On the web


Virginia Tech Magazine's online feature, "On the Web," gives web-savvy readers more news and stories about some of the exciting things happening at the university today. "On the Web" will be updated with web-only content on a quarterly basis.

by Susan B. Felker

Virginia Tech's Commonwealth Campus Centers in the greater Washington, D.C., area, Richmond, Hampton Roads, Southwest Virginia, and Roanoke will be playing a greater role in the university's outreach efforts. The changes involve the addition of more outreach programs tailored to regional needs that will be developed by a new associate director for outreach at three locations in high-population areas of the state. The new staff members will be in place by June 1.

Roanoke Center

"Graduate education will remain a centerpiece of the program offerings at each center, but new programs, both credit and non-credit, as well as new research endeavors, will be added," said John E. Dooley, vice provost for Outreach and International Affairs. "Our intent is to better utilize the Commonwealth Campus Centers as local gateways to the full scope of university resources and to facilitate timely response to and leadership for regional needs and opportunities."

Dooley announced the appointment of associate directors for outreach at three of the locations: Charlotte L. Anders, Hampton Roads; John M. Aughenbaugh, Richmond; and Barbara L. Bennett, National Capitol Region. They will be working to fulfill Virginia Tech's tripartite mission of teaching, research, and outreach locally throughout the state and will better connect the university and its outlying constituencies.

Anders has held the position of interim director of Virginia Tech's Roanoke Center since last July. She is also outreach program specialist for tourism, serving as a liaison between the university and state-, regional-, and community-based business development and tourism programs seeking community-development information and expertise. She is a board member and vice president of the Virginia Festivals and Events Association; a member of the Education Committee of the Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus; and a former board member of the Virginia Downtown Development Association and continues as the chair of its annual conference planning committee. She also serves on the conference planning committee for the Virginia Governor's Conference on Travel and Tourism and in 2004 provided leadership for program management for the conference held at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center.

Aughenbaugh has been with Virginia Tech's Office of Economic Development since May 2000, most recently as economic-development specialist responsible for collaborating with federal and state agencies and Virginia Tech academic departments on numerous community-development projects. He provided day-to-day operating budget management and procured and managed sponsored research and technical-assistance projects serving various Virginia localities and planning-district commissions. He also assisted with the analysis and completion of technical-assistance projects, including target-market studies, market and business-plan creation, business-incubator feasibility projects, and strategic plans.

Bennett comes to Virginia Tech from the Region 2000 Regional Commission in Lynchburg, where she served as special services/grant administrator since 2001. In collaboration with Central Virginia Community College and Ericsson Inc., she wrote a successful U.S. Department of Labor Skill Shortage II Demonstration Grant application for $2.5 million in funding over two years for the Region 2000 Workforce Investment Board. As administrator of the grant, she built a coalition including 13 companies to design, deliver, and assess technical-skill training for more than 1,400 adults in the region. She also negotiated a one-year extension of the grant and adapted the grant program to respond to significant plant closings and layoffs. From 1999-2001, Bennett served as executive director of Regional Renaissance, the first regional citizen-engagement project to determine residents' quality of life priorities. She was program director for the University of Virginia's Center for Executive Development from 1994-1999.

by Susan Trulove

A team of researchers from three different colleges has been awarded a five-year, $3.2 million National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) award for the Macromolecular Interfaces with Life Sciences (MILES) program. MILES uses free radical and oxidation processes as the thematic basis for research and education at the chemistry-biology interface.

Oxidation is a process that involves free radicals, which cause food to spoil or taste bad, and damage cellular processes in living systems. Oxidation is also a tool for creating thin films.


Principal investigators are Craig Thatcher, Head, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, VMRCVM; Susan Duncan, associate professor of food science and technology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; and Tim Long, professor of chemistry in the College of Science.

"The scientific scope is broad, crossing traditional boundaries of science from the oxidation of fats to understanding disease mechanisms," says Long. "The program bridges the gap between traditional macromolecular science and biological disciplines."

According to the project summary, "Many boundaries at the chemistry-biology interface remain unexplored and represent unique opportunities for the discovery of advanced technologies and the education of interdisciplinary scientists and engineers. Oxidation processes occur within both synthetic macromolecules and biological systems, offering a common theoretical base. Oxygen-centered radicals are intermediates in key chemical and biological processes, such as lipid oxidation, aging, and product deterioration. Oxidative stress is implicated in many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, and the compromise of immune function."

In the oxidation process, oxygen interaction with some molecules causes some atoms to lose electrons. Atoms with unpaired electrons are free radicals. These highly reactive atoms seek to correct their imbalance by robbing electrons from other atoms, which can interfere with cellular processes or damage cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane. The defense is antioxidants--molecules that scavenge the free radicals.

The researchers point out that a chemistry-biology collaboration offers the potential for the development of antioxidant delivery systems, including antioxidant enriched foods, novel biocompatible synthetic polymer delivery systems, or new natural and synthetic macromolecular antioxidants. Yet, the chemists and engineers who develop synthetic macromolecules inspired by biology, such as biomaterials used in healthcare, are not trained to understand the biochemical processes involved in biomedical, nutrition, and food technologies. And life scientists are generally unaware of fundamental macromolecular chemistry and the close relationship between synthetic molecules and biomolecules.

The NSF IGERT program supports interdisciplinary training of Ph.D. scientists and engineers. The MILES IGERT involves 15 core faculty members in four of Virginia Tech's colleges--Agriculture and Life Sciences, Engineering, Science, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine--to provide cooperative research, interdisciplinary education, and outreach experiences to 36 students. Other departments, institutes, universities, and national laboratories are affiliated with the program as research collaborators and internship providers. Researchers affiliated with the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine will provide a bridge to human health.

"We will focus a wide range of expertise on the study of free radical and oxidative processes," says Long.

Duncan, Long, Thatcher, and their students have actually been collaborating for several years to determine the biochemical pathways of the oxidation process and how they can be used to protect food and health and create new technologies.

"We are interested in the oxidation of triglycerides, such as soybean oil, and evaluating the potential of the products of that oxidation for high performance polymers (plastics)," says Long. "This really gives us an opportunity to develop technologies that are not petroleum based."

Food science graduate student Heather Woodson is determining which light waves cause oxidation in such packaged foods as milk, and student Janet Webster is evaluating polymer systems that will block those light waves. Duncan and the students have been visiting with a Virginia polymers company about that research.

Duncan and Long are exploring controlled release of antioxidants by polymeric films.

Thatcher and his colleagues in veterinary medicine are also interested in nutrition and in the roles of free radicals in disease, and will help the MILES researchers understand the biomedical implications and evaluate the success of their discoveries with animal models.

Janet Rankin and Mike Houston, professors of human nutrition, foods, and exercise, and Korinn Saker, assistant professor, Large Animal Clinical Sciences, are interested in how oxidative stress is related to obesity and Type II diabetes in animals and humans. Nutritional strategies will be developed to modify oxidative stress.

"We are looking at interactive systems," says Duncan. For example, Ed Smith, associate professor of animal and poultry sciences, is studying the genetics of a bird that has a long life. "He's looking at oxidative stresses to see what is different from short-lived birds. He will provide genetic information."

The MILES researchers will also collaborate with the Science Museum of Western Virginia to develop educational modules for K-12 students and contribute to the success of the museum.

"Interdisciplinary graduate programs are key to educating the scientists and scholars and professors for the 21st century. I'm pleased that the NSF has recognized the outstanding graduate education programs at Virginia Tech," says Karen P. DePauw, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the Graduate School.

by Susan Trulove


Virginia Tech researchers received 24 patents in 2003, including a gel that will allow women to discreetly control their fertility and reduce the risk of infection from sexually transmitted diseases.

Faculty members, staff, and students who earned patents were honored by the university and Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. (VTIP, www.vtip.org) at a reception May 20 at the German Club. "The creativity, contributions to knowledge, and technology transfer that patents signify are an important form of scholarship," said University President Charles Steger.

Mike Martin of Blacksburg, VTIP executive vice president, said, "These patents represent a significant resource for economic development."

Patents were awarded for power electronics for fuel cells and computers, new materials, sensors, a method for drying wood; plant varieties, and human health-related discoveries, including a spermicide that also prevents disease.


Prashant Savle, a former Virginia Tech research scientist now at Avecia in Wilmington, Del.; Virginia Tech Chemistry Professor Richard Gandour of Blacksburg; and Gustavo Doncel of the Contraceptive Research and Development (CONRAD) Program at Eastern Virginia Medical School have received patent 6,656,936 for "Carnitine Analogues as Topical Microbicidal Spermicides."

The product can be used to coat vaginal contraceptive devices, such as a diaphragm, cervical cap, sponge, and condoms, "but the goal was to develop a product for topical application for use by women who are in circumstances or cultures where they can't insist upon or do not have access to other forms of birth control or prevention against STDs," Doncel said. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the research.

Gandour became aware of carnitine, a muscle chemical, when conducting research to develop medicines for non-insulin dependent diabetes. "We made this analog and, from its chemical structure, knew it could be a spermicide," but it was expensive and tedious to prepare from the natural product, (R)-carnitine, Gandour said. "Dr. Savle designed and executed the brilliant synthesis from inexpensive, synthetic compounds and asked Dr. Doncel to test the compound," Gandour said.

"The idea was to make a product that would be cheap enough for the USAID to be able to purchase for free distribution," Savle said.

Kensa Technology Commercialization Group of Ithaca, N.Y., licensed the technology. They have been developing it as a preservative for consumer products, primarily cosmetics, and are marketing it through Viral Therapeutics Inc. as Vagiprev (www.viral-therapeutics.com/BioPharma/biopharma.html), with spermicidal, anti-STD, and anti-fungal (yeast) activity to combat HIV, Chlamydia, Candida, and other infectious agents.

Other health-related patents include a method for introducing toxins to cancer cells and a method for creating human proteins, for pharmaceutical purposes, in the milk of transgenic animals.

Brian Storrie of Little Rock, Ark., former professor of biochemistry at Virginia Tech and now professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Arkansas Medical School; Maria Teresa Tarrago-Trani of Blacksburg, Virginia Tech research scientist; and Sam English of Roanoke, research projects manager at Carilion Biomedical Institute, received patent 6,631,283 for "B/B-like fragment targeting for the purposes of photodynamic therapy and medical imaging."

The invention is a method of delivering a photoactive drug to cancer cells by attaching the drug to a toxin that recognizes a specific receptor on cancer cells. The researchers identified a non-toxic subunit of a protein produced by E. coli bacteria as the vehicle to deliver the drugs because it binds to the cancer cell and causes it to ingest the entire toxic package. The toxin-photoactive drug conjugate can be activated by light to kill the cancer cell without causing damage to healthy tissue. The method also can be used to attach "visualizing" agents to cancer cells for use with imaging technology, such as a CT Scan or X-ray, to aid in cancer diagnosis, assessment of metastasis, or during surgery.

Henryk Lubon of Rockville, Md., (deceased) and William N. Drohan of Springfield, Va., both formerly of the American National Red Cross, and William H. Velander, a former Virginia Tech professor of chemical engineering who now chairs the chemical engineering department at the University of Nebraska, received patent 6,518,482 for "Transgenic non-human mammals expressing human coagulation factor VIII and von Willebrand factor."

The invention is a process for the production of clinically useful quantities of human factor VIII (F8) protein in the milk of transgenic animals. F8 is a critical component of the cascade of coagulation reactions that lead to blood clotting and is deficient in patients having hemophilia A, the most common form of hemophilia in males. Concurrent expression of a gene for human von Willebrand's Factor into milk may be used to stabilize newly secreted F8 and also to treat the leading cause of hemophilia in females. The patent was assigned to the American National Red Cross and VTIP. It is licensed by ProGenetics LLC.


Mitzi Vernon of Christiansburg, associate professor of industrial design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, and Tanya Blasko, who received her master's degree in industrial design in 2002 and is now with Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati, received design patent D469,605, for a book bag for children that allows them to read books while traveling.

"It has a detachable wallet that holds the book itself. A book can be read without removing it, and kids can have multiple wallets with different books in them," said Vernon, who also designed the books as part of her National Science Foundation-funded interCONNECTIONS project. She created a book series to help middle school girls connect to abstract phenomena at an early age, thus allowing them more accessibility and comfort in scientific and engineering fields.

"The books explain abstract concepts, such as magnetic fields, through metaphor and imagery, which is more familiar to children," Vernon said. The books and book bag are marketed by Vernon's company, Off-The-Page works Inc. (www.otpw.com).


Two patents were awarded to researchers in the Center for Power Electronic Systems at Virginia Tech--one that will speed the transition to fuel cell power systems and one that improves the efficiency of computers.

Lizhi Zhu of Westland, Mich., a scientist with Ballard Power Systems; Jin-Sheng Lai of Blacksburg, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech; and Fred C. Lee of Blacksburg, University Distinguished Professor of ECE at Virginia Tech, received patent 6,587,356 for a "Start-up circuit and control for high power isolated boost DC/DC converters."

The technology solves a problem with a transition between power sources in electric or hybrid electric/fuel-cell engines. Such engines have dual-voltage power systems-- 12-volt systems for lights, sensors, and controllers and higher (usually 300 v) systems for the traction inverter and motor. Energy transfer between the two voltage systems requires an effective bi-directional DC/DC converter. The present technology is subject to energy current spikes when transferring the energy from low-voltage DC to high-voltage DC, which is hard on the switches. Also, the transition from low to high voltage can fail to meet start-up needs. The patented technology provides a system to build up voltage for start up and equalizes input and output voltages. Because the patented converter also eliminates the need to match characteristics of multiple controllers, it significantly reduces the cost associated with implementing this type of technology.

Xunwei Zhou of Fremont, Calif., who received his Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Virginia Tech in 1999 and is now at is now at Linear Technology in Milpitas, Calif., and Fred Lee, received patent 6,590,791 for a "High input voltage, high efficiency, fast transient voltage regulator module (VRM)."

The technology was the subject of Zhou's Ph.D. research. He explained in his dissertation that to meet demands for faster and more efficient data processing, modern microprocessors are being designed to operate on lower voltage. Therefore, microprocessors need aggressive power management, special power supplies, and VRMs that provide lower voltages with higher currents and fast transient capabilities. The patented technology provides high efficiency and fast transient-response for data processing, communication, and portable applications or other low voltage, high current load applications. And it is cost effective. The patent has been licensed to Delta and National Semiconductor.

Newly patented control systems will improve the loading and unloading of shipboard cargo and dampen vibrations in panels in many environments.

Ali Hasan Nayfeh of Blacksburg, University Distinguished Professor of engineering science and mechanics (ESM) in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech; Dean Tritschler Mook of Blacksburg, ESM professor emeritus; Ryan James Henry of Annapolis, of Northrup Grumman; and Ziyad Nayif Masoud of Blacksburg, ESM assistant professor, received patent 6,631,300 for "Nonlinear active control of dynamical systems."

Cargo oscillation control is necessary for safe and fast crane operations. For trans-oceanic transportation, container ships are one of the most cost-effective manners of shipping cargo. However, many localities do not have large ports or proper facilities to load and unload cargo. A crane ship is used to transfer the cargo from large container ships to smaller ships that can reach a particular port. The wave-induced motion of the crane ship can produce large oscillations of the hoisted cargo, halting operations. The invention is a feedback control system for reducing oscillations of payloads on cranes mounted on moving platforms, such as ships and barges, and truck-mounted cranes, as well as other crane systems. The control system calculates and adds small correction signals to the operator inputs, based on the payload oscillations and the motion of the platform.

Francesco dell'Isola of Rome, a professor at the Universita di Roma, Italy, and an adjunct professor of engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech; Stefano Vidoli of Fregene, also a professor at the Universita di Roma; and Edmund Henneke II of Blacksburg, associate dean for research and graduate studies in Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, received U.S. patent 6,546,316 for a "Two dimensional network of actuators for the control of damping vibrations."

Control of vibrations of structural panels is a major issue, particularly in the automobile and aerospace industries. Recent developments in piezoelectric (PZT) actuator technology have made conceivable the use of such actuators for damping and control of mechanical structural vibrations. However, prior use of these devices required high input power in concentrated zones, optimal location of both actuators and sensors, and a control algorithm that coordinated the actuator actions in response to the input from the sensors. The invention provides an interconnected distributed network of actuator devices for the control of damping vibrations in two-dimensional mechanical structures. The patented system exploits an interconnection among actuators to form a continuous electric network. The system dampens vibration 10-times faster than single actuators over a broader frequency range, requires lower performances of the actuators, and does not require an external power supply because it can transform mechanical energy to electrical energy.


Virginia Tech researchers have developed a new membrane for separation of hydrogen, for use in fuel cells; a protective coating for glass and metals; a process for nano-scale lithography; a new method for preparing high molecular weight, easily processed polyimides; polymers for optical and ophthalmic parts that can be injection molded; and an easy method to determine the properties of elastomers.

S. Ted Oyama of Blacksburg, the Fred W. Bull Professor of Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and director of the Environmental Catalysis and Nanomaterials Laboratory at Virginia Tech, and Anil K. Prabhu of West Palm Beach, Fla., who received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech, received patent 6,527,833 for a "Hydrogen-selective silica based membrane."

The patent is the first of a series of patents that describes a new type of inorganic membrane that is used for the separation of hydrogen from other gases. It is unique in having both very high permeability and selectivity. The membrane has applications in the production of hydrogen for chemical and fuel uses, in particular for fuel cells. The patent has been licensed to ConocoPhillips, which is developing the technology for commercial use.

Garth Wilkes of Blacksburg, professor emeritus of chemical engineering, Chenghong Li, who received his master's and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry in the College of Science from Virginia Tech and now works at Corning in Wilmington, N.C., received patent 6,506,921 for "Amine compounds and curable compositions derived there from."

The patent deals with new chemical formulations for developing clear, hard, protective coatings for plastics and metals. "These coatings provide abrasion and scratch resistance," Wilkes said.

In Kyeong Yoo of Yongin, Korea, who received his Ph.D. in 1990 from Virginia Tech in material engineering science and was a research scientist in the College of Engineering until 1993, received patent 6,566,666 for a "Method and apparatus for pyroelectric lithography using patterned emitter."

The apparatus allows electron emission suitable for nano-scale lithography. A pyroelectric emitter is patterned using a mask. Electrons are emitted only from the exposed part of the emitter so that the pattern is projected onto a substrate. To prevent dispersion, the electron beams are controlled using a magnet or a projection system. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has an exclusive license for this technology.

James McGrath of Blacksburg, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, and colleagues received two patents.

McGrath and Sue Mecham of Blacksburg, now at Polymer Solutions of Blacksburg, received patent 6,569,984 for a "Method for making polyimide."

Polyimides are used in flexible printed circuit boards, adhesives, and matrix resins for composites, films, and coatings. The invention is a new method for preparing high molecular weight, easily processed polyimides, resulting in the control of such properties as the glass transition temperature, solubility, and melt processability.

H.K. Shobha, former Virginia Tech postdoctoral associate who is now a consulting process engineer at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center at Yorktown Heights, NY; Venkat Sekharipuram, who received his Ph.D. in 1994 in chemistry from Virginia Tech and is now at Johnson & Johnson in Roanoke, Va.; McGrath; and Atul Bhatnagar, now at Solvay Advanced Polymers of Alpharetta, Ga., received patent 6,653,439 for "High refractive index thermoplastic polyphosphonates." These polymers are particularly useful for optical and ophthalmic parts, such as lenses. A method of preparing optical and ophthalmic lenses by injection molding these polymers into the form of the lenses also is provided. The patent was licensed to Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., and to VTIP.

David Dillard of Blacksburg, director of the Center for Adhesive and Sealant Science and professor of engineering science and mechanics in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech; Didier Lefebvre of Mundelein, IL; and former Virginia Tech research scientist Jang-Horng Yu received patent 6,578,431 for a "Method and apparatus for determining bulk material properties of elastomeric materials."

Elastomers and gel-like polymers are widely used as sealants, damping materials, sensor components, or structural elements. The mechanical design and application of an elastomeric material often depend on its bulk material properties, but the experimental determination of these properties is a delicate and difficult task. Accuracy typically requires expensive instrumentation and the experimental procedures are prone to error. The patent is for a method and apparatus that provides improved accuracy and reproducibility for measuring the bulk material properties of an elastomeric material. The patented technique will provide crucial experimental data for designers and engineers who use gel-like polymers or elastomers as their structural components or sensing materials. The technique offers easier sample preparation and data acquisition. And the device uses inexpensive, commercially available sensors.


Carvel Holton of Blacksburg, a senior research associate in electrical engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, received three patents for sensors.

Patent 6,534,977 for "Methods and apparatus for optically measuring polarization rotation of optical wavefronts using rare earth iron garnets," was awarded to Paul Duncan of Airak in Vienna, Va., Holton, and Richard O. Claus of Blacksburg, the Lewis A. Hester Professor of Electrical Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.

The invention is a fiber-optic and thin-film based sensor for measuring magnetic fields, electrical current, or temperature fluctuations. It is more sensitive and easier to use than present technology used by the military, power companies, and the motor control industry. It also is smaller due to the size of the optical fiber. It is inert, which allows use in potentially explosive environments. And it can be remotely positioned from the signal processing equipment. The technology has been licensed by Airak.

Holton received patent 6,608,669 for a "Quadrature processed LIDAR (light detection and ranging) system," an optical system for transmitting a laser signal to an object and receiving a Doppler frequency-shifted signal from the object for velocity measurement purposes. Applications include vibration sensing, turbulence sensing, and velocity LIDARs, such as police radar, relative motion sensing, optical air data systems, or any type of linear velocity, tangential velocity, or spin sensing. The technology has been licensed by Yankee Environmental Systems of Turners Falls, Mass.

Holton's third patent is 6,621,561 for a "Doppler rotational velocity sensor." Present technology for measuring the rotational velocity of an object often requires contact with the surface of the object or is restricted in the size of the rotating plane. Holton's sensor uses a beam of light to determine translational velocity and rotational velocity simultaneously and is compact and cost effective. Applications include sensing the speed of platforms and objects, volumetric/fluidic flow sensing, vibration monitoring, and range to target and other related standoff sensing applications where rotation of the object is to be measured, such as the revolutions per minute of a motor or propeller. The technology also has been licensed by Yankee Environmental Systems.


University researchers received plant protection patents for a new blackberry, several productive varieties of wheat, and Virginia Tech's first new barley in several years.

A team of researchers from three states were awarded patent PP13,878 for a new blackberry cultivar named "Chesapeake," which produces very large fruit in the spring midseason. The berries also are very flavorful, even when the fruit is immature. Chesapeake was developed by Harry Jan Swartz of Laurel, Md., small fruits breeder at the University of Maryland, College Park; Joseph Fiola of Keedysville, Md., small fruits specialist at the University of Maryland's Western Maryland Research and Education Center; the late Herbert Stiles, of Blackstone, Va., who was the long-time small fruits specialist and associate professor with Virginia Tech's Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Blackstone; and Brian R. Smith of River Falls, Wis., small fruit breeder at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. The patent has been assigned to both the University of Maryland at College Park and to VTIP.

Carl Griffey of Roanoke, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, received Plant Variety Protection Certificates for four wheat varieties and one barley variety. The Tribute (Certificate No. 200,300,113) and McCormick (200,300,115) wheat varieties are the newest "all stars," Griffey said. "They are sisters, from the same cross. Tribute produces wheat more suitable for crackers while McCormick makes better cookies and cakes (pastries).

"Tribute produces one of the highest grain volume weights, or test weights, of the cultivated varieties. That means a bushel of grain will be heavy," he said. It is high yielding and suitable for conventional or no-till cultivation, widely adapted the soft red winter wheat region and has received interim registration for marketing in Canada. Except for soil borne mosaic viruses, it has broad disease resistance, Griffey said. Both Tribute and McCormick have moderate resistance to Fusarium head blight or scab, which devastated wheat crops on the East Coast last year.

Tribute is being marketed by Royster Clark. This year is its first year of commercial production, and it returned $66,000 in royalties from seed sales.

McCormick, which will be available this fall, is a public release marketed through Virginia Crop Improvement Association. It shares the advantages of Tribute, having broad resistance to insects and disease. Notably McCormick is resistant to soil borne viruses and has moderate resistance to scab and stripe rust, a new disease problem that has become prevalent in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Wheat variety 38206 (200300112), marketed exclusively by Southern States as SS560, is a high-yielding, full-season wheat with good straw strength, which makes it good for intensive management. It is moderately short and moderately resistant to a number of diseases. It is being grown in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Pearl wheat (200,300,114) is the first soft, white winter wheat released by Virginia Tech and is being marketed by the Michigan Crop Improvement Association. Pearl matures earlier and has better test weight than many of the current soft, white winter wheat varieties, Griffey said.

Price Barley (200,300,132), marketed by the Virginia Crop Improvement Association, has high test weight and good straw strength. It was named for Allen Price of Blacksburg, who worked in the small grains breeding program at Virginia Tech for 40 years and who "essentially ran the barley breeding programs prior to his retirement," Griffey said.


Edwin Lewis of Blacksburg, assistant professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, received patent 6524601 for "Formulated arthropod cadavers for pest suppression," an "environmentally sound and economically practical strategy for the control of the significant insect and mite pests of pecan," according to the Agriculture Research Service (ARS).

Annual pecan production value in the United States averages $260 million, but up to 90 percent of the crop can be lost due to insect damage, reports the ARS. Laboratory research indicated that a beneficial insect-killing nematode (a species of microscopic round worm) would kill adult pecan weevils. These strains may represent an environmentally friendly control strategy to reduce or replace chemical insecticide for pecan weevil suppression. Insect-killing nematodes are usually applied in water, but ARS scientists in collaboration with H&T Alternative Controls LLC and Lewis determined that superior pest control can be achieved if the nematodes are applied in their infected hosts' cadavers--that is, by using infected mealworms as Trojan horses.


Chen Zhangjing of Blacksburg, a research specialist in the T.M. Brooks Forest Products Center in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech, and Fred M. Lamb of Christiansburg, professor emeritus of wood science in the college, have received patent 6,634,118 for a "Method and apparatus for vacuum drying wood in a collapsible container in a heated bath."

The system can be constructed to dry small or large dimension wood--from cabinet pieces to logs for homes, for instance. The vacuum system dries wood with little stress or variation in moisture content in individual boards. Zhangjing demonstrated that the vacuum system can dry red oak nine times faster than conventional drying methods. "It is simple to operate and, because only the area surrounding the wood is heated, this system will reduce equipment and energy costs," he said.

The patented technology transfers heat efficiently and effectively at lower temperature, so wood dries without changing color. It also can be modified to dry wood of mixed species, different thicknesses, and different initial moisture contents. The patent has been licensed to American Moistening Company (AMCO) of Pineville, N.C., which specializes in humidification technology. It is in use by a wood turning and carving company in Hickory, N.C.

Zhangjing received his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in 1998.The technology was the subject of his dissertation research. Lamb, who was an Extension specialist in wood products and processing, was Zhangjing's committee chair.

by Lynn A. Nystrom

Virginia Tech is the recipient of this year's Computerworld Honors 21st Century Achievement Award in Science. The award was presented at a black tie event Monday evening at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

Apple nominated Virginia Tech for its development of a 2,200-processor supercomputer with a cluster of 1,100 Power Mac G5 computers. Called System X, the supercomputer is the world's third fastest with the best price and performance for a top supercomputing facility.

System X

Virginia Tech faced stiff competition with more than 250 of this year's most innovative applications of technology submitted for consideration. In April, Virginia Tech was named one of five finalists for the award along with Rice University, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, CoreTek, and the Columbus Zoo. Entries came from 33 states and 26 countries.

"Virginia Tech is using information technology to make great strides toward remarkable social achievement in science," said Daniel Morrow, executive director of the Computerworld Honors Program. "The materials submitted on behalf of Virginia Tech will enrich the program's growing collection on the Information Age and help build an accurate record of the truly outstanding achievements being made in these remarkable times."

Virginia Tech built "a world-class supercomputer to tackle fundamental, grand challenge problems in computational science and engineering. While supercomputers have been invaluable, their high cost of often tens to hundreds of millions of dollars has limited their deployment to a few national facilities. The goal of the Virginia Tech project was to develop novel computing architectures that reduce their cost, time to build, and maintenance complexity. As a result, institutions with relatively modest budgets can now afford to build a premier supercomputer," said Hassan Aref, dean of Virginia Tech's College of Engineering.

The engineering college collaborated with the University's Information Technology group to build the supercomputer. As the cluster was being built, the University named Srinidhi Varadarajan, an assistant professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, the director of Tech's new Terascale Computing Facility. Jason Lockhart, also of the College of Engineering, and Kevin Shinpaugh of information technology were named associate directors. Pat Arvin, associate vice president for information technology, and Glenda Scales, associate dean for research computing and distance learning in the College of Engineering, provided the overall direction for the project that included some 160 student volunteers.

Varadarajan started the Virginia Tech initiative with a National Science Foundation grant to expand and upgrade a small supercomputer he was directing on campus. Conversations with Lockhart and others led to the grander goal.

"In the 1970s, a paradigm shift occurred when large expensive mainframes made way to increasingly powerful minicomputers, which were affordable to academic and industrial research labs. The resulting spurt in research--both into computing and the use of computing--led to the computing landscape today.

"We believe System X is the first step in a similar paradigm shift in supercomputer architectures from expensive custom supercomputers to inexpensive cluster based supercomputers to solve the largest research problems--an area called capability computing. At a price of $5.2 million, world-class supercomputing is now within the reach of academic research budgets, enabling the larger community of academic researchers to tackle fundamental problems with easily available supercomputing resources," Varadarajan said.

Varadarajan is also the developer of "Deja vu," a software package that brings stability to large clusters. "We developed the first comprehensive solution--called Deja vu--to the problem of transparent parallel checkpointing and recovery, which enables large-scale supercomputers to mask hardware, operating system, and software failures, a decades old problem," he said.

System X is going through an upgrade process, wherein the nodes that comprise the supercomputer are being replaced by the Xserve G5 server platform. This upgrade has several advantages. It reduces the size of the supercomputer by a factor of three, consuming significantly less power than its predecessor. It generates less heat thereby reducing the cooling requirements. The upgrade adds automatic error correcting memory that can recover from transient bit errors. Finally, it has significant hardware monitoring capabilities--line voltages, fan speeds, communications--that allow real-time analysis of the health of the system.

Virginia Tech's partners for building System X were Apple, Mellanox, Cisco, and Liebert. Mellanox is the leading provider of the InfiniBand semiconductor technology, the primary communications fabric, drivers, cards, and switches for the project. Cisco's Gigabit Ethernet switches were the choice for the secondary communications fabric to interconnect the cluster. Cisco provided a significant educational discount to support the project. Liebert, a division of Emerson Network Power, known for its comprehensive range of protection systems for sensitive electronics, provided the cooling system.