Two teams of Virginia Tech faculty engaged in transdisciplinary research to develop solutions to complex global problems that can improve the human condition have received Destination Area 2.0 Phase II grant awards from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

The awardees are as follows:

Invasive Species: Mitigating a Global Threat to Health, Economic, and Environmental Security

  • Principal investigator: Jacob Barney, professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences
  • Co-principal investigators: Bryan Brown, Department of Biological Sciences; Joe Drake, Department of Biological Sciences; Luis Escobar, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation; David Haak, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences; Meryl Mims, Department of Biological Sciences; Emily Reed, Global Change Center; Haldre Rogers, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation; Scott Salom, Department of Entomology; Mike Sorice, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Todd Schenk, School of Public and International Affairs

According to Barney, invasive species occur on every continent and ocean and have become transformative members of most ecosystems. They are an inherently interdisciplinary challenge that directly or indirectly impacts the lives or livelihoods of people across the world, costing the global economy in excess of $ 1 trillion annually.

“Our goal is to approach this global challenge with a broad multidisciplinary team to understand the socio-ecological issues from diverse approaches, backgrounds, and methodologies that are simply not possible within a single discipline,” said Barney. “We believe this will make Virginia Tech a global destination in creating solutions to the invasive species grand challenge through innovations in research, detection, management, policy, and educational programs.”

Pandemic Prediction and Prevention

  • Principal investigator: T.M. Murali, professor, Department of Computer Science
  • Co-principal investigators: Jonathan Auguste, Department of Entomology; Debswapna Bhattacharya, Department of Computer Science; Lauren Childs, Department of Mathematics; Sanket Deshmukh, Department of Chemical Engineering; Luis Escobar, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation; Julie Gerdes, Department of English; Navid Ghaffarzadegan, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering; Kathy Hosig, Department of Population Health Sciences; Anuj Karpatne, Department of Computer Science; Lisa M. Lee, Department of Population Health Sciences; Linsey Marr, Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; X.J. Meng, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology; Padma Rajagopalan, Department of Chemical Engineering; Naren Ramakrishnan, Department of Computer Science; Patricia Raun, School of Performing Arts; Webster Santos, Department of Chemistry; Paul Skolnik, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine; James Weger-Lucarelli, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Pandemics can be studied at a variety of scales, from molecules to cells to organs to organisms to societies to ecosystems. The Pandemic Prediction and Prevention team brings together scientists and humanists to tackle a variety of interrelated problems and reach an aspirational destination: A world where we accurately foresee pandemics and proactively minimize their impact.

“Weaving together diverse viewpoints and expertise into a cohesive and effective framework to predict and prevent future pandemics will necessitate a convergence approach across the diverse disciplines reflected in the composition of our faculty,” said Murali. “At its core, solving this grand challenge will also require addressing moral, ethical, social, and policy considerations.”

Destination Area (DA) 2.0 projects, which build upon the foundational work of the original Destination Areas, target transdisciplinary discovery, learning, and outreach efforts that yield solutions to complex problems and that have a high likelihood of Virginia Tech sustaining or establishing an international leadership position in the area of interest.

“Support for these highly collaborative teams working across colleges and disciplines is essential to elevating faculty and research at Virginia Tech and earning a place among the top 100 global research universities,” said Executive Vice Provost Don Taylor. “I congratulate the DA 2.0 Phase II awardees for their contributions to our research enterprise and for advancing transdisciplinary communities of collaboration and innovation at Virginia Tech.”

As Virginia Tech pursues its Beyond Boundaries vision, Destination Area 2.0 teams are well positioned to deploy the expertise and assets that have been cultivated within the university to address compelling problems of global importance.

“The DA 2.0 teams are establishing Virginia Tech as a place that supports research beyond traditional boundaries and creates opportunities for faculty to expand the breadth and depth of their contributions and impacts,” said Catherine Amelink, associate vice provost.

For more information on the projects and the collaborative work of these transdisciplinary teams, visit the Destination Area 2.0 website.

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