MU science, medical programs restructured


HUNTINGTON – The recent restructuring of two colleges at Marshall University was designed to strengthen both colleges and create a more rounded experience for students, according to university officials.

In the past month, university officials announced the reorganization of Marshall’s College of Science as well as the restructuring of some departments in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Both announcements came a few months after administrators moved Marshall’s nationally renowned forensic science graduate program from the medical school, where it was first established in the mid-1990s, to the College of Science, where it’s being integrated with the university’s undergraduate digital forensic science and criminal justice programs.

Leaders of both schools described the reorganization as creating better opportunities for collaboration between departments and cultivating comprehensive interdisciplinary research efforts as well as curricular partnerships.

“We saw the synergy there that the combination of these programs could create something new and powerful, not only for Marshall, but for students interested in those fields,” said Chuck Somerville, dean of the College of Science. “It’s a really interesting overlap of things we can do to strengthen all of those programs at the same time.”

The changes to the College of Science were effective July 1 and included the restructuring of nine academic departments in the college into four schools: The School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, the School of Physical Sciences, the School of Mathematics and Applied Informatics, and the School of Forensic and Criminal Justice Sciences, according to a news release from the university.

During the spring 2016 semester, which ended in May, there were 1,420 students enrolled in the majors affected by the restructuring, but that number doesn’t include the students who took courses within the College of Science as a part of electives for other non-science majors, Somerville said. Overall, he said there were approximately 10,000 enrollments each year in service courses, which are courses that provide support for other majors in the university outside of the college in question.

In each of the new schools, college faculty and staff bring applied, real world experience together with advanced theoreticians, Somerville said.

He gave the example of the new Mathematics and Applied Informatics school.

“We have people who are studying the underlying mathematics of informatics as well as people who are writing commercial software,” he said. “Students can get the benefit of both perspectives and learn both the most advanced science of the field as well as some of the things that it takes to succeed in the market … By having both basic and applied researchers working together, we broaden the scope of students that we can attract to Marshall, and we also broaden the opportunities for students who come here and may not yet know if they want to pursue a higher degree or go directly into the workforce.”

At the medical school, the exit of the forensic science program led to the restructuring of the school’s departments of biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, toxicology and animal resources, which resulted in the formation of one biomedical sciences department.

That department is being led by Dr. Gary O. Rankin, who was promoted to vice dean for basic sciences and chairman of the department of biomedical sciences.

The College of Science has 126 faculty and staff in the College of Science, and no employees have been laid off as a result of the restructuring, Somerville said. Somerville did note the responsibilities of four positions that became vacant this year were absorbed by existing faculty and staff in the reorganization process.

The restructuring of the programs changes would be cost neutral to the university and students, said Gayle Ormiston, Marshall’s provost and senior vice president of academic affairs.

Talks of moving the forensic program into the College of Science had taken place for years, but it was the completion of an academic portfolio review of all academic programs at Marshall that helped administrators develop the road map to make it happen, Ormiston said.

The move is also part of an effort to create a more robust undergraduate offering in forensic science as well as offer more slots in the graduate forensic science program, which is one of the most sought after programs of its kind in the United States, Somerville said.

Marshall’s graduate forensic science program was the seventh such program of its kind when it was established in 1994, and its graduates routinely rank No. 1 in the country for its students receiving the highest overall test scores compared to other graduate programs participating in the Forensic Science Assessment Test, a national assessment test offered each year by the American Board of Criminalistics.

In 2015, Marshall Forensic Science graduates ranked No. 1 in the country on the assessment test for the sixth time in the last nine years.

The program originally was established in the medical school as Dr. Terry Fenger, founding director of the program, was a faculty member in the school at the time.

Somerville said he hoped the restructuring also would provide the faculty and facilities support needed to allow the university to accept more students into the graduate program, which currently accepts 20 students each year. He said he hoped to bring that number up to 25 students in the next two or three years without creating an undue burden on faculty or students.

More Biomedical Boot Camp fun

Top Row: Adam Belcher, Sarah, Binion, Roy Al Ahmar Bottom Row: Garrett Muckleroy, Morghan Getty, Shreya Mukherji

Top Row: Adam Belcher, Sarah Binion, Roy Al Ahmar Bottom Row: Garrett Muckleroy, Morghan Getty, Shreya Mukherji

The new PhD students, Adam, Sarah, Garrett, Shreya, and Minqi, continued through Preparation for Graduate Academics (PGA) Boot Camp. They worked with student mentors, current students, faculty, and staff to better prepare for and familiarize themselves with the program.


Garrett and Morghan intensely working to beat the clock in their team-building challenge

Minqi Huang, PhD Student

Minqi Huang joining in the team-building fun!

Students built skills vital to success in the PhD program through engaging in team-building and critical-thinking activities, touring core facilities, taking personal development assessments, and interacting with faculty to learn more about the research offerings.

Organelle team-building challenge

The winning product of “creating a new organelle” challenge









Many in the graduate program know the importance of “free food” and nearby restaurants, so the PhD students were treated to lunch at Fat Patty’s. They also attended the Summer Research Program Annual Luncheon giving them the opportunity to meet faculty, staff and interns.

While waiting for classes to start in August, the new students will have a chance to complete their first lab rotation.

Cancer research seminar

Vincent Sollars, PhD, Director of the Flow Cytometry Core, recently presented a research seminar: HSP90 and Phenotypic Plasticity in a Mammalian Model of Hematopoiesis.Sollars-Presentation_7.14.16

He discussed his idea that phenotypic plasticity—the ability for cells to adapt to pressure from the environment resulting in a wide range of characteristics—is typically kept within a normal range by a process called canalization. This process causes cells to develop on a path that leads to a specific type of cell in the body, and restricts those cells from developing a very large range of diversity. If canalization is lost, some cells may be more likely to mutate toward cancer. A better understanding of this may lead to better types of cancer therapies.

The seminar was enjoyed by graduate students, laboratory techs, faculty, and summer interns.

For further information on Dr. Sollar’s research, please see his BMS Faculty Page.

Boot Camp begins!

The new students around the halls of the Byrd Biotechnology Science Center (BBSC) are the latest group matriculating into the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) PhD program. They are starting an intensive week of orientation, academic preparation, problem solving and team building called Preparation for Graduate Academics (PGA) Boot Camp.

This week is a key part of the overall Transforming Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Education (TIGRE) Program introduced four years ago to further prepare Marshall’s BMS students to thrive in their education and meet the changing needs of the biomedical workforce. In addition to Boot Camp, TIGRE offers career exploration through speakers and workshops in a variety of non-academic research career fields. An opportunity for relevant internship experience is expected to become a part of the TIGRE program in the future.


This year’s cohort of PhD students includes:

Previous BMS MS Research student, Minqi Huang. In addition to the BMS courses, he has spent the last two years in the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR) labs conducting research. While studying and working in Huntington, he has enjoyed exploring the surrounding area with others in his lab.

Sarah Binion recently completed her MS in Forensic Science program at Marshall University, and is interested in a career conducting research and potentially teaching.

Another Marshall alumnus, Adam Belcher, started out in the computer world, building his first PC at about age 11. He hopes to bring those problem solving skills to the biomedical sciences.

Shreya Mukherji comes to Marshall from studying pharmacology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. On a trip to visit her sister in New Zealand, she jumped from the country’s highest bungee platform.

Garrett Muckleroy is excited to begin the work of a PhD. He earned his undergraduate biology degree at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. In addition to hiking and camping, Garrett was a competitive downhill skier for nine years; he has had many broken bones.

Please be sure to welcome the new members of the BMS family!

Marshall University deploys medical team to flood-ravaged Greenbrier County

Mobile unit will be stationed in Rainelle; President Gilbert to visit operation Friday

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— At least two dozen medical volunteers from the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, Marshall University School of Pharmacy, Marshall Health and Cabell Huntington Hospital are enroute to Rainelle, West Virginia, where they will deliver medical care and counseling services to victims of last week’s historic flooding.

The Marshall team will set up a temporary clinic in Rainelle at the National Guard Armory across from the Rainelle Medical Center. It will be staffed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. by physicians, pharmacists, medical residents, pharmacy and medical students, counselors and nurses.

The operation is being coordinated through the school of medicine’s Marshall Medical Outreach (MMO) program, a student-led initiative that provides mobile medical care to the homeless in the city of Huntington.

Charles “Chuck” Clements, M.D., professor of family and community health and faculty advisor for MMO, says the effort will be divided into two separate phases.

“This initial phase will focus on the acute health care needs associated with this type of disaster,” Clements said.  “Wound assessment and treatment, tetanus vaccines, [and] writing prescriptions for those individuals who lost their medicines during the flood are the imminent issues to address at this point.  Beginning Sunday, we will reassess and revise the operation to deal with the longer term issues associated with floods like contaminated water disease and mosquito-related issues.”

Marshall Medical Outreach is sending two mobile units to the site and will also make use of temporary tents to see patients.  Cabell Huntington Hospital is donating needed medical supplies to the effort in Rainelle, which was identified as a high priority area.

“We’ve been working with state and local agencies to pinpoint where our services would be most beneficial,” said Brian Gallagher, R.Ph., J.D., director of pharmacy services and chief of government relations and health care policy for Marshall Health. “At this point, we will be stationed at Rainelle, but we are flexible and ready to move to any area that needs our help.”

Marshall President Jerome “Jerry” Gilbert is scheduled to visit the operation at 10 a.m., Friday, July 1.

“Marshall’s commitment to West Virginia is always apparent, but never more so than in a time of need like this,” Gilbert said. “I am proud of all the members of the Herd community who have stepped up to help.”

The university’s response to the disaster to date has included supply drives by Marshall University Athletics, the Women’s Center and Women’s Studies program; drop-off stations around the main and health science campuses and now the Marshall Medical Outreach efforts.


Contact: Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, 304-691-1713; Ginny Painter, Senior Vice President for Communications and Marketing

School of Medicine announces organizational change for basic science departments

Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, has announced a restructuring of the school’s departments of biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, toxicology and animal resources, which will result in the formation of one biomedical sciences department.

GaryRankinThe reorganized unit will be led by Gary O. Rankin, Ph.D., currently chairman of the department of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology, who has been promoted to vice dean for basic sciences and chairman of the department of biomedical sciences.

“Realigning our basic sciences into one department is a strategic decision that allows us to move forward with a more focused emphasis on developing our research infrastructure and investing in our talented faculty and staff,” Shapiro said. “I believe, as does Marshall’s leadership, that we must continue to grow our research enterprise in order to stay competitive and relevant in what is a rapidly changing academic and clinical environment. Our sincere hope is that this restructuring will open up additional opportunities for us to be more successful in these research endeavors. In some ways, this is a logical extension of the restructuring that has occurred in our educational programs, especially those leading to the M.D. degree.”

Shapiro went on to say that the department of biomedical sciences will provide a foundation for cultivating comprehensive interdisciplinary research efforts as well as curricular partnerships.

Rankin, who will assume his new position July 1, is a veteran scientist, researcher and educator who’s been with the medical school since 1978. He has served in a number of administrative positions including chair of the department of pharmacology, associate dean for biomedical graduate education and research development, and, most recently, as professor and chair of the department of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology.

“Gary Rankin is an exemplary scientist. Among his many successes are his continued oversight over the National Institutes of Health (NIH) WV-INBRE grant which brings in approximately $17 million in total costs and is important to the research infrastructure of the entire state. He is also a steadfast and committed Marshall faculty member, “Shapiro said. “His many talents, as well as his extensive experience, will be invaluable to us in the coming years as we work to build this research infrastructure.”

Rankin has authored more than 130 research publications and trained hundreds of medical, graduate, undergraduate and postdoctoral students. He was recently named associate editor of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, one of the discipline’s top journals.

“It is a real honor to have been selected to lead the new department of biomedical sciences,” Rankin said. “The medical school will be making a significant investment in the basic science faculty that will strengthen our research base and position us to be more competitive in research in the near future. It is an exciting time to be part of the medical school.”

Rankin earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, earned a doctorate in medicinal chemistry at the University of Mississippi and completed a fellowship in pharmacology at the Medical College of Ohio (now the University of Toledo).


Photo: Gary O. Rankin, Ph.D., currently chairman of the department of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology, who has been promoted to vice dean for basic sciences and chairman of the department of biomedical sciences.

For further information please see: 

Contact: Leah C. Payne, Director of Public Affairs, Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, 304-691-1713