Virginia Tech, Blacksburg in the national spotlight

This fall, three national magazines peered through the Blue Ridge mist, looked at Virginia Tech, and decided they liked what they saw. U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo! Internet Life, and Outside Magazine all praised Virginia Tech and its environs for quality of education, prevalence of technology, and availability of outdoor adventure.

U.S. News and World Report's "America's Best Colleges 2002" survey ranked Virginia Tech 24th--up from 26th last year--among public universities offering doctoral and undergraduate degrees. Tech shares the ranking with Rutgers University, University of Delaware, and University of Iowa. Eight of the university's undergraduate engineering programs were ranked among the top 25 in the nation: aerospace (17), chemical (22), civil (11), computer (19), electrical (16), environmental (10), industrial (8), and mechanical (17). The Pamplin College of Business ranked 24th among business programs at public universities.

Yahoo! Internet Life also offered kudos, calling Virginia Tech the 14th most wired university in the country, despite Tech's refusal to participate in the magazine's survey. University officials cited frustration with the magazine's inconsistent rankings. Tech was ranked out of the top 100 the first year, then moved up to 15th, down to 52nd, and up to 25th last year. The rankings are based on technology infrastructure, student resources online, navigability of the university's website, classroom technology, and technical support available to students.

Blacksburg found itself in the spotlight as an Outside Magazine top-10 dream town. In its September 2001 issue, the publication called Blacksburg "a high-tech gem in the heart of the Blue Ridge" and emphasized the balanced blend of the area's high-tech industry and outdoor adventure. Outside Magazine, which focuses on outdoor activities, was impressed with Blackburg's uncrowded and unpretentious setting. The Corporate Research Center, with its focus on high-tech industry, was highlighted as the best place to look for work. The university, which employs 5,800 in Blacksburg, was also mentioned as a possible employer.
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BOV approves Tech's strategic plan

It's been more than a year in the making, but Virginia Tech's strategic plan is now a reality. This fall, the board of visitors formally adopted the Virginia Tech Strategic Plan for 2001-2006, which will set the stage for the university's goal of becoming a top research institution. "I am very pleased with our overall direction as well as specific goals and tasks enumerated in the plan," says James Turner, rector of the board. "It describes the framework necessary for achieving top-30 ranking by the end of the decade."

For more information about the strategic plan, go to

Individuals interested in receiving a hard copy of the plan can e-mail a request to
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Two professors named educators of the year

Hanif Sherali, the W. Thomas Rice Chair of Engineering and professor of industrial and systems engineering, received the Pletta Award as the 2001 Virginia Engineering Educator of the Year. Named after the late Dan H. Pletta, a nationally renowned engineering science and mechanics professor at Virginia Tech from 1932-1972, the award recognizes engineering educators who have demonstrated outstanding teaching and public service. Since joining the Virginia Tech faculty in 1979, Sherali has won several state and university awards and directed 10 award-winning theses and dissertations.

Sam Riley, professor of communication studies, was named the 2000-01 National Educator of the Year, by the magazine division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. A nationally renowned scholar in magazine research who introduced magazine writing to the communication curriculum at Virginia Tech, he has written 10 books on the history of magazines and their editors and publishers. Riley also recently received the Virginia Tech Certificate of Teaching Excellence.
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Exemplary departments recognized by provost

Three departments received the 2001 Exemplary Department Awards from the Office of the Provost. The awards are given for excellence and innovation in departmental approach to introductory courses at the graduate and undergraduate level. The Residential Leadership Community, an interdisciplinary program designed to teach undergraduates leadership skills, was lauded for its positive influence in the lives of undergraduates. The Department of Forestry was recognized for its innovations in the area of multimedia assistance in learning for its students, such as the multimedia lab and textbook it developed. The Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the Northern Virginia Center, which was nominated for the award by its own students, was recognized for its effectiveness as an academic and clinical training program designed to train graduate students as effective family therapists. Exemplary departments recognized by provost.
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New center opens in Richmond

This fall, students and professionals in the Richmond area began taking classes at Virginia Tech's newly completed Richmond Center, which focuses mostly on graduate programs and degrees. The Virginia Tech Richmond Center will use in-person instruction, the Internet, and video conferencing to provide its students with a leading-edge education accessible from anywhere, according to Joseph Merola, acting dean of the Graduate School. The center offers master's degrees in public administration, business administration, career and technical education, and information technology; a doctorate of education in educational leadership; a Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program; teacher re-licensure programs; and continuing education short courses, seminars, and workshops.
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Technology business accelerator launched

Virginia Tech launched VT KnowledgeWorks, a major strategic initiative designed to promote the rapid commercialization of Tech's intellectual property by creating start-up companies and providing them with mentoring and support services so they can become functional at an accelerated pace. The accelerator will allow Southwest Virginia's emerging companies and entrepreneurs to become operational within six to 12 months by helping prepare business models, draft business plans, find senior management personnel, and form strategic partnerships with other entities. Formed by the Virginia Tech Foundation and affiliated Tech corporations in conjunction with three of the country's premier company creators--eIncubator, LaunchFuel, and Redleaf--the accelerator will also help fledgling companies attract financial support, from initial seed funding through the first round of institutional funding.
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Bates named provost at Washington State

Robert C. Bates, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and microbology professor at Virginia Tech, has accepted the position of provost and academic vice president at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Wash. As WSU's chief academic leader, beginning in January 2002, Bates will be responsible for all academic issues at the university. He has been at Virginia Tech since 1972 and dean of the university's largest college since 1994. Bates is a native of Portland, Ore., and received his master's degree at WSU.
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Dining programs shine in competition

Virginia Tech's dining programs brought home three awards from the 43rd National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) National Conference in July. Jud C. Flynn, executive chef for Residential and Dining Programs, won the gold medal in the first annual Culinary Challenge competition, during which contestants were given 40 minutes to produce four portions of an original hot entrée. Jeremy Weaver (accounting '01), was named Student Employee of the Year. Weaver, an assistant manager at Owens Food Court, is working on his master's degree in accounting. And Personal Touch Catering was awarded second place in the Catering and Special Events category during the 28th annual Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards Contest. Its entry, "Interviewing over Dinner: Rare, Medium, or Well Done?" is a program designed to teach students appropriate dinner etiquette as it applies to a professional interviewing situation.
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Bioinformatics project receives funding

A multidisciplinary team of bioinformatics researchers from Virginia Tech will receive $600,000 from the National Science Foundation Next Generation Software Program. The award supports the further design and implementation of Expresso, a sophisticated computational system for microarray bioinformatics. Microarrays (sometimes called DNA chips) are an approach to studying simultaneously the expression of hundreds or thousands of genes in a given organism.

The grant project will be a multidisciplinary collaboration between computer scientists, who will perform the computer-science research part of the project and will develop the software, and biologists, who will use the software to conduct their investigations. Expresso's design automates many of the tedious methodological aspects of conducting microarray experiments and analyzing the data yielded.
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Race and Social Policy Research Center opens

This fall, Virginia Tech broadened the scope of its research agenda by opening the Race and Social Policy Research Center (RSP). The center, which offers a graduate level concentration, will design and execute research projects to study public policy as it relates to various ethnic groups. Its first project is designed to generate promising strategies to improve recruitment and retention of minority students at community colleges. Susan Gooden, assistant professor in the Center for Public Administration and Policy, will direct the center.
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Solving bubble trouble

The work of civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. candidate Paolo Scardina in researching air bubbles in drinking water may someday help prevent outbreaks of water-borne diseases. Scardina, who began his research as an undergraduate at Tech, recently won a highly competitive grant worth $150,000 from the American Water Works Association Research Foundation to continue his efforts to determine the effects of air bubbles in water. The release of air bubbles during the water treatment process can allow pathogens and other particles to escape into water that people drink. Scardina's work is being used by engineers with the California Department of Health Services to identify problems at two of its water treatment facilities, and he is working with plant engineers around the country to study the conditions that can cause the bubbles.
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Two new schools to help advance Virginia Tech's research goal

This fall, Virginia Tech announced its participation in the creation and operation of two new colleges that will move Tech further toward its goal of becoming a top research university.

Virginia Tech plans to team up with Wake Forest University to form the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. The plan for the school, which will be operated jointly at each university's campus, is to offer master's and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering and to conduct collaborative research. "This is a natural partnership between Virginia Tech, with no human medical school, and Wake Forest, with no engineering school," says Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger. The school will be run by Tech's College of Engineering and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and by Wake Forest's School of Medicine, which is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the number 46 medical school for research in the country.

The university will also collaborate with the new Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, which will be opened in Blacksburg in 2003 by The Harvey W. Peters Foundation. The foundation, which operates the Harvey W. Peters Research Center at Tech, will locate the college in the Corporate Research Center and teach doctors to work in the medically under-served rural areas of Virginia. The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors has approved a "collaboration agreement" that will allow the college to use university facilities and offices, such as academic support and student services programs. While the medical college will have its own full-time faculty, it also will hire selected Tech faculty members to teach courses, and those who perform research will have joint appointments with both schools.

"This is in concert with new directions for the university," Steger says. "Our affiliation with Carilion on biomedicine, our new bioinformatics institute, the collaboration with the Via Osteopathic College, and the partnership with Wake Forest on biomedical engineering all steer us in the direction of research in human health."
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Spicy chicken may prevent Salmonella

Proving that good ideas can come at any time, Audrey McElroy, assistant professor of poultry science, has discovered that spicing up chicken may help prevent Salmonella. The discovery came after McElroy and her graduate advisor questioned the appeal of spicy food, given its side effects of watery eyes and runny noses. A Mexican graduate student mentioned that people from his country believe spicy foods provide protection from disease, leading McElroy and her advisor to hypothesize that it might work with poultry. Her subsequent research showed that adding capsaicin, the spicy component of hot peppers, to the feed of neonatal broiler chicks helped increase their resistance to Salmonella. McElroy is currently working to show the direct effect of capsaicin on Salmonella in laboratory conditions.
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Chemistry professor wins awards

First-year Chemistry Professor Daniel Crawford has received several awards for his research, including the New Faculty Award from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation for his proposal "Advanced Quantum Mechanical Methods for Metalloenzymes." He also received the Research Innovation Award from the Research Corporation to focus on diagnostic procedures that can check predictive statements about large molecules before time and money is spent on expensive computer simulations. Additionally, Crawford received both the 2000-01 ASPIRES award from the Virginia Tech Research Division and a grant from the Jeffress Memorial Trust.
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VTTI to conduct landmark study

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) has been awarded $3 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Department of Transportation to study driver performance and behavior leading up to crashes and near-crashes. More than 100 cars belonging to private volunteer drivers in Northern Virginia will be instrumented with data collection systems for approximately one year.

The NHTSA hopes the project will fill gaps in knowledge about pre-crash and conflict behaviors under real-world conditions.

Vehicle crashes kill almost 40,000 people and injure more than two million each year in the U.S. at a cost exceeding $150 billion.
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