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Future Scientists Present Research At WVU Symposium

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MORGANTOWN -

For more than 90 West Virginia University students, this summer was not about going on vacation or fun in the sun.

It was about research, learning something new, and finding ways to help the community.

"Agriculture, engineering, health sciences, biology, physics, chemistry. You name it, the students have been there," said Dr. Keith Garbutt, Dean of Honors College. "They've been working with the professors to do their independent research projects."

Priyanka Jagannath's research was for more than just for class credit.

"My aunt actually has Retinitis pigmentosa, which is an eye disease where you slowly lose your vision as well," she said. "It's just really heartbreaking, at least in our family too because it shows no matter all the resources you have and no matter how many doctors you can see, there's still not a cure. There is nothing she can do about it."

Jagannath's research focuses on finding a cure for blindness in children.

"There's a disease called Leber Congenital Amaurosis which is an inherited retinal disease that effects children. Their rods and cones quickly degenerate and die off," she said. "They become blind at a very young age."

While 10 weeks may not be the ideal time to find a cure, Jagannath said she will continue researching until she graduates.

"I'll do this for one more year. We are going to test it a few more drugs to see if they work. If those work we would create an animal model and test this drug on animals," she said.

WVU staff said they hope more students follow in the footsteps of Jagannath and participate in undergraduate research.

"I hope that in a year's time we are up to 120 to 150. Ultimately an institution like West Virginia University, which is a research institution should hope that nearly all the students here whatever their discipline would have the chance to do undergraduate research," Dr. Garbutt said.

If you would like more information on undergraduate research at WVU, visit its website.