University Distinguished Professor and environmental scientist Amy Pruden will deliver the keynote address at Virginia Tech’s University Commencement ceremony on Friday, Dec. 15.  

Pruden is the W. Thomas Rice Professor in the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where her research program focuses on using DNA-based tools to track pathogens and antibiotic resistance in the environment.  

Prior to joining Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering in 2008, Pruden was a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University. Pruden earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Cincinnati. 

Pruden’s Research Team uses next-generation DNA sequencing tools to probe the microbiomes of natural and engineered water systems. By zooming in on the DNA of disease-causing bacteria and the genes that prevent antibiotics from killing them, she is able to identify effective water treatment processes that are protective of public health. Pruden’s team has used similar approaches to track antibiotic resistant bacteria from farm to fork and assess the effects of antibiotic use in livestock.

Pruden served as lead author on the United Nations Environment Programme 2023 Bracing for Superbugs report and is currently a working group leader of the Quadripartite Technical Group on Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance. 

From 2017-2019 she served on the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine Consensus Committee on Management of Legionella in Water Systems, which is the No. 1 source of waterborne disease in the U.S. She has published more than 200 peer-reviewed book chapters and manuscripts and is a Fellow of the International Water Association. 

In addition to being a University Distinguished Professor, Pruden is the recipient of several awards, including the Alumni Award for Research Excellence, the Outstanding Graduate Student Mentoring Award and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research from the College of Engineering, the Water Research Innovator Award, the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, and the Paul L. Busch Award from the Water Environment Research Foundation. 

Commencement is Friday, Dec. 15. The undergraduate ceremony is at 10:30 a.m. and the Graduate School ceremony is at 2:30 p.m. Both ceremonies are at Cassell Coliseum on Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus.

Graduate School speakers

Three graduate students will speak during the school’s commencement ceremony. They plan to share thoughts about their graduate education journey. The short remarks are modeled on the Nutshell Games created by the Center for Communicating Science. 

The students are: Imani Lewis, who is earning a master’s degree of public and international affairs; Ikhlas Rabab’ah, who is earning a doctoral degree in architecture and design research and graduating this semester with her master’s degree; and Norovbanzad Tsogt-Ochir, who is earning a master’s degree in civil engineering.

Visit Virginia Tech's commencement website for information and updates on fall commencement ceremonies.

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