Robert Weiss, a professor in the Department of Geosciences, has been named the director of the Academy of Integrated Science, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science.

Weiss takes over the role previously held for six years by Michel Pleimling, a professor of physics and associate dean for undergraduate programs for the College of Science. The academy was started in 2011 by the late Lay Nam Chang, then dean of the College of Science, with the mission of exploring powerful new approaches to current complex scientific problems. 

It includes undergraduate major and minor programs for nanoscience and nanomedicine; systems biology; data and decisions; science, technology and law; and the Integrated Science Curriculum (ISC).  The latter is a 30-credit, two-year course sequence for first- and second-year students, covers the fundamentals of chemistry, physics, biology, staistics, integrated with calculus and linear algebra from the Department of Mathematics. It presently has 442 students. 

In addition to his research and teaching roles in geosciences, Weiss is also director of the Center for Coastal Studies, located in Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Sciences Institute. Weiss’s research focuses on how climate change and sea-level rise could increase coastal hazards in coming years, including the growing threat of tsunamis caused by earthquakes.

“Robert Weiss’ dedication to and passion for interdisciplinary science, transdisciplinary research, and environmental concerns is inspiring. His leadership of the Virginia Tech Center for Coastal Studies drives societally relevant research solutions to complex challenges on our coasts, from marine life conservation to mitigating the economic impacts of sea level rise to improving population safety from tsunamis,” said Ron Fricker, interim dean of the College of Science. “I am sure he will bring that same passion to his new role as director of the college’s Academy of Integrated Science.”

Recently, Weiss was part of the television documentary program Changing Ocean Asia, produced out of Australia. He was included in episode 2, “Extreme Weather and Powerful Tsunamis.” It is available to stream at Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV. Last year, Weiss was elected president of the faculty senate, serving as a representative to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

Weiss earned his Ph.D. equivalent at Westfalische–Wilhelms-University, Münster, Germany, in 2005, and his Diploma (M.S.) at Friedrich–Schiller-University, Jena, Germany, in 2002. Before joining the Virginia Tech faculty in 2011, he worked at the NOAA Center for Tsunami Research in Seattle, Washington, from 2005 to 2008, and Texas A&M University’s Department of Geology and Geophysics from 2008 to 2011.

Fricker commended Pleimling for his leadership of the Academy of Integrated Science since 2016.

“I’d like to express my deep appreciation to Michel for his leadership of the Academy of Integrated Science,” Fricker said. “His service has been exemplary, where under Michel’s guidance AIS has substantially grown to serve hundreds of Virginia Tech students with its innovative interdisciplinary programs.”

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