Attending West Virginia University was a simple decision for Stephen Raso.

He wanted to pursue a career in forensics, and WVU – just 75 miles from his home in Moon Township, Pa. – boasts one of the top programs in the world.

For other students contemplating their higher education futures, WVU may also pique their interest.

WVU faculty and students will have a chance to meet and engage thousands of middle and high school students April 28 and 29 at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington D.C. The event, in its second year, features more than 3,000 fun, interactive exhibits, more than 100 stage shows, celebrity guests and 33 presentations by authors.

WVU is making its first appearance at the event with a bang.

Its contingent will include students, faculty, administrators and recruiters who will showcase the broad scope and range of the University’s academic opportunities. But its calling card will be a new, innovative, educational display that includes hands-on demonstrations and features designed to grab students’ attention.

The display will include blood spatter intrigue, in which students will examine paper stained with fake blood to simulate a forensic investigation; a cut-away model of a Toyota Prius, which reveals the inner workings of an alternative fuel vehicle like those found at WVU’s National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium; an iris scanner, in which students can have their eye scanned – part of biometrics data collection that’s a included in the curriculum at WVU’s Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources – and receive an enlarged print-out; and more.

Representatives from WVU’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will be on hand to answer questions as will Nigel Clark,, vice president for academic strategic planning. There will also be representatives from the Statler College, computer screens displaying a microsite with WVU information and a Wiffiti display that will aggregate students’ Tweets from the event. Parts of the display will be labeled with QR codes that will also provide links to more information.

“For students truly interested in science and technology, they’ll get real depth from WVU’s exhibit,” Dr. Clark said.

WVU’s attendance at the Festival was not a random idea – but a thoughtful strategy in line with the institution’s Strategic Plan for 2020.

“In the plan, we speak of student success and this requires that we recruit great students,” Clark said. “The plan also speaks of increasing diversity on campus. At this event we will have opportunities to recruit students from minority and under-represented groups.”

In March, Maura McLaughlin, an associate professor of physics, kicked off WVU’s participation by providing a lecture as part of a festival initiative called “Nifty Fifty Program: Top Scientists and Engineers Will Tell Their Stories in DC-Area Schools.”

McLaughlin presented “Seeing in the Dark: A New Window on the Universe through Gravitational Waves,” at Westmar Middle School in Lonaconing, Md.

Joining the school’s officials in April will be six students from West Virginia high schools who participate in WVU’s Health Sciences and Technology Academy program.

Also, Raso will be on hand to talk about his experiences in WVU’s forensic science program. Raso said WVU’s two crime scene houses and garage, in which students can perform investigations and exercises that simulate real forensics work, help separate WVU from other programs.

“At WVU, you get a lot of good practical work but, along with the lectures and theory you learn, you get to conduct hands-on analysis at our crime scene houses. You’re seeing it and doing it, rather than just reading about it,” he said.

Raso, a dual forensic science and chemistry major, said WVU’s reputation helped give him a leg up in obtaining internships. The forensics program helps place its students in internships each summer. Raso has been involved in two – at the Allegheny County fire marshal’s office and with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“It definitely helped that some of my teachers at WVU were from the FBI and gave me a good recommendation,” Raso said. “And we’ve got an internship coordinator who spends time getting in touch with agencies all over the country and establishing a rapport with them. It was a lot easier getting placed in one than just trying to find something on-line by myself.”

Whether it’s Raso’s insights, the interactive display or information from other representatives and multimedia sources, WVU may make other students’ decisions about a college to attend much easier.



CONTACT: Ann Bailey Berry
304-293-5691 (office); 304-376-7740 (cell);

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