Linsey Marr, the Charles P. Lunsford Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been selected to receive a 2022 Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

The award is the commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty at Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities. It recognizes superior accomplishments in teaching, research, knowledge integration, and public service.

Marr is one of fewer than 12 worldwide experts on aerosol transmission of viruses and one of only a handful in America. She has been working with airborne viruses for the past 13 years, but her expertise became widely known during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, she has given hundreds of interviews and has been quoted more than 4,000 times in 79 countries. Her expertise has contributed to high-level reviews to the World Health Organization, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and staff members of the U.S. Congress.

Her ability to communicate aerosol science to the public in terms of SARS-COV-2 has been recognized through numerous awards in the past two years. In March 2021, she received the Ut Prosim Scholar Award, the highest honor for faculty at Virginia Tech. She was also named a Fellow of the American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR), received the Susanne V. Hering Award from AAAR, and was inducted into the University of California, Berkeley Civil and Environmental Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni. She also serves on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology.  

“Most of us had never heard of aerosol science before the pandemic,” began a June 2020 New York Times profile, headlined “The Scientist, the Air and the Virus." “Then Virginia Tech’s Linsey Marr showed up and became our tour guide to the invisible world of airborne particles.”

Marr and her team have also researched the efficacy of common face coverings in minimizing the spread of COVID-19 by conducting experiments modeling real-life experiences.

“We’re so proud of this much-deserved recognition for Linsey,” said Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “Her contributions to the academic community, our students, and the general public – especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – have been incredibly impactful. Through her research on air quality and the airborne transmission of viral pathogens, she continues to provide valuable insight that informs important public health guidelines.”

Marr, who arrived at Virginia Tech in 2003, earned the Charles P. Lunsford Professorship in 2018. She leads the Applied Interdisciplinary Research in Air (AIR2) laboratory, which brings together an interdisciplinary team to fuel research at the intersection of air quality, engineering, environmental chemistry, microbiology, and health. Most recently, her research has focused on emerging or non-traditional aerosols, such as viral pathogens and engineered nanomaterials, and how they are transformed in the environment.

As an educator, Marr has taught courses in environmental engineering, air resources engineering, and air pollution transport and chemistry. 

“Dr. Marr is incredibly deserving of this award,” said Mark Widdowson, department head for the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Through her international reputation in aerosol science, she has worked tirelessly to inform the public of health safety measures during the pandemic, while still dedicating time to mentor and engage with students and colleagues.”

Marr holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering science from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. 

She is one of 12 professors across the commonwealth to be honored by the SCHEV this year and one of the first women in the College of Engineering to receive the award. Award nominees are reviewed by a panel of peers and chosen by a committee of leaders from both public and private sectors. Marr joins Virginia Tech’s A. Roger Ekirch, University Distinguished Professor of history, as a 2022 recipient.  

"This recognition is special because it suggests that my teaching, research, and outreach have positively impacted students and the general public," said Marr. "I have always admired Virginia Tech's prior recipients of the award for their exceptional contributions to the university's mission, and I never imagined that I would join this distinguished group. I want people to know that this award reflects a team effort involving many outstanding students and collaborators that I have had the privilege to work with over the years."

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