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Principal Scientists

The Fralin Life Sciences Institute at Virginia Tech is an instrument of strategic university investment committed to enhancing the quality, quantity, and competitiveness of innovative environmental and life sciences research, education, and outreach across Virginia Tech.

Residents of the Institute's five buildings are automatically considered affiliated faculty members:

  • Steger Hall
  • Fralin Hall
  • Latham Hall
  • Integrated Life Sciences Building
  • Life Sciences 1

There is a principal scientist assigned to each of the five buildings. 

Meet Our Principal Scientists

Brenda Winkel

Brenda Winkel, professor of biological sciences, serves as the principal scientist for Steger Hall, the newest building to join the Fralin Life Sciences Institute. She is responsible for the general oversight and coordination of Steger Hall. 

Located within the Virginia Tech Life Sciences corridor, Steger Hall is home to a number of faculty who research topics to include, but are not limited to, global change, infectious disease, genetics and molecular biology, ecological forecasting, and computational modeling and statistics.

Two shared research facilities can be found in Steger Hall: the Genomics Sequencing Center (GSC) and the Mass Spectrometry Research Incubator (VT_MSI). Staffed by expert technicians and guided by user needs, these facilities support the life sciences by driving efficiencies and promoting collaborations across many departments and disciplines at Virginia Tech. 

Pablo Sobrado

Pablo Sobrado, professor of biochemostry, serves as the Fralin Hall principal scientist. 

Fralin Hall's initial design, construction, and operation of the building was led by Tracy D. Wilkins, a former director and Virginia Tech faculty member. His legacy continues through endowment support of outreach and undergraduate research activities. One of the most popular outreach efforts that are housed within Fralin is the Biotech-in-a-Box program, which provides instructional opportunities to high school and community college instructors throughout the Commonwealth.

John McDowell

Dr. John McDowell, professor in the School of Plant Environmental Sciences, serves as the Latham Hall principal scientist.

Latham Hall houses researchers from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Natural Resources and the Environment; and the College of Science. Their research interests include fish and wildlife conservation, geography, forestry, water, infectious diseases, and translational plant science.

Building equipment includes multiple reach-in growth chambers, an insectary, and resources supporting mass spectrometry, liquid chromatography, and flow cytometry.

In addition, the Translational Plant Sciences Center is headquartered in Lathan Hall, and is supported by the Fralin Life Sciences Institute as well as the Virginia Tech Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program. The Center is both a graduate student recruitment program and a group of laboratories with broad research topics revolving around attaining basic knowledge in the plant sciences and translation of this knowledge to improve crop production.

Eva Schmelz

Dr. Eva Schmelz, associate professor of human nutrition foods and exercise, serves as the Integrated Life Sciences Building principal scientist.

The Integrated Life Sciences Building (ILSB) was built in 2008 in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and houses faculty from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Natural Resources and the Environment, the College of Science, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. 

ILSB faculty conduct research in cardiovascular disease, cancer, muscle physiology, virology, neuroscience, aquaculture, metabolism, obesity, health ecosystems, and community health. Other resources within ILSB include the Virginia Tech Crystallography Lab and the Virginia Tech Metabolism Core.

Birgit Scharf

Dr. Birgit Scharf, professor of biological sciences, serves as the Life Sciences I Building principal scientist.

Life Sciences I (LSI) was constructed in 2007 and is adjacent to Steger Hall, within the Life Sciences corridor. The building houses faculty members from the College of Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, with specializations in microbiology, infectious disease, immunology, and proteomics. The facility includes 19 animal housing rooms, eight procedure/rodent surgery rooms, a necroposy room, quarantine space with three Horsfal cubicles for animal isolation, and other necessary support spaces. 

The facility includes a space dedicated for imaging. Other resources within LSI include a Deltavision Deconvolution Microscope,  a protein purification suite, a containment laboratory, and mutliple common equipment rooms.

A 50-person conference room and two smaller meeting spaces provide venues for seminars, presentations, and graduate-level courses and meetings.