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Family Matters

Alumna finds truth in the “STATE Family” mantra

H

annah Payne is a self-described indecisive person - a character trait that has resulted in a rather circuitous academic and career path that has moved from the theater stage to the research laboratory to an administrative role with WVSU Extension Service. The class of 2013 (bachelor’s) and 2016 (master’s) alumna has become a testament to the notion of the “STATE Family” and is quick to tout the University’s caring faculty and staff in supporting her journey through all of its twists and turns. “I came to STATE because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do,” she said with a laugh. “I started out as a fine arts and business double major, because I was involved in theater in high school. Then I took a biology class from Dr. Tim Ruhnke with a friend, which wasn’t even a requirement, and I fell in love with it.” Hannah immediately changed her major to biology and started down an academic path that put her into the labs of some of the University’s leading scientists. Dr. Ruhnke connected her with Dr. Barbara Liedl, whose plant genetics research allowed Hannah the opportunity to learn through experiential opportunities. “We were working on creating stronger, healthier, more disease-resistant tomatoes to benefit West Virginia’s farmers and consumers,” Hannah said. “I was able to learn a lot about research procedures and techniques in Dr. Liedl’s lab.” Hannah didn’t stop there. She began working with other WVSU scientists on organic chemistry research and found her way to Dr. Micheal Fultz,

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a chemistry professor who broadened Hannah’s exposure to the outreach side of science. She soon found herself balancing classroom and lab work with teaching opportunities at elementary and middle schools throughout the Kanawha Valley, sharing her own love of science with younger kids. “The reoccurring theme throughout my undergraduate experience and into my graduate experience is that, every step of the way, professors were pushing me to my potential potential I didn’t even realize I had,” she said. “The fact that they saw that in me is pretty amazing. STATE is known for that one-on-one relationship between faculty and students, and that is exactly the reason why, because they really helped facilitate me through that process.” Hannah received her bachelor’s degree in 2013 and immediately enrolled in WVSU’s biotechnology master’s program, completing it in 2016. However, her time at WVSU was not over. An opportunity soon arose to blend her science education with her passion for youth outreach. She took a specialist role with the University’s Center for the Advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CASTEM), which specializes in providing STEM education to K-12 students. Her success in that role soon placed her in the director’s seat for CASTEM, as well as leading the WVSU Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development unit as an assistant program director. WVSU’s non-traditional 4-H programming platform also operates with a strong focus on youth STEM activities. It is a dual role in which Hannah is thriving.

Profile for West Virginia State University

State Magazine, Volume 7, 2019 Edition  

The 2019 edition of West Virginia State University’s flagship publication features stories on history making accomplishments at the state Ca...

State Magazine, Volume 7, 2019 Edition  

The 2019 edition of West Virginia State University’s flagship publication features stories on history making accomplishments at the state Ca...