Skip to main content

Jeff Petty

Jeff Petty
Morgantown, West Virginia

Favorite book? The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee; The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Favorite movie/tv show? Saving Private Ryan; The Wire
Favorite band/song? Tyler Childers; Charleston Girl
Favorite local restaurant? Ta-Khrai Thai Cafe

The fifth volume of Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review came out after a six year hiatus thanks to a West Virginia University biochemistry student with a love for research. 


Senior Jeff Petty set out to revive the publication in 2019 as part of the Honors EXCEL Program, a project-based program offered through the WVU Honors College that supports students in experiential and community-based learning.


An exclusively undergraduate publication, MURR originally started in 2009 as a student organization with ties to the Honors College. Four volumes were published through 2014; however, when the founding students graduated there was no one else to keep it going. 


Part of Petty’s mission is ensuring that doesn’t happen again. Reviving MURR means taking on the leadership role and responsibility for recruiting more undergraduates to complete the volume and, hopefully, volumes to come. 


“When I started in fall [of 2019], there were just two of us. That fall we brought on students to help. They were reviewers. There were a couple leaders that we brought on to be section editors. Now we have 15 or 16 students,” he said. 


It took a year to publish the fifth volume after requesting research pieces and developing the review process.


“I really enjoyed being part of the team that determines the direction of the magazine. We developed a review process from scratch for all the papers,” he said. “The hardest part is sort of tied to that. Encountering obstacles like Covid-19 has made it somewhat more difficult. We used to meet in person with everybody every other week, and I used to meet with my mentor every week. Now we do it over Zoom. That transition was pretty difficult.”


Although his focus has always been on science, there was one piece in particular that caught his attention. 


“My favorite from this past semester was actually not even related to my background,” he said. “Kaitlyn Kaplinger submitted the article Robert Lepper Mural Painting a Hidden Gem in White Hall at West Virginia University. They did a chemical analysis on the mural and used a lot of techniques to learn more about the painting. I thought it was a great article. I was really glad seeing that we had a wide range of articles come in. No two articles were the same in any way.”


Petty hasn’t only helped MURR come alive but been helped by it.


His love for research started in high school when he began to prefer chemistry and biology labs to his other classes. He pursued research in college, working with Teiya Kijimoto, assistant professor of evolutionary developmental genetics, studying developmental genetics and evolution using beetles.


“We looked at how certain genes interact to uphold the size of their horns based on the size of their bodies. I would knock down certain genes and visualize the effect it had on that horn even though the gene didn’t really have anything to do with horns in the first place. Through evolution, they sort of developed interactions to form the horn,” Petty explained. 


Working on MURR and studying at WVU allowed Petty’s passion for science to evolve


“I’ve recently decided I want to go to law school for pharmaceutical patent law specifically. I think that passion came from growing up in West Virginia. Working with MURR helped me determine that I want to go down that path,” he said. “There are a lot of issues with the pharmaceutical industry. Being able to learn more about that process and eventually become part of the way drugs are owned by companies and patents are owned by companies is something that has interested me for a while.”


For now, however, his focus remains on MURR and the next volume.


“We want to showcase the research WVU undergraduates have done as much as possible. This was completely new to us, so we’ve learned a lot with this volume. I’m excited to implement some changes in the next volume,” he said.