Virginia Tech Magazine
Around the Drillfield
Fall 2009

Space Grant Consortium awarded nearly $900,000
The Virginia Space Grant Consortium has been awarded a $894,228 grant by the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education Program for the Geospatial Technician Education through Virginia's Community Colleges project. John McGee, the state's geospatial Extension specialist for Virginia Cooperative
John McGee
Extension and an assistant professor in the College of Natural Resources, will work with the project team to create and maintain a geospatial technology Web portal for the community college system. The portal will serve as a repository for pathway models, curricula, professional development materials, and other resources. The project team will also develop geospatial technology career-awareness materials to be shared statewide.
Tech designated a best workplace for commuters

Virginia Tech has been designated one of the Best Workplaces for Commuters by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation. Best Workplaces for Commuters, a voluntary partnership program designed to cut traffic congestion and traffic-related air pollution, recognizes employers that provide environmentally friendly commuter benefits to employees. Virginia Tech offers an array of benefits that help employees pursue environmentally friendly and cost-effective commuting strategies. These programs incorporate the Commuter Alternatives Program that includes Bike, Bus, and Walk and carpooling. In addition, vanpooling and public transportation options are available and encouraged.

Virginia Tech researchers partner with medical professionals

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute (VTC) is providing support for 11 research projects that partner researchers with clinicians to address medical challenges. The joint efforts include earlier cancer diagnosis; early autism diagnosis; preventing and treating infectious disease (including H1N1 flu and MRSA), obesity, and heart disease; neuroscience research related to falling risks; making medicines more bio-available; and development of a patient simulator for education of medical professionals and other technology to improve emergency-room care. Seed grants of $30,000 allow researchers to build upon their accomplishments and achieve important milestones in order to secure funding from federal agencies.

Behavioral scientist receives international honor

Alumni Distinguished Professor E. Scott Geller has been recognized with the American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in Psychology in the Public Interest. Geller is a professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Science. He was recognized for his distinguished career and contributions to the field.
Scott Geller
Geller coined the term "behavior-based safety" and disseminated research-based principles and procedures with a variety of books, training manuals, DVDs, and audio programs. The award citation noted, "These materials have enabled thousands of organizations worldwide to prevent workplace injuries and save lives."
Summer fellows' research ranges from red wolves to nutrition

Thirteen Virginia Tech students concluded their 10-week Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) on Aug. 6 when they presented the results of projects that addressed such topics as improving nutrition for persons living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, gender differences in arterial destiffening with weight loss, and the home range of red wolves in North Carolina. The Fralin Life Science Institute at Virginia Tech offers the fellowships to rising Virginia Tech sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a grade point average of 3.0 or greater (on a 4.0 scale) who wish to pursue life sciences research full time during the summer, says SURF program coordinator Brenda Davy, associate professor in human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Studies reveal dangers of texting while driving

Several studies conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute provide a clear picture of driver distraction and cell-phone use under real-world driving conditions. The studies revealed that drivers of light vehicles who are dialing a cell phone are 2.8 times more likely to crash or have a near-crash event as those who are not distracted. Drivers of heavy vehicles and trucks are 5.9 times more likely to have a crash or near-crash when dialing a cell phone and are 23.3 times more likely to do so when texting while driving. According to the study, talking or listening while driving posed less risk for light vehicles than dialing or texting and made no notable difference for trucks.

Doctor of Medicine program granted preliminary accreditation

By 2014, there will be Hokie alumni with M.D.s.

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research InstituteIn June, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute (VTC) educational program leading to the doctor of medicine degree received preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).

Preliminary accreditation means the school meets nationally accepted standards of educational quality. It is the final step necessary for the school to recruit students for the four-year program.

In July, the school received approval from the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to operate a postsecondary institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia. SCHEV certification gives VTC degree-granting authority and also makes the school eligible to apply for scholarship and grant funding, such as Tuition Assistance Grants. LCME and SCHEV approvals are necessary for the school to open as planned in the fall of 2010.

The school's first class of 42 aspiring physicians will graduate with an M.D. in spring 2014.

The VTC educational program is organized into four value domains: basic sciences, clinic sciences, research, and interprofessionalism. The curriculum maximizes self-directed learning. Small teams will work in a problem-based learning format, a model used by only 15 percent of medical schools. Only 5 percent of medical schools currently elevate research as a fundamental component of the curriculum, and no other medical school in the nation provides interprofessionalism as a foundation element.

The interprofessionalism program is designed to equip aspiring physicians with teamwork, communication, and conflict-resolution skills and to explore the roles of health professions so they can effectively function as part of a modern healthcare team. Each student will also be part of a research team, partnering with researchers and clinicians to prevent and solve existing and emerging problems in contemporary medicine.

VTC is a partnership between Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic. It will be housed in a 150,000-square-foot education and research facility, now under construction at the Carilion Clinic Campus in Roanoke, Va. To learn more about VTC, visit

Vehicle could help blind to live more independently
University to compete in 2009 Solar Decathlon

University to compete in 2009 Solar Decathlon


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that Virginia Tech will be one of 20 university teams selected to compete in its fourth Solar Decathlon, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2009. The interdisciplinary Virginia Tech Solar Decathlon team was led by faculty and students in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies with participation from the College of Engineering and others. The teams, which have been selected from universities in the U.S., Canada, and Germany, will each receive $100,000 from DOE to uniquely design, build, and operate a fully solar-powered home. Each home will utilize energy-efficient technology and demonstrate that homes powered entirely by the sun do not have to sacrifice modern comforts and aesthetics. To learn more about the project, go to

Virginia Tech is one of only two American universities invited to participate in the international solar decathlon in Madrid, Spain, in June 2010.

Virginia Tech a top 10 school for graduate earning potential

A PayScale College Salary Report has ranked Virginia Tech in the nation's top 10 state-supported colleges and universities for the potential starting and mid-career salaries of its graduates.

Virginia Tech garnered the ninth spot in the report, which ranked graduates with bachelor's degrees but without higher degrees on the basis of their average starting level salary (having a bachelor's degree and two years of work experience) and mid-career earnings (15 years of work experience). The University of California at Berkeley topped the list, and the University of Virginia (wahooWAH) claimed the 10th spot. PayScale Inc. provides global online compensation data to employers and individuals.

New College of Agriculture and Life Sciences dean appointed

Virginia Tech has named Alan Grant, professor and head of the Department of Animal Sciences at Purdue University, the new dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Grant started his position on Oct. 1. He succeeded L.T. Kok, who had been interim dean after the former dean, Sharron Quisenberry, left to become vice president of research and economic development at Iowa State University. Alan Grant
Doug Nelson receives third NSF faculty advisor award
Doug Nelson with students
Doug Nelson, a professor of mechanical engineering, was awarded the 2009 National Science Foundation (NSF) Outstanding Long-term Faculty Advisor Award for the EcoCAR Challenge competition and a $10,000 cash prize. EcoCAR is a design competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy in which engineering students from across the country participate in the development of green vehicles. The NSF Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award honors Nelson for best promoting the goals, objectives, and activities of the competition.
Five faculty among first American Chemical Society Fellows

Five faculty members were among the first class of American Chemical Society (ACS) Fellows honored at the 238th ACS national meeting held in Washington, D.C., Aug. 16-20. The 162 individuals named in this inaugural class of fellows were honored for excellence in chemistry and service to society. The Tech faculty members so honored were Neal Castagnoli Jr., Timothy E. Long, James McGrath, and S. Richard Turner, professors in the College of Science chemistry department; and Kevin Edgar, professor of biomaterial and bioprocessing in the College of Natural Resources' wood science and forest products department.

Tech programs rank high in survey

Virginia Tech remains 71st among the 100 best universities in the U.S. News & World Report's survey of undergraduate programs, "America's Best Colleges 2010," released Aug. 21. It is the third year in a row that the university has held the spot. The university also retains its spot among the top 30 public universities in the nation, one of three institutions in Virginia to do so. The College of Engineering held its spot in the top 20 engineering schools at No. 14, while the Pamplin College of Business ranks No. 42 among the top 50 business schools.

Scholarships will support non-traditional bioscience students

The National Science Foundation has awarded Virginia Tech $506,373 for a five-year program, Broadening Opportunities for Nontraditional Graduate Students in Biomolecular Science. The growth in biotechnology and its impact on agriculture has created a need for a highly trained workforce of graduate-level scientists. The Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program at Virginia Tech will address the need by enhancing the stipends of students recruited by the entomology and biochemistry departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In all, 44 scholarships of $10,000 each will be provided.

Vehicle could help blind to live more independently
Vehicle could help blind to live more independently
A student team in the College of Engineering is providing the blind with an opportunity many never thought possible: the chance to drive. A retrofitted four-wheel dirt buggy developed by the Blind Driver Challenge team from Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory uses laser range-finders, an instant voice command interface, and a host of other innovative technologies to guide blind drivers in steering, braking, and accelerating. Although the project is in the early testing stage, the National Federation of the Blind considers the vehicle a major breakthrough for visually impaired citizens to live independently. The 2009-10 student team is planning major changes to the technology, including replacing the dirt buggy vehicle with a fully electric car like those used by traffic officers in downtown city centers. The all-electric vehicle would not only reduce the vibration that can cause problems to the laser sensor, but it also will provide clean electric power for the computing units.

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