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Executive Director's Message

Matt Hulver - Executive Director of Fralin Life Sciences Institute. Photo courtesy of Alex Crookshanks for Virginia Tech.
Matt Hulver - Executive Director of Fralin Life Sciences Institute. Photo courtesy of Alex Crookshanks for Virginia Tech.

Dear Fralin Life Sciences Institute Community,

I am thrilled to join the Institute as your new Executive Director. The Fralin Life Sciences Institute has played an integral role in my personal academic development, and I can’t thank Dennis Dean enough for his mentorship over the years, and for his outstanding leadership of the Institute over the past 12 years. I also offer a heartfelt thank you to Sally Morton for her efforts as Interim Director, and her important role in transitioning the Institute through its recent evolution.  I am tremendously grateful for the guidance that Sally and Dennis have provided me and all that they have both done to help shape  the Institute.

Please know that the Fralin Life Sciences Institute’s leadership team and I are here to help you navigate the unprecedented developments we are all experiencing due to COVID-19. These are tremendously challenging times; we have been asked to move our courses to an online format, we have had to scale back or shutdown our research programs, we are forced to work from home, and we are learning how to homeschool our children.  These are unprecedented events, but we will come out the other side of this through strength and perseverance. I can assure you that the Institute is here to support you now and during our recovery as we ramp our academic, research, and outreach programing back up. Every day, I am truly impressed with how our community has come together to tackle these challenges.

Your health is of primary concern, so please continue to practice social distancing strategies, eliminate face-to-face meetings, stay home if you are feeling ill, and be overzealous about washing your hands. Please also take care of yourself and your peers, colleagues, students, family, etc. We are all in this together.

In my new role, I am not letting COVID-19 halt the forward progress of shaping the vision and programs of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.  I have been meeting with leaders of academic units, research centers, and various organized research groups to gain a more thorough understanding of the existing partnerships and our robust research portfolio.  I am excited to have the opportunity to lead an organization focused on some of the most pressing global challenges of our time along with the Institute’s talented faculty and staff. I look forward to capitalizing on existing strengths, developing new strengths, and working to elevate the reputation of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute at Virginia Tech as a premier life sciences institution.

As most of you are already aware, research initiatives within the life sciences receiving ongoing support include global change, coastal studies, and translational plant sciences.  These are high impact programs making important contributions to their respective fields, and are offering outstanding academic programs shaping future leaderas. Other cohesive groups making tremendous strides include ecological forecasting and infectious disease, and I am looking forward to the Institute partnering with these up-and-coming thrust areas to help them realize their exciting potential. Other areas of enthusiastic partnership include drug discovery, molecular and cellular biology, invasive species, microbial systems, and cancer biology.  I will continue to meet with faculty from all of these areas to learn more about their programs and how the Institute can help identify and support cutting-edge research areas and build a thriving research enterprise. To this end, once we start to settle into our new normal, I hope to  convene some virtual town hall meetings to hear from the life sciences community directly, listen to your feedback, and answer questions as we strategically plan for the future.

My specific duties will include overseeing investments, including recruitment and start-up support for new faculty members, retention and recognition of established faculty members, investments in thematic research areas and centers, seed funds for new research projects, equipment purchases, graduate student recruitment and support, undergraduate research support, and support for outreach activities.

I will also be actively engaged in cooperative partnerships with colleges, departments, and other institutes that support the life science community. Faculty who take part in Institute-sponsored  activities —  including participation in Institute-funded centers and focus areas, use of core facilities  housed and supported by the Institute, and involvement in Institute-supported graduate and undergraduate programs — are invited to become affiliated faculty members.

I look forward to tackling some of the most pressing global challenges of our time with you. 

Please take care and stay safe.

Matt Hulver
Executive Director, Fralin Life Sciences Institute