Innovations Scroll to read Volume 5, Issue 1 ↓

Building toward a bright future

The recently completed Dairy Science Complex - Kentland Farm allows students and researchers to work in the most advanced facilities in the nation.

At the university’s Kentland Farm, students in the new Dairy Science Complex are working with professors on projects that address issues ranging from milk quality to nutrient management. Meanwhile, in the life sciences precinct on campus, researchers are collaborating in the new labs of the Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 to tackle some of society’s grand challenges related to alternative energy production, water quality, and food security.

Maria Balota (right) studies stress in peanut plants with the help of drones that allow her to collect data faster in large research plots.

A prized Virginia crop goes hi-tech

Maria Balota is a curator of sorts. The associate professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science is responsible for ensuring the perpetuity of one of the commonwealth’s most quintessential commodities: the peanut.

Dean's Update

Dean Alan Grant

Greetings from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. As you will read about in this issue of Innovations, this is a great time of growth in the college. We recently celebrated the opening of several new facilities, and we are looking ahead toward the construction of at least three new groups of buildings in the coming years that will benefit our students, researchers, and Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Graduate Teaching Scholar Program fosters relationships for fruitful careers

Tess Thompson, associate professor of biological systems engineering (left) and Chelsea Corkins, a doctoral candidate who is part of the Graduate Teaching Scholars Program, discuss strategies for developing teaching concepts using a device that measures water levels.

The college’s Graduate Teaching Scholar Program fills the gap that exists between the course work that students take and the research they do by encouraging collaboration, camaraderie, and mentorships between new doctoral students and faculty members — which in turn produces confident scholars and gifted instructors.

Inside the new pilot plant in the Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1.

Pilot plant helps build bridges between industry and Virginia Tech

Things are really cooking in the Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 pilot plant these days. In one corner of the 7,100-square-foot room, DuPont Teijin Films is working with researchers from the Department of Food Science and Technology on innovative ways to package and process foods ranging from chicken and bread to broccoli and beans.

Outstanding faculty recognized

Renee Boyer, top, Zach Adelman, above left, and Percival Zhang were honored at the 2015 CALS picnic.

Healthy Beverage Index gives consumers clearer information

Most consumers know that sugary drinks such as soda are not healthy. But now a team of researchers from the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise has developed an index that can more accurately measure how healthy a person’s overall beverage intake is.

Biochemistry student spends summer running to raise awareness of cancer

Hannah Ricketts took a road trip this past summer from San Francisco to Baltimore. Except she wasn’t in a car — she was powered by her own two feet. Ricketts, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry from Danville, Virginia, participated in the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults run to raise funds and awareness about issues that affect young adults dealing with the complications of cancer.

Study using genetic lines of Virginia Tech chickens reveals evolution happens faster than thought

A critical component of an experiment that proved evolution happens 15 times faster than was previously believed relied on genetic lines of chickens from Virginia Tech.

AFA creates future agriculture leaders

The future of farming may depend on students like Elizabeth Galbreath. Galbreath, a junior agribusiness major from Street, Maryland, is the campus ambassador for Agriculture Future of America, an organization that identifies, encourages, and supports high-achieving students by preparing them for careers in the agriculture and food industries.

Researchers, students, and industry all benefit from new dairy science complex

More than 1,500 people celebrated the grand opening of the new Dairy Science Complex - Kentland Farm in July. Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, along with Mike Akers, head of dairy science, and Ed Jones, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, were among the many speakers at the opening who talked about the importance and impact of the new facility.

Growing 4-H science

During the first week of October, middle school students from Richmond got to experience first-hand Virginia’s No. 1 industry: agriculture. The students, along with parents and educators, traveled across the state exploring Virginia’s $55 billion agriculture industry during the five-day tour.

Alumni Happenings

CALS FallFest Homecoming Celebration

More than 300 alumni, faculty, staff, and students from the college celebrated with friends from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University before the Virginia Tech-Ohio State game Sept. 7.

Other happenings

  • Virginia Tech and Purdue tailgate
  • Regional alumni dinner and program
  • News from the CALS Alumni Organization
  • Alumni making a difference

Around the College

In the past few months, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has new department heads, blooming corpse flowers, and visits from state officials. Click below to find out more!

About Innovations

Innovations is published by the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 104 Hutcheson Hall (0402), 250 Drillfield Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061.

Please email address changes and circulation inquiries to Editorial inquiries and other comments should be sent to Innovations Editor, 131 Smyth Hall (0904), 185 Ag Quad Lane, Blacksburg, VA 24061 or

Innovations is produced by the Office of Communications and Marketing, 130 Smyth Hall (0904), 185 Ag Quad Lane, Blacksburg, VA 24061, 540-231-5309.

Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law.

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