Concord University Geology Awarded National Science Foundation Grant For Teaching And Research Innovation

For Immediate Release: 
Oct 21 2015

CONTACT:  Sarah Dalton

Concord University

Office of Advancement

PO Box 1000, Athens, WV 24712

(304) 384-6312,         






ATHENS, W.Va. – A new $176,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program will enable all students enrolled in Concord University’s environmental geoscience (geology) program to participate in an extended research experience from the beginning of their sophomore year to their senior year.

“When college students participate in research with professors, it builds confidence, motivation, and enthusiasm. It also helps to enhance their learning and improve career preparation,” Dr. Joseph L. Allen, professor of geology and principal investigator for the grant, said.

Concord’s student research program differs from more common approaches that are short-term and only available to a select few. By instead making a multi-year experience available to all geoscience majors, the program is expected to provide a bigger impact to a larger number of students. The first cohort gets underway this fall.

The student research projects are based on samples from an ancient, 1.4 billion-year-old fault zone in the Rocky Mountains that once generated a series of earthquakes. Each student will study different samples in the laboratory as a major component of four courses over a two-year span. Then, they will conduct field studies at the sample site during Concord’s summer geology field course.  A significant part of the student research will be to examine the microscopic and chemical features of the samples using Concord’s electron microprobe facility.

While learning to do science, the students will also learn to communicate that science. They will create social media content about their research experiences and will share it with West Virginia high school students.  They will also collaborate with non-majors enrolled in general education geology lab courses at Concord.

The grant, titled “Testing the Impact of a Multi-year, Curriculum-based Undergraduate Research Experience (MY-CURE) in the Geosciences” will be led by Dr. Allen along with co-principal investigator Dr. Stephen C. Kuehn, associate professor of geology.  Dr. Elizabeth Creamer, a professor of educational research and evaluation in the School of Education at Virginia Tech will work with the Concord team to evaluate student learning.

A summer mini-grant from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research and a sabbatical award from Concord University supported preparation of the successful NSF proposal.  This is the second NSF research grant awarded to Concord in its history. 


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