MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the West Virginia University Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) have teamed up in Morgantown to help students at Shady Spring High School HSTA Club (near Beckley, W.Va.) develop research projects in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

Last fall, the Shady Spring HSTA students visited the NIOSH Morgantown facility, where they had an opportunity to learn about the field of occupational safety and health, met one-on-one with potential mentors, and discussed project ideas. Students and research mentors were then paired based on expertise and interest.

The teams worked together to develop four research projects: assessing stressors in veterinarians; determining if students who take advanced placement courses have higher stress levels than students taking traditional courses; measuring community attitudes and beliefs about the influenza vaccine; and educating the community about Ebola. Since the initial meeting, students and mentors have been working together to develop surveys and collect and analyze data.

The students will return to Morgantown to meet with their mentors to review their findings and finalize their presentations in preparation for the HSTA Science Symposium in May. They will participate in a poster session from 3 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28, in the NIOSH lobby.

HSTA encourages underrepresented high school students to pursue degrees in the health sciences and STEM majors with the goal of increasing the number of health practitioners and advocates throughout medically underserved communities in West Virginia. As part of their training, HSTA students conduct annual community-based research projects, typically around health and environmental issues present in their communities.

“HSTA students are smart, dedicated healthcare advocates in their communities, leading their friends and family to better lifestyles,” Ann Chester, Ph.D., HSTA director, said. “As many of the next STEM professionals for West Virginia, they help improve our state every day, first by investing in themselves, then by investing in us as West Virginians.”

This is the second year NIOSH has been involved with the HSTA program.

“NIOSH values this opportunity to work with the students and mentor them. We hope that this will help them to pursue careers in STEM,” Margaret Kitt, M.D., M.P.H., NIOSH deputy director for program, said.

NIOSH Morgantown staff involved in this partnership include: Dr. Kitt, Tara Hartley, Linda Benson, Harold Boyles, Cammie Chaumont Menendez, John Myers, and Jean Meade (retired from NIOSH).

The NIOSH/HSTA partnership was recently presented at the International Teacher-Scientist Partnership Conference in San Francisco, Calif.

For More Information From NIOSH:
Tanya Headley, CDC/NIOSH Health Communications, 304-285-6278,
theadley@cdc.gov

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For more information: Leigh Limerick, WVU Healthcare Communications Specialist, 304-293-7087
th/lal: 04-27-15