West Liberty University understands that research is vital not only to advancing knowledge but also to the hands-on experience our students receive through the research process. Here are a few examples of the research conducted at West Liberty University:




Joseph Horzempa, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology

Francisella tularensis is a highly infectious microorganism with fewer than 10 inhaled bacteria causing the fatal disease tularemia.  This bacterium has been weaponized and could be used for bioterrorism, prompting the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to classify F. tularensis as a Category A biodefense agent.  In addition to the threat of an intentional release, F. tularensis causes a variety of naturally occurring human infections that can be acquired by inhalation, arthropod bites, oropharyngeal exposure, or by contact.  My long term goals involve understanding the pathogenesis, persistence, and transmission, of F. tularensis.  Ultimately, I am interested in identifying novel therapeutics to combat this pathogen and other bacterial pathogens.


My research agenda also involves investigating the pathogenesis of the opportunistic pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa.  In addition, I am developing and characterizing a novel live vaccine platform that can be engineered to elicit protection against a variety of bacterial pathogens including P. aeruginosa.



Evan Lau, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology

I investigate the ecology and phylogeny of microbes and relate their presence and diversity to the environmental processes they accomplish.  The group of unique microbes I currently study consume methane gas (a greenhouse gas) in forest soils and peat bogs in West Virginia and play an important in reducing methane emissions into the atmosphere. I use molecular techniques and systematics/phylogenetic approaches to detect and sequence the genes unique to these microbes to detect them and describe their diversity based on their genetic diversity. I am also planning on using a variety of technologies to explore microbial diversity in soils above oil and gas reservoirs, which often leak low molecular weight hydrocarbons, including methane.



Roger Seeber, PhD, Professor of Biology

For over ten years this project has attempted to collect and preserve regional and commercially known varieties of tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum).   The collection currently contains 791 open pollinated tomato seed samples which are kept in both dry storage and frozen at -4oC.  The collection reflects a large variety of forms as well as unique samples from the region.  In addition to the “normal” red tomatoes we have pink, yellow, green, black, purple, white, orange, “transparent”, and stripped.  Also, round, square, oblong, pear shaped, heart shaped, hollow, tiny to huge, paste, canners, cherries, and slicers.  A number of these originated in WV and have a great history in the area.  There are also more than 50 varieties that are unique and are not found in any other collection.  The need to keep this genetic diversity is very important and we work to regentate these types every year.  We have also started looking into genetic analysis in hopes for clarifying the confusion that exists in the naming of tomato varieties.



Matthew Zdilla, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology

Oral contraceptive-induced nutrient deficiencies are well documented in scientific literature, particularly with regard to the B family of vitamins.  However, few studies have examined links between oral contraceptive use and female zinc status.  Zinc is an extremely important nutrient linked to a number of ailments, many of which commonly affect women in the college-age demographic, the same demographic frequently utilizing oral contraceptives.  Currently, I am working with a group of research students to analyze links between oral contraceptives and zinc nutriture in young women.






Norman Clampitt, PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

I am currently investigating the capability and possible improvements of a temperature probe and unique interface circuit we designed in our lab to measure small temperature changes in the calorimetric experiments with a resolution of less than 0.01 ° C. I also have an interest in developing methods for measuring the seasonal changes in the concentrations of trace metals in streams, lakes, and ponds.  A third project which I began a few years ago and would like to continue is the development of a series of experiments to include in a Laboratory Manual of Instrumental Methods for Analytical Chemists.  My goal is to prepare a manual containing experiments designed to introduce chemistry students to the correct operation and care of the instruments, the capabilities and limitations of the various instruments, and methods of analysis utilizing these instruments.



Mark Even, PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

I am developing methods to monitor and measure local water and air pollution.

Water Pollution: The water runoff from coal mines has some unique, toxic properties due to the pH and mineral content of the water.  Benthic macroinvertebrates have the potential to be used as bioindicators to monitor the history of such acid mine drainage.  Therefore I want to develop methods to reliably measure the metal content of chitin and map the locations where chitin metals are found.

Air Pollution: Mosses and lichens are capable of absorbing pollutants from the air.  They therefore may turn out to be useful for monitoring pollution in local airsheds.  I want to determine which local mosses or lichens would be most useful to monitor air pollution, and develop methods to measure the various metals they can absorb. The results can be mapped to determine which airsheds have had exposure to different forms of pollution.




David Thomas, PhD, Professor of English
1. The theme of war in prose, poetry, drama, and film, with emphasis on the causes and outbreaks of war, everyday life in wartime, the harsh realities of war, returning from war, and peace and aftermath of war.  I am focusing on American wars, so I will begin with the Revolutionary War and hope to include our current wars against terrorism.

2. The depiction of the English teacher in prose, poetry, drama, and film, with an emphasis on stereotypes, idiosyncrasies, eccentricities, and misapplication of language as welll as misuse of quotations and allusions.






Lindsay Bosko-Dunbar, PhD, Assistant Professor of Mathematics

My research explores the happenings that occur when the same algebraic objects is studied in different settings. Specifically, one project examines the Schur multiplier of a Lie algebra in order to gain insight into the Schur multiplier of a group.  Additionally, I investigate the similarities and differences that occur when taking known results from Lie algebras and transferring them to a Leibniz algebra setting.  Separate from this I plan to further a project which designs Modules to supplement current curriculum in advanced undergraduate math courses.




Hollie Buchanan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Mathematics

In recent years I have given presentations on logical puzzles (Slitherlink), geometry (Scarecrow condition) and decompositions of graphs.  Ongoing projects include edge colorings and edge coverings of graphs, quantified statements, and general combinatorics.







Mohamed Youssef, PhD, Assistant Professor of Physics and Physical Sciences

Research interests include numerical modeling (using mathematical equations to simulate physical processes) of pollutant motion on water surface due to wind, waves and current and building various electronic circuits, e.g. research in the field of wireless technology for interactive learning.






Keith Bell, PhD, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice

Keith Bell is currently conducting research on the effectiveness of learning and retention of online sexual abuse training programs verse the traditional residential “in house” method of delivering the program face to face. Preliminary results depict a lack of comprehension and retention of information in the online programs. He is using the Darkness to Light Childhood Sexual Abuse online and facilitator led programs to gather information.


Sheli Bernstein-Goff, MSW, Associate Professor, Social Work

Professor Berntein-Goff’s research will seek to determine whether or not injecting spiritual issues into the practice of social work is appropriate, and, if so, on what basis and in what circumstances. She is also looking at the various models currently operating in the field of Social Work for integrating spirituality and social work to determine which models seem to achieve the greatest results, and to what extent the personal religious/spiritual struggles of the professional social worker should enter into this process.


Sandra Czernek, MA, Instructor, History

Professor Czernek is researching Wheeling native and UAW leader Walter Reuther and his involvement in 20th century social justice campaigns. In particular, She is examining the effects of his German-American and Appalachian heritage on his fight for organized labor, worker benefits, and human rights.


Darrin Cox, PhD, Assistant Professor, History

Dr. Cox continues to research the benefits of Living History. His work indicates that more interactive and demonstrative field experiences that occur earlier in an education student’s training help future educators more effectively learn how to teach, increases their content knowledge, and may reduce new employee attrition rates in P-12 schools. Relatedly, Dr. Cox’s project, Vikings in the Classroom, explores how and why pre-service teachers might choose to employ a pedagogy that centers on material history, which is especially poignant since early studies reveal that hands-on activities of this nature help elementary school students actually learn the material better. Other ongoing projects include exploring the transformations in masculinity among the French warrior aristocracy from the end of the Hundred Years War to the beginning of the French Wars of Religion, and a reexamination of common representations of Vikings.


Sylvia Senften, EdD, Associate Professor, Social Work

Dr. Senften is interested in historical research of the social welfare services in rural areas.  Most recently she presented her research regarding the Scotts Run Settlement which is located just outside of Morgantown, West Virginia.  She is also involved in a research project evaluating the impact of a providers’ cultural competence on clients’ satisfaction and hopefulness in rural families.


Dongsoo Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, Political Science

Dr. Kim is interested in international conflict/peace studies. Especially, he is conducting research on the causes and consequences of international conflict or peace. He also has an interest in security/foreign policy issues in East Asia in which China, Japan, and two Koreas interact. He is currently working on North Korea’s brinkmanship foreign policy and has recently co-authored a book on the topic.


Robert Kruse, PhD, Associate Professor, Geography

Dr. Kruses work in cultural geography has been published in two solo-authored books, in several book chapters, and in regional, national and international academic journals. His primary research interests have been geographies of popular music and disabilities. In addition, he has recently written articles that apply geographical analysis to a range of current events including the 2008 presidential election, and the grand piano that appeared on a sand bar in Biscayne Bay in January 2011. The common features of Dr. Kruse’s research projects are the geographical implications of cultural discourses, the ways in which aspects of culture vary across space, and the difference that place makes.


Aron Massey, MA, Instructor, Geography

Mr. Massey’s primary research interests are focused on Appalachia and the geographies of natural resources. His is completing his PhD dissertation on the political and environmental aspects of mountaintop removal coal mining in southern West Virginia. Currently he is also working on an interdisciplinary research project focusing on the memorials surrounding coal mining in Appalachia such as the Sago, West Virginia mine disaster. Previously he has conducted research on Employee-Ownership and steel production in Weirton, West Virginia and the role of Latin America in the War on Terror.


Tammy McClain, PsyD, Associate Professor, Psychology

Dr. McClain recently submitted her article, “Effect of Teaching Environment on Student Learning:  Online Versus Traditional Instruction” to the journal Teaching of Psychology. She continues her research on the effects of gender, divorce and family interaction style on adjustment and attachment.


Michael Marshall, PhD, Professor, Psychology

Dr. Marshall is collaborating with Dr. Tammy McClain on a study to test the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment of opioid addiction. In this study three different types of treatment for opioid dependence will be compared: traditional abstinence only, methadone, and Suboxone treatments. Marshall and McClain hypothesize that Suboxone treatment will be superior, followed by methadone, and lastly, abstinence only. They further hypothesize that treatment effectiveness will interact with personality as measured by the NEO-IA and that there will be in inverse relationship between treatment effectiveness and psychopathology as measured by the MMPI-2.


Richard Owen, PhD, Professor, History

Dr. Owens’s research centers on United States history and foreign policy, with emphasis on 20th century US foreign affairs, the US Civil War and WWII. He is the author of several political novels including:

Potomac, The Neutrality Imperative and Knightime. Dr. Owens is currently conducting research for an upcoming novel to be titled Empire State which is set in New York City during World War II.


Rebecca Stoffel, MA, Assistant Professor, Psychology

Professor Stoffel is currently exploring the link between attachment, parenting style and frequency of cell phone contact between first-time freshmen and their parents.  Specifically, she is interested in student-initiated contact as a form of accessing a secure base, which has mostly been studied in young children.



We are in the process of building research pages for each college so you can truly experience the exciting breadth and scope of West Liberty University’s research projects!