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

Turkey elections headed to a runoff

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu are headed to a run-off election after both fell short of 50% of the vote in the national election held Sunday. Erdoğan has been accused of consolidating power and undermining democracy in Turkey, and of wielding an unfair advantage through influence in the media, yet still outperformed expectations at the polls. Virginia Tech international security expert Yannis Stivachtis, director of the Center for European Union, Transatlantic and Trans-European Space Studies, can speak to what’s at stake for the future of Turkey, NATO, and the United States.

Debt talks resume with less than a month to go

President Joe Biden and congressional leaders will meet on Tuesday to resume debt ceiling talks in efforts to reach a deal with Republicans to avoid economic fallout from a debt default. Virginia Tech economist Jadrian Wooten says if a deal is not reached, the impact in the U.S. and globally would be significant. “We’re potentially facing significant declines in Gross Domestic Product and the potential for millions to be out of work. The long-term issue is a reduction in investor confidence in government securities,” says Wooten. In addition, Wooten explains the U.S. dollar is the world’s primary reserve currency and any disruption in its stability and credibility could have far-reaching consequences.

Expert shares how to protect yourself from ticks and lyme disease

Due to warming temperatures, ticks are out earlier and sticking around longer than usual. That makes it more important than ever to protect yourself from the potentially disease-carrying insects. Brandon Jutras, an associate professor of biochemistry who specifically focuses on Lyme research says prompt removal is key. “Once the tick bites, it can take anywhere from 12 to 72 hours to transmit the Lyme disease-causing bacterium.If you’re outside in a high-risk area, such as anywhere with high grass, a wooded property, golf course, etc., a good way to check is to have a good shower afterward,” says Jutras. He also advises wearing light-colored clothing with DEET, checking pets often, and using the dryer on clothes after hiking or camping. “Ticks survive the washer and can remain on clean clothes. They do not, however, survive the dryer.” More here.

Brandon Jutras is also able to discuss his lab’s efforts to create a rapid test for the disease and research into why symptoms of Lyme disease linger longer after the initial infection in some people. 

Loneliness impact on health

Efforts are underway to address the “epidemic of loneliness and isolation” affecting the country, as recently addressed by the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who is laying out a “National Strategy to Advance Social Connection” initiative. Virginia Tech neuroscientist Georgia Hodes says that reports of depression and anxiety are up at least 3-fold since the start of the COVID epidemic. “While loneliness and isolation are likely contributors, the COVID infection itself triggers a depressive episode in approximately 20 percent of people. Understanding how infection impacts mood may help us find new ways to treat individuals that do not fully respond to current antidepressants.” More here.

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.”

Research Highlights

Walking less frequent, less safe in the U.S. compared to other countries

For over a decade, Virginia Tech urban transportation expert Ralph Buehler and his co-authors have analyzed walking rates, pedestrian safety, and government policies across multiple industrialized nations, cities within the same nation, and multiple sections of the same city. A recent article published in “Sustainability”  an international, peer-reviewed open-access academic journal, updates findings from prior peer-reviewed work published in Transport Reviews, the American Journal of Public Health, and TRNews. The findings show that overall Americans walk less than individuals in many other countries, while also having a higher walking fatality rate per kilometer walked.

Researchers seek to better understand and counter cocaine use disorder

Cocaine-related overdose deaths are on the rise, with a 20% increase from 2021 to 2022 in Virginia alone. Researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC are working to better understand cocaine use disorder and help reverse the national trend. With support from a National Institute on Drug Abuse grant of more than $700,000, the Fralin Institute’s Addiction Recovery Research Center is recruiting adults who use cocaine for a paid research study investigating the theory of reinforcer pathology, in which individuals place higher value on immediate reward than future gains. Researchers seek insight into what can influence this decision making process. “Cocaine use and addiction has been rising for more than a decade with no robust treatment,” said Warren Bickel, the center’s director. “We need some new ideas.”

Read more about the research here.

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