Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Virginia Tech Proposes 5 New Degrees

The engineering, biological science and nanotechnology degrees would help students interested in higher-level science fields better prepare for graduate school.

And, the degrees could initiate new partnerships with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Tech. There, laboratory scientists work cooperatively with high-level computer programmers and other scientists to produce new cancer treatments, among many other sponsored research projects.

Developed in consultation with alumni who work in real estate, that degree proposal would incorporate studies in engineering, agriculture and business, among other elements. If it is ultimately offered, the degree is expected to allow students to take advantage of a housing market rebound, Wubah said.

It is also thought that graduates of the program would be well-positioned in the field because officials found that about "25 percent of Northern Virginia real estate is controlled by Hokies," Wubah said.

All the new proposed degrees would emphasize interdisciplinary studies and undergraduate research -- two major areas of focus at Tech.

In fact, research and interdisciplinary elements will be required for any new undergraduate programs, Wubah said.

"Siloed programs ... are not the future," he said. "The major problems we face ... can't be solved in one discipline. If you take energy, water. Solving those problems takes understanding beyond one discipline."

Requiring biology students, for example, to also take a course in physics and another in chemistry produces graduates who are aware of how other scientific disciplines affect their own field.

"They will have an area they will focus on. But we want them to think laterally," Wubah said.

Wubah came to Tech in 2009 from the University of Florida, where he served as associate provost for undergraduate academic affairs. Since his arrival, he has adopted a review system for new degree proposals similar to one used by graduate school Dean Karen DePauw.

Under this system, concept plans for new degrees are reviewed first by the dean, and then by a committee system within the university. Market research and a detailed explanation of how the degree will prepare students for academia or the work force are required.

If approved by the University Council and the board of visitors, the plan then goes to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and in some cases the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, for final approval.

From start to finish, implementation of new degrees normally takes about three years, Wubah said.

Both the undergraduate and graduate offices keep and monitor a prioritized list of new program proposals that is reviewed on an annual basis.

Since 2004, the graduate school has used the same process to add 11 new doctoral and master's degrees, as well as certificates and dual degree programs, DePauw said.

Since coming to Tech in 2002 from Washington State University, DePauw has nurtured a resurgence of graduate education at Tech. That resurgence has been instrumental in boosting Tech's overall goal of increasing funded research contracts, as well as helped foster the university's diversity and equity goals.

DePauw echoed Wubah's comments on the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to new degree development, saying she has watched the trend grow in importance over the past 20 years.

Research and science have not been the only areas of focus for the grad school, however. DePauw pointed to the creation of a doctorate in rhetoric and writing and Master of Arts in foreign languages, cultures and literature, and creative technologies.

Research and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) remain the primary focus of Tech's growth, however.

Increasing research funding has been a signature goal of President Charles Steger's administration, and it has become more important as the university looks to high-tech companies, federal agencies and others for grant money to help offset declining state funding.

Officials say that outside money helps fund salaries, erect buildings and buy laboratory equipment, among other benefits.

By: Tonia Moxley
Roanoke Times

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

2011 Virginia State Science Fair Awards for Biotechnology

The Virginia Biotechnology Association (VABIO) in conjunction with the Chesapeake Bioscience Education Foundation presented awards at the 2011 Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair on Saturday, April 2, 2011, at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. The volunteer judges studied the abstracts prior to their arrival at the Fair and then voted on the top ten projects to interview one-on-one. Photos from the competition are available here.

"Once again, the students' projects amazed the judges. It was hard to choose among so many excellent projects," said Mark Herzog, VABIO executive director.

After talking with each of the students, the judges made their final selections:

First Place: Charlotte Nina Keeley and Emily Jane Keeley
“Creating a SmartBandage: A Nanoparticle-Embedded Polymer to Detect Local Oxygen Levels in Wounds” (ENT007)
Category: Engineering: Materials and Bioengineering
Region: Charlottesville

Second Place: Choonh-Seoup Youn
“Regulation of Telomerase Activity in Prostate Cancer Cell by a Novel Protein, DEK” (CMI003)
Category: Cellular – Molecular Biology
Region: Fairfax

Third Place: Benjamin Tyler Cobb and John Conor Moran
“Identification of Novel Stress – (Cortisol) Dependent Cisplatin Resistance in Lung and Breast Cancer Cells” (CMT002)
Category: Cellular - Molecular Biology
Region: Fairfax

Thank you to our VaBIO Judges:
David Anderson, Vice President Scientific Affairs, Lyotropic Therapeutics, Inc.
Martin Chapman, President, Indoor Biotechnologies, Inc.
Michael Francis, Research Associate, LifeNet Health
Mark Herzog, Executive Director, Virginia Biotechnology Association
Eugene Maurakis, Director of Science Education, Science Museum of Virginia
Roy Ogle, Director of Regenerative Medicine, LifeNet Health
Gary Pekoe, Founder, Arkios Biodevelopment International
Patrick Sachs, Research Associate, LifeNet Health

The winners are eligible to be considered for the 2011 Virginia BioGENEius Challenge team that will compete at the national challenge in June at the BIO Convention in Washington, DC.