Tag Archives: BSE

Researchers discover a royal flush in powering fuel cells with wastewater

As renewable energy sources go, solar rays have historically hogged the limelight.

But two Virginia Tech researchers have stolen the spotlight from the sun by discovering a way to maximize the amount of electricity that can be generated from the wastewater we flush down the toilet.

Xueyang Feng and Jason He traced bacteria, which led them to discover that the working relationship between two specific substrates produced more energy than either did separately. This work will help take the mystery out of how electrochemically-active bacteria create energy. It could help in the development of new treatment system called a microbial fuel cell.

“Tracing the bacteria gave us a major piece of the puzzle to start generating electricity in a sustainable way,” said Feng, an assistant professor of biological systems engineering. “This is a step toward the growing trend to make wastewater treatment centers self-sustaining in the energy they use.”

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Scenes from the 2015 CALS picnic

Photos by William McKenzie


Members of CALSSA hand out gift bags.


Hethwood Market provided tasty lunch fare.

More photos >>
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Virginia’s Household Water Quality Program featured on WVTF

Erin Ling, coordinator of the Virginia’s Household Water Quality Program and Marc Edwards, a world expert on lead in drinking water, were interviewed on WVTF about lead found in well water tests. 

You can listen to the interview and read the article on WVTF.

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Faculty participating in the installation of President Sands

Timothy D. Sands joined Virginia Tech as its 16th president on June 1, 2014. The installation of President Sands will be held Oct. 16-18. 

We have a large number of faculty participating in the installation in the Experience Virginia Tech: Learn, Explore, Engage portion on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 9 a.m. to noon.

This special event will highlight Virginia Tech’s teaching, research, and outreach while offering learning and fun for all interests and ages! Lectures from dynamic faculty, interdisciplinary panels, hands-on demonstrations, and engaging displays will transform The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center into an open classroom.

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Water cluster hires celebrated

On Feb. 5, a reception was held at the Hahn Garden Pavilion for the new Water Cluster hires at Virginia Tech. The cluster of seven tenure-track faculty positions was created by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Natural Resources and Environment to establish a premier water resources program.

Water cluster hires celebrated

The members of the CALS water cluster are (from left) Meredith Steele, Ryan Stewart, Zachary Easton, and Venkat Sridhar.

At the event, the faculty members of the cluster from CALS were Zachary Easton and Venkat Sridhar; both assistant professors in biological system engineering; and Meredith Steele and Ryan Stewart, both assistant professors in crop and soil environmental sciences.

The faculty members will complement Virginia Tech’s existing water science expertise by exploring interdisciplinary subjects as diverse and complex as water itself, including the effects of climate change on agriculture, management of water and natural resources, transport of chemicals to surface water and groundwater, and development of decision-support tools to mitigate the negative impacts of human activities.

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Save the Date: March 21 – Alumni Awards and HABB1 grand opening

HABB1 grand opening save the date

Please plan on joining us Friday, March 21, as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences celebrates two big events.

The college’s newest building, Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1, will have its grand opening that morning. The annual Awards Program that recognizes our outstanding alumni will follow in the afternoon and evening.

The grand opening ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. with a reception and tours to follow. The Awards Program will begin at 2 p.m. and will be followed by a dinner at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center.

Please RSVP to Jamie Lucero at 540-231-9666 | jlucero@vt.edu as soon as possible.

We hope to see you there!

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Get to know the StREAM Lab Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates

The StREAM Lab Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates, funded by the National Science Foundation, welcomed its second cohort of summer research fellows on June 2013. Hosted by the Department of Biological Systems Engineering in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the StREAM REU program provides undergraduate students from around the country with the opportunity to conduct interdisciplinary research exploring the impacts of human activities on local water quality and quantity.

Although the focus of specific student projects can vary widely, each project is grounded within the Stream Research, Education, and Management  Lab, a state-of-the-art outdoor laboratory located on Stroubles Creek in Blacksburg. An extensive array of real-time, spatio-temporal sensors at this site permit faculty and students to investigate complex, systems-level interactions within a relatively small, manageable stream and its drainage area. Continue reading

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Diversity Enhancement Awards presented

Dean Alan Grant, Randy Grayson, Stephanie Lewis, and Susan Rosebrough

From left: Dean Alan Grant, Randy Grayson, Nikki Lewis, and Susan Rosebrough

Last month, the College Diversity Council recognized three people for their commitment to diversity and their efforts to promote it.

“We are extremely grateful for the work these individuals have done over the years to ensure our college is reflection of our larger community,” said Dean Alan Grant, who is a member of the Diversity Council. “This diversity and inclusion helps us all gain a deeper understanding of our world.”

Stephanie “Nikki” Lewis, a genetics, bioinformatics and computational biology student received the Dr. Randolph Grayson Student Diversity Enhancement Award, which was renamed this year after students continually cited the encouragement and support Grayson has given them over the years. She is the preeminent diversity point-of-contact on campus for her department as the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development doctoral scholar.

Grayson, a professor emeritus of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science and the program coordinator for the George Washington Carver Program, received the faculty award. He has made a lifelong priority of ensuring that the Virginia Tech community benefits from including students from myriad backgrounds.

Susan Rosebrough, who won the staff award, is the academic programs coordinator for the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. She was recently appointed to serve as an at-large member on the University Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity and is also a Virginia Tech Safe Zone member.

The award included a letter of commendation, a plaque and an award of $500.

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Master Well Owner Network and BSE Drinking Water Clinic

Purpose: The goal of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program is to improve the water quality and health of Virginians with private water supplies, including wells, springs and cisterns. Drinking water clinics are held across the state to give people with private water systems access to affordable water testing, help interpreting their water test results, and information about possible treatment options.

How does it work? Participants attend a short, evening kickoff meeting, where they receive a sampling kit and information about how to collect water samples. At this meeting, participants will be notified of a date, time, and location where they will drop off their water samples. At this collection point, the samples will be iced in coolers and taken to the Biological Systems Engineering Water Quality Lab at Virginia Tech for analysis. Once the analysis is complete, an interpretation meeting is held to distribute the results to each participant. At this meeting, water test results are explained and information is provided about possible treatment options participants may consider. If you are unable to attend the interpretation meeting, results will be mailed to you.

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From the Dean — October 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Alan Grant

Alan Grant, dean

Among the many events and activities that took place in September was the final development stages of our college strategic planning process. The final version of our long-awaited 2012-2018 Strategic Plan was recently submitted to the Office of the Provost, completing a process that began many months ago and involved numerous stakeholders. I encourage you to peruse our new plan on the CALS website as we begin steps to implement the strategies and actions.

In addition to new mission and vision statements, the plan includes a list of values, emphasis areas, and four major goals with a number of strategies and high-priority action items. We also included a section that illustrates how our college plan is aligned and linked with the vision, goals, and objectives of the university’s Continue reading

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