifts to support the two scholarships are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.



Senior Communications Specialist
WVU Foundation

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