Virginia Tech’s culture of collaboration and innovation is just one of many strengths that attracted Mary Burrows, the new director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, to the university and to the position.

It also will be her focus as moves into the new role she started on July 10, she said.

“There is a culture of innovation and collaboration here at Virginia Tech that is very exciting,” said Burrows, who also serves as the associate dean for research in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “My goal is to support this culture, encourage it, and help it continue to thrive.”

Burrows comes to the university from Montana State University, where she spent 17 years as an Extension plant pathologist and the past three years as the associate director of Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and Research Development.

“Mary brings a wealth of research, Extension, and administrative experience to Virginia Tech and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. We are excited to support her in her new role as the director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, our college’s research enterprise,” said Alan Grant, dean of the college.

During her time at Montana State, Burrows ran the university’s Extension Schutter Diagnostic Laboratory, a member of the National Plant Diagnostic Network, of which several Virginia Tech entities are also a member including the Plant Disease Clinic. The lab, Burrows said, had an estimated $1 million to $3 million impact on the state each year.

As a plant virologist, one of her earliest projects was examining wheat viruses across the Great Plains. In 2006, she attended a National Plant Diagnostic conference, “and every diagnostician there was talking about wheat viruses in their state,” Burrows said.

“The survey I coordinated was the first demonstration of a newly described virus of wheat in all nine Great Plains states. The virus had only been identified in Kansas prior to the survey,” Burrows said. “Back in Montana, my expertise really came in handy as far as letting growers know how to diagnose and manage it.”

Burrows said she understands the importance of communication and collaboration among producers and other stakeholders. Building and maintaining those relationships will be one of her top priorities as director of the state’s experiment station.

“We have to make sure stakeholders know what impact we are having in their day-to-day operations,” she said. “I'm constantly beating the drum of how we are serving the needs or trying to serve the needs and getting feedback where it's needed.”

Burrows, a native of Minnesota, earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Minnesota State University-Morehead and her Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include field crop diseases, wheat and pulse crops, fungi and viruses, and epidemiology.

She comes to Virginia with her husband and two children, who enjoy the outdoors and regular trips to Colonial Williamsburg. She is excited about living in Virginia, “an agriculturally diverse state.”

“I'm really looking forward to meeting new people, helping out all the different organizations in Virginia, and making sure that our efforts helping to meet their needs,” Burrows said.

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