Tag Archives: research

State Department seeking young scientists in the field of food security

The APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education is an annual prize that recognizes young scientists who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in scientific research and cooperation with scientists from the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Each year, the host economy selects a theme to guide the ASPIRE prize.

The 2016 APEC host economy Peru selected Technologies for Food Security as the theme for ASPIRE nominations. This theme focuses on innovative technologies that enhance food security, food safety, and nutrition to build resilient and healthy communities across the Asia-Pacific region.

Each APEC member economy is eligible to nominate one young scientist under the age of 40 to be considered for the 2016 ASPIRE prize. These finalists will then be considered by the full APEC Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation for selection as the 2016 ASPIRE prize winner, with prize money in the amount of $25,000. 

For interested candidates from the United States, the U.S. State Department is hosting a U.S. ASPIRE competition to identify this year’s U.S. ASPIRE nominee. The competition will invite a winner and five finalists to be honored at an award ceremony in Washington D.C. The winner will receive a $3,000 cash prize and be nominated as the U.S. representative for ASPIRE. The five finalists will receive cash prizes of $1,200 each.

The U.S. ASPIRE competition application is open until April 10.  Interested applicants can find more information online.

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Upcoming grant writing workshops for farmers market and local food promotion programs

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service recently announced they will be accepting grant applications for their Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Programs. To raise awareness about the two programs and, hopefully, increase the number of applications and overall success rate for Virginia, Theresa Nartea and Eric Bendfeldt will be offering two free grant-writing workshops. The first workshop will be in Petersburg on April 8 and the second will be in Roanoke on April 15.

Preregister for only one of the workshops. The workshops are free, and materials and light refreshments will be provided.

If you have any other questions about the workshops, please contact Eric Bendfeldt at 540-432-6029.

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Ryan Stewart named Scholar of the Week

Ryan StewartThe Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Ryan Stewart, an assistant professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, who works at the “critical zone” between water, soil, and plant communities.

His program at the Critical Zone Research Lab fosters collaboration across disciplines, with diverse researchers working on topics that span ecology, engineering, agriculture, and urban systems. The effort involves field work, laboratory analysis, and development of modeling frameworks to focus on quantifying and scaling interactions between water, soil, and plant communities.

Stewart is involved in a variety of research projects. Among them, he is interested in the effects of land-use changes on the movement, distribution, and quality of water, especially in areas where forests are being established or re-established.

Another research interest includes study of soil-water interactions in shrink-swell clay soils, including the changing hydraulic conductivity of soil matrix due to swelling and shrinking, the time-dependence of swelling, threshold behaviors in runoff and infiltration, and scaling of hydrologic processes.

In other areas, Stewart characterizes structural pathways caused by plants and soil aggregation by describing nutrient transport and preferential flow using parsimonious models, development of new soil parameters to use in infiltration and runoff modeling, and numerical modeling to better understand processes.

His lab also works to develop novel instruments and methods, including a new “resonating” rain gauge, instruments to monitor soil crack swelling dynamics, a new device to measure plot-scale runoff, and accelerometers to monitor environmental processes.

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Latest issue of Innovations newsletter available

The latest issue of Innovations — our newsletter that highlights research, academics, alumni, and news happening around the college that furthers the university’s land-grant mission — is now available.

The Web version of Innovations contains online-only multimedia content. Print copies can be requested by emailing Lynn McPeak.

Feature stories include:

  • The way Virginia Tech is building towards a bright future in academia and research. The recently completed Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 and the new Dairy Science Complex- Kentland Farm have provided faculty and students state-of-the-art tools to conduct research in labs, and more opportunities than ever to combat the most vexing societal challenges related to food and fiber production.
  • A profile of alumna Rosalea Potter and how she and her family are keeping the Ut Prosim (That I may serve) spirit alive by serving as educators about agricultural production.
  • A genetic line of chickens that helped unlock the mysteries of evolutionary time developed by Paul Siegel, distinguished professor emeritus in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences.
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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.”

Continue reading

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External grants report – second quarter of 2016

A partial list of external grants received by CALS faculty during the first quarter of fiscal year 2016 (October 2015 – December 2015) are included here. Only projects with total awards of $100,000 or more are included. We apologize for any omissions.

Title Sponsor  

PI and Co-PIs


Total Award Amount
Virginia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed)  VA Dept. of Social Services E. Serrano (HNFE) and J. Midkiff (Extension) $6,586,559
CNH-L: Linking Land Use Decision-making, Water   Quality, and Lake Associations to Understand Human-natural Feedbacks in Lake Catchments  NSF K. Cobourn and M. Sorice (For. Res. & Envir. Cons.), C. Carey (Biological Sci.), and K. Boyle (AAEC) $1,799,931 
Balanced Living with Diabetes: Impacting Rural Community Health through Evidence-based program implementation by Cooperative Extension  USDA, NIFA C. Rafie (HNFE), M. Chase (FST), K. Hosig and S. Wenzel (Vet. Med.) and E. Schlenker (Ext.) $315,747 
Coordination of Food Sample Preparation and Analytical Quality Assurance for USDA Contracts  USDA, ARS K. Phillips (Biochem.) $300,000
Increasing Yields and Profitability for Mid-Atlantic Double-Crop Soybean  United Soybean Board D. Holshouser (TAREC) $101,083
Uncovering the hidden skeleton of environmental flows: advanced Lagrangian methods for hazards prediction, mitigation and response  MIT S. Ross (Biomed. Eng. & Mech.), D. Schmale (BSE), and C. Wolsey (Aerospace & Ocean Eng.) $390,507
Evaluating the effectiveness and impact of the partnership for a healthier Americas fruit and vegetable campaign  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation V. Kraak (HNFE) $311,792
Cooperative Agreement Between USDA APHIS and Virginia Tech  USDA, APHIS R. Irwin (Biochem.) $154,542
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Robin Williams – November Employee of the Month

Congratulations to the November employee of the month, Robin Williams! She is the federal projects coordinator and administrative assistant in the college research office.

Robin Williams receiving her Employee of the Month award from Dean Alan Grant (left) and Saied Mostaghimi

Robin Williams receiving her Employee of the Month award from Dean Alan Grant (left) and Saied Mostaghimi

Williams’ nominator praised her pleasant personality, work ethic, organizational skills, and diplomacy. She is “dedicated to her job and shows a remarkable understanding of some of the complex (and often frustrating) federal reporting systems that she has to deal with. Her attention to detail, understanding of compliance obligations, and calm professional demeanor have helped transform our reporting processes.”

Williams is deeply committed to her job and to ensuring that things are done completely and correctly. She is noted as being kind, considerate, and trustworthy. Her nominator notes that they are “impressed by her dedication and willingness to learn. Robin demonstrates a work ethic and professionalism which is a positive example to all of us.”

As the November employee of the month, she will receive a plaque, gifts from the college, have her photo displayed in the case in Hutcheson Hall, and will be eligible to be considered for the 2015-16 Employee of the Year award.

Congratulations, Robin!

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Save the date: CALS Research Ask Me Anything about intellectual property

Interested in grants or intellectual property? Come to the upcoming CALS Research AMA (Ask Me Anything), which will focus on intellectual property.

This event will be hosted by:

  • Saied Mostaghimi, associate dean for research and graduate studies
  • Lesley Mitchell, grants specialist
  • Nancy Dudek, grants coordinator
  • Frank Fitzgerald, director of contracts in the Office of Sponsored Programs
  • Robert Whitehead, senior licensing manager for Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties

The event will be held Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 9 – 10:30 a.m. in Litton-Reaves 1810.

Please RSVP to Nancy Dudek by Jan. 13.

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CALS research launches AMA (Ask Me Anything)

More than 15 people attended a recent “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” on Oct. 22 to meet the CALS Grants Team. The event was designed to mimic the online Q&A sessions conducted by businesses and celebrities on websites such as Reddit and Twitter.

Unlike the online AMAs, this face-to-face event was held in Litton-Reaves Hall with refreshments. Saied Mostaghimi, associate dean for research and graduate studies, Lesley Mitchell, grants specialist, and Lauren Magruder, OSP director of pre-award, were available to answer questions. Nancy Dudek, CALS grants coordinator, moderated the event.

Participants came from several CALS departments and represented a spectrum of career stages. Participants asked questions about the CALS expertise database, intellectual property, best strategies for writing a proposal, working with subcontracts, cost-share, and other topics.

This was the first AMA conducted by the CALS Grants Team. They plan on holding another AMA in the spring semester. The event will be advertised on the CALS faculty listserv. For more information, please contact Nancy Dudek.

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Meet Inga Haugen, library liaison for CALS

Life Science, Agriculture, and Scholarly Communication Librarian Inga Haugen is the library’s liaison to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Haugen is committed to helping students, faculty, and the community at their point of need, whether it’s in the library, online, in the classroom, or out in the field. Contact her at ihaugen@vt.edu and find out how she can help you.

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