The Virginia Tech media relations office has the following experts available for interviews this week surrounding issues in the news. To schedule an interview, please contact

10 days left to prevent a debt default

President Biden will meet Monday with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to resume debt ceiling negotiations. They have 10 days to find some sort of a compromise on whether to raise or suspend the debt ceiling before June 1. If no deal is reached, the U.S. government could default on its obligations for the first time in history – potentially leading to a nationwide recession and financial market crisis. Virginia Tech economist David Bieri is available to talk about the impact this would have on Americans and across the globe.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott announces presidential bid

Tim Scott, the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate from South Carolina, and the only Black Republican serving in the Senate, officially launched his presidential campaign this morning. Virginia Tech political expert Brandy Faulkner offers insights into the historical and political significance of Scott’s quest for the Republican nomination. [Available after 5 p.m. Monday.]

Tips for safely grilling alternative and non-beef burgers

Hamburgers are an American classic. There are few foods that embody what a Memorial Day weekend should taste like sinking your teeth into a juicy burger hot off the grill. But with more Americans opting for beef-alternatives like plant-based and turkey burgers, it’s important to keep in mind that the requirements for safely cooking and enjoying a beef hamburger won’t necessarily apply to a black bean burger. Melissa Wright, director of the Food Producer Technical Assistance Program at Virginia Tech, has a few tips for keeping foodborne illness away from your Memorial Day cookout.

Home landscape choices can reduce risk of tick-borne illnesses

Rethinking our landscaping choices – from the municipal level down to individual yards – is one way to reduce our interaction with infected ticks and, therefore, the threat of tick-borne illnesses, according to Virginia Tech medical geography expert, Korine Kolivras, who studies how Lyme cases are associated with certain land cover characteristics and configurations. Kolivras is available to discuss yard and residential neighborhood modifications that could reduce interactions with tick populations.

What can you do to counter a “brain freeze”?
Virginia Tech pain neuroscientist Kristofer Rau explains what causes “brain freezes” and how we can counteract or avoid them. “‘Brain freeze’ or ‘ice cream headache’ is the occasional intense pain you feel in your head when drinking or eating something that is very cold. The suddenness of the expansion in the blood vessels causes a burst of activity in the nerve endings in the roof of your mouth, and that intensity is interpreted by the brain as something that we really need to pay attention to and do something about immediately.” Read more here.

Research Highlights

Seeking better treatment for PTSD in women

New findings from Virginia Tech researchers could lead to the development of better therapeutic treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women. The research was part of a study examining why PTSD is more common in women than men.

Researchers discovered that one specific form of this ubiquitous protein has a different function in the female brains – it helps regulate events in the memory that cause PTSD. This protein, ubiquitin, even has its name originating from ubiquitous because of its presence across all walks of life. The form of this protein that the researchers could manipulate, called K-63, was selective in forming fear memories in the female brain.

PTSD is a complex disorder with a variety of therapeutic treatment options that include pharmacological approaches. By having a specific molecule to target, pharmacological approaches could be considered.

“Right now, treatment options are not very effective and the success rate isn’t very good,” Tim Jarome, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Animal Sciences said. “PTSD is not created equal among patients, and we know females are more likely to have it. The therapeutic approaches that we take to treat it might have to differ between males and females. This may be a mechanism in which we could specifically target treatment in females as a way to treat PTSD.” More here.

Cancer researchers team up against deadliest brain tumors in children

Virginia Tech researchers with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC have joined a Children’s National Hospital effort to treat deadly brain tumors with ultrahigh frequency sound waves.

The scientists are studying how to use an emerging technology called focused ultrasound to fight diffuse midline glioma (DMG), one of the most lethal childhood brain cancers with a nearly 100 percent rate of mortality within five years of diagnosis.

A multi-institutional team led by Javad Nazarian, a principal investigator with Children’s National Hospital, will study how to use focused ultrasound to create a temporary gateway through the body’s protective blood-brain barrier to deliver cancer medicine.

Virginia Tech Cancer Research Alliance investigators Eli Vlaisavljevich, a designer and developer of focused ultrasound technology, and Jennifer Munson, who creates 3D models to study brain tumors, bring expertise in focused ultrasound instrumentation and tissue engineering to the team. Joining them is Columbia University’s Cheng-Chia Wu, principal investigator for the world’s first clinical trial using focused ultrasound in children with relapsed DMG.  

The study will take place at Virginia Tech labs on the Blacksburg campus and at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke, with ongoing research for the project under way at the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus in Washington, D.C. More here.

Virginia Tech partners with Micron Technology Inc., National Science Foundation, and 10 other universities to develop semiconductor talent in U.S. and Japan

Virginia Tech is a founding member of an 11-university network spanning the U.S. and Japan that has partnered with Micron Technology Inc. and the U.S. National Science Foundation to cultivate a more diverse and robust talent pipeline for the semiconductor workforce.

Boise, Idaho-based Micron announced the partnership, known as UPWARDS for the Future, on May 21, at the edge of the 2023 G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan. Together, Micron, the U.S. National Science Foundation, and the university partners will invest $50 million to launch the initiative. UPWARDS for the future is designed to deepen ties between industry and higher education, promote industry-backed curriculums, and advance collaborative semiconductor memory research. The initiative is projected to involve 5,000 students over five years, with an emphasis on engaging women in engineering.

“Our top-ranked electrical and computer engineering department is educating the next generation of engineers with 10 specialized areas of study including a major in chip-scale integration,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. “UPWARDS for the Future is aligned with Virginia Tech’s commitment to increase diversity in STEM education by fostering inclusion and success for women and individuals from underrepresented and underserved communities. This creative partnership will keep Micron and Virginia Tech at the forefront in meeting the nation’s critical need for talented, innovative engineers with a global perspective.”

According to Micron, the founding universities were selected “for the work they have done to close the gender equity gap in STEM by fostering diversity, building inclusive career pathways for their students, and promoting equality in leadership roles with the appointments of female deans and presidents.” More here.

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