Fralin Institute researcher awarded $2.7 million grant for heart research

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Fralin researcher received NIH grant

James Smyth, associate professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, has received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate why viruses that normally infect our lungs can become deadly , when they infect the heart.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. Infection-related inflammation of the heart, called myocarditis, is responsible for 42 percent of all sudden deaths in young adults and is a major cause of death in infants and children.

Inflammation occurs when our immune system shuts down an infection, and most of what is known about how the heart is affected during viral myocarditis has historically focused on such responses.

Smyth takes a different approach. He studies the virus to find out what happens during infection prior to inflammation. His team has identified changes in the heart caused by the virus prior to an immune response that can lead to fatal cardiac arrhythmias.

“Right now we don’t understand why certain viruses infect the heart or what they do at the molecular level that leads to arrhythmias,” Smyth said. “This work will examine and shed new light on how viral infection of the heart muscle actually leads to sudden cardiac arrest.”

Smyth’s lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute studies how heart cells communicate with each other to keep the heart beating.

Smyth, who is also an associate professor in the College of Science’s Department of Biological Sciences, is recruiting team members, including a research associate and a postdoctoral researcher, to join his research team at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

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Top row, from left: Viswanath Venkatesh, Georgia Hodes, Zheng Xiang. Bottom row left to right: Lina Quan, Walid Saad, Wenjing Lou. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Six tech researchers on the much-cited list

Six Virginia Tech researchers were included in Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researchers 2022 list for demonstrating significant impact in their fields or multiple fields through the publication of multiple highly cited articles over the past decade.

The names of the most-cited researchers are drawn from the publications that rank in the top 1 percent by citations for subject and publication year in the Web of Science citation index, and the list identifies the research institutions and countries in which they are based.

Virginia Tech researchers Lina Quan and Georgia E. Hodes received the distinction of being cited as “cross-disciplinary,” a category that identifies researchers who have contributed to highly cited articles in multiple fields. Some Virginia Tech researchers listed below have appeared multiple times on this prestigious list.

Hodes, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the College of Science, has been cited for cross-disciplinary studies examining gender differences in the peripheral and central immune systems and examining how immune mechanisms interact with brain plasticity to drive behavioral differences related to susceptibility and resilience to stress to advance . Her research interests include the molecular substrates that control the functional contribution of hormones and cytokines to the onset, symptoms and causation of mood disorders in both sexes.

Wenjing Lou, WC English Endowed Professor of Computer Science at the College of Engineering, has made innovative and widely cited research in a range of challenging security and privacy contexts, including problems emerging in next-generation wireless networks, the Internet of Things, Network management and routing, blockchain systems, and data security and data protection in the cloud. Lou, who also holds a courtesy position in electrical and computer engineering and is co-director of the Complex Networks and Security Research Lab, has been an IEEE Fellow since 2015 and founded the IEEE Conference on Communications and Network Security.

Viswanath Venkatesh, the Verizon Professor in the Department of Information Systems and Director of the Executive Ph.D. program at Pamplin College of Business, has published 140 journal articles in diverse fields including human-computer interaction, information systems, organizational behavior, psychology, marketing, medical informatics, and operations management. He is the most cited scholar at Virginia Tech according to Clarivate’s Web of Science with nearly 50,000 citations and more than 152,000 citations on Google Scholar. Venkatesh’s research focuses on understanding the diffusion of technology in organizations and society, and he has published several high-impact articles on societal and organizational problems.

Quan, an assistant professor of chemistry at the College of Science, was cited for cross-disciplinary studies focused on the optical and electronic properties of emerging semiconductors such as perovskites for use in next-generation optoelectronic applications. With her research group, Quan uses a range of state-of-the-art characterization techniques (ultrafast laser, synchrotron X-ray) to study the photophysics of materials and devices with high spatial and temporal resolution. Applications for their research are: light collection, light emission and other related optoelectronic devices.

College of Engineering Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and IEEE Fellow, Walid Saad was cited for his research at the intersection of wireless systems, artificial intelligence (AI), game theory and cyber-physical systems, including pioneering contributions to new wireless systems systems including 5G, 6G and beyond; machine learning and edge computing/AI. Saad, an expert in wireless systems and AI, leads the Network Science, Wireless, and Security Laboratory and is the leader of the Next-G Wireless Faculty for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus Leverage brain-like intelligence and reasoning to address the unique needs of future applications support, such as B. wireless augmented reality and digital twins that will be the pillars of the expected metaverse.

Zheng Xiang, associate professor and director of hospitality and tourism management at Pamplin College of Business, was cited for his research spanning travelers’ use of information technology, digital marketing strategies, emerging technologies and social media analysis. His research focuses on the strategic implications of information technologies for the hospitality and tourism industries. He was President of the International Federation for IT and Travel and Tourism and is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Information Technology and Tourism.

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Tracy Deadline. Courtesy of Ferrum College.

Ferrum Receives $10,000 Gift for Appalachian Literature Project

Tracy R. Frist, a former Ferrum College student, recently gave Ferrum College $10,000 to support the college’s Appalachian Literature Project (AppLit) and the digitization and archiving needs of the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum (BRIM).

“Tracy’s generous gift to the BRIM Archives will provide us with the resources we need to digitize collections of folk tales and songs so they are readily available for public consumption,” said Bethany Worley, director of the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum in a Statement.

AppLit is an online resource library created by Tina L. Hanlon, Professor of English at Ferrum College, to serve as an archive of Appalachian literature for children and young adults. Frist’s own original animal story, Mountain Marbles: An Appalachian Tale, is archived at the site and is an example of how the project includes both student and faculty authored works and those derived from speeches.

Originally funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2000, the AppLit project serves as a resource for educators and playwrights.

In addition to Frist’s gift, Ferrum College received a Humanities Research Grant for the Common Good from the Counsel of Independent Colleges to fund student work on the project.

“DR. Tina Hanlon taught me that the preservation of culture, history, and diversity lies in storytelling. Ferrum College and the larger Appalachian community are filled with powerful and transformative stories. I wanted to help enrich those stories with this rich cultural evidence to save and make them accessible to all,” Frist said in a statement.