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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 community, 

Amid a global pandemic, what the Fralin Life Sciences Institute at Virginia Tech offers to its faculty, staff, students, and to the world is more important than ever. We are committed to improving the human condition by supporting innovative environmental and life sciences research, education, and outreach. 

As three promising vaccines make their way throughout our campus and community, I am hopeful about the future. I also want to recognize all the hard work and partnership of the researchers and leaders in our five buildings: Steger Hall, Fralin Hall, Integrated Life Sciences Building, Latham Hall, and Life Sciences I. There are many examples of how the Fralin Life Sciences Community has stepped up when needed. Our affiliated faculty quickly pivoted to create engaging, online courses, and our researchers responded to the need for rapid testing shortages and assessed shortages of critical equipment and supplies. The contributions of essential employees, who remained in our five buildings, and the care you all took for each other during these challenging times have made me proud to be part of our life sciences and Virginia Tech community.

All members of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute community have taken individual responsibility to combat the coronavirus, collectively positioning the Institute to continue supporting its strategic priorities: conducting paradigm-shifting science, developing next leaders, and impacting communities. 

We are continuing to move the needle in the wicked problems spaces that threaten the environment and the human condition: infectious disease, evolving climate change, rising sea levels, air and water pollution, and decreasing biodiversity.

I am reminded of a quote from Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, “But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” 

By championing and supporting the Global Change Center, Center for Coastal Studies, Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens, and the upcoming Translational Plant Sciences Center, the Fralin Life Sciences Institute is continuing to help forge a solution to these pressing global challenges. 

We have recently invested in the Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens. The vision of the center positions Virginia Tech to become a national and international research and training resource that is a leader in advancing transformative science and developing effective countermeasures against emerging infectious diseases.  This center includes faculty participants from at least seven colleges and more than 25 departments on campus. We are grateful to have X.J Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Virology in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, as the founding director of the Center.

The Institute as a whole is striving to make an impact at the environment - human condition interface. We have co-located faculty together in Steger Hall to tackle infectious diseases and rapid environmental change.  Many of these researchers work across multiple problem spaces in computational modeling and  data analytics.

As an Institute, we are focusing on impacting our communities. Inclusion and diversity begins with education and outreach at the grade school and high school levels. We can enhance them at the College level and encourage underserved students to apply to graduate school. Through programs like Kids’ Tech University and Biotech-in-a-Box, the Institute has incorporated initiatives that provide learning opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds. For more than 20 years, the Biotech- in-a-Box program has provided Virginia high school and community college classrooms with complete biotechnology kits. Every year, the program reaches 10,000 diverse students across Virginia.

I look forward to tackling some of the pressing challenges at the environment - human condition interface with you. 

Please take care and stay safe.

Matt Hulver
Executive Director, Fralin Life Sciences Institute