Faculty mentor award recipients 2017
David Bevan, professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Bevan’s research involves the application of computational molecular modeling to relate the structure and dynamics of molecular systems to function. Systems currently under investigation include the amyloid beta-peptide that is associated with Alzheimer's disease and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor that is associated with inflammation, diabetes, and obesity. The lab also is initiating projects involving G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), and irisin, a recently discovered protein with hormone-like properties. His lab also uses computational methods to design enzymes aimed at altering the substrate specificity of existing enzymes.
Students and supporting faculty said in their nomination letters that Bevan maintains a positive and inclusive scholarly environment for graduate students that contributes to their professional and personal development. He helps students develop their strengths, but also to face challenges with which they are less comfortable, but that enable them to grow into independent and productive scientists. Bevan enables his graduate students to develop their own mentoring skills by working with undergraduate research students. He has supported diversity and inclusion efforts at Virginia Tech, as well.
Bevan earned his bachelor’s degree from Marietta College, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.
Miller’s research interests lie in the area of human attitudes and perceptions toward the environment and how the profession of landscape architecture contributes to human well-being through better design and planning. Through his research, he examines the ways in which humans can use the landscape to support their needs without harming critical social, cultural, and environmental systems. His design work looks for deeper understanding and experience of the world in which we live.
Students who nominated Miller applauded his strong record of advising doctoral students and dedication to educating the next generation of the academy. Students said Miller makes an extraordinary effort to get to know them as individuals and provides direction and advice to help them succeed in their career aspirations. He models deep personal integrity, the highest ethical standards, a solid commitment to inclusion and diversity, and demonstrated standards for personal excellence for his students.
Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from California State Polytechnic University, his master’s degree from University of California at Berkeley, and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
Amy Pruden, W. Thomas Rice Professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.
Pruden’s work is at the cross-section of environmental microbiology and environmental engineering, addressing such challenges as opportunistic pathogens and antibiotic resistance in drinking water, recycled water, and wastewater, and best management practices for preventing the spread of antibiotic resistance from agricultural sources. Her research group incorporates next-generation DNA sequencing technologies to track microbiomes through environmental systems in order to inform engineering designs that protect public health.
Pruden’s students called her a role model for her research and for her mentorship of students and colleagues across the program. They said she inspires them to uphold the ethical responsibility of practicing good science and meaningful work. Students said she pushes them to reach beyond their goals and to develop strengths they may not have recognized. Students praised her patience, scientific acumen, vision, and moral courage as much as her teaching and mentorship abilities. They also said they value her example of science aimed at benefitting the public.
Pruden earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Cincinnati.
April Few-Demo, associate professor of human development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
Few-Demo’s research interests include feminism and family studies, hip-hop influences on adolescent sexuality, intimate violence, racial and ethnic identity, and qualitative research methods. One of her most recent projects aimed to integrate diversity and intersectionality throughout the undergraduate curriculum in human development.
Few-Demo’s students said her expertise and ability to communicate well with students has made her highly sought after as an advisor and committee member. She understands the challenges that graduate teaching assistants face in the classroom and is known as an excellent and insightful mentor, especially for graduate students from underrepresented groups. And her hard work shows: Her students stand out because of their strong records of accomplishment and placement.
Few-Demo has received other recognition for her teaching and mentoring at Virginia Tech, including a Favorite Faculty Award from the Division of Student Affairs in 2013 and a College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Certificate of Teaching Excellence in 2010.
She earned her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, and her master’s degree from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Hopkins’ research focuses on physiological ecology and wildlife ecotoxicology, addressing pressing questions in both basic and applied science. To date, he has published more than 165 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters on subjects pertaining to environmental stressors, pollution, and the physiological ecology of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and bats. He currently is interested in the impacts that major global changes, such as climate change, invasive diseases, and deforestation, have on various physiological and behavioral processes, especially problems that involve the interplay of, and tradeoffs between, different physiological systems.
Hopkins’ current and former students said he is committed to graduate advising, noting he views it as his highest priority. He also has worked to promote mentorship of graduate students and interdisciplinary training across the university. He encourages students to pursue their own research goals, and he makes sure stakeholders and others recognize students’ work and accomplishments. Former students said he helped them develop mentorship skills ─ especially working with students from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds ─ that they now use as professors and researchers themselves.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from Mercer University, his master’s degree from Auburn University, and his doctorate from the University of South Carolina.
Ann Stevens, professor of biological sciences in the Virginia Tech College of Science.
The Stevens lab works in the general field of molecular microbiology with emphasis on bacterial environmental sensing and gene regulation. Research projects focus on the phenomenon of bacterial quorum sensing, a mechanism whereby bacterial cells communicate with one another through the use of small molecules called autoinducers. The lab currently studies the quorum sensing systems of three different bacteria. Two are vibrios: one that establishes symbiotic/beneficial relationships with animals (Vibrio fischeri) and another that is a human pathogen (Vibrio parahaemolyticus). The third is an important plant/corn pathogen (Pantoea stewartii).
Students nominating Stevens said she is known for patience, care, empathy, and high expectations. She helps students find opportunities to hone skills associated with their personal career goals and to develop excellence in their field. This includes teaching and funding opportunities students might not otherwise know about or seek. Her lab is a diverse and inclusive space, and she ensures that her students have opportunities to present their work, and to communicate it effectively, and to attend at least one conference each year.
Stevens earned her bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University, and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois, Urbana.
Lijuan Yuan, associate professor of virology and immunology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.
Yuan, a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, is an expert on rotaviruses, which are a common cause of acute dehydrating diarrhea in infants and young children and other young animals worldwide, and noroviruses, which cause most of the epidemic nonbacterial outbreaks of gastroenteritis around the world.
Her laboratory is developing a gnotobiotic pig model of human enteric virus infection and diseases and is studying mechanisms of probiotics’ immune modulating effects on innate and adaptive immunity induced by virus infection and vaccines in human rotavirus infection and disease using an animal model. She also studies norovirus pathogenesis and immunity and evaluates norovirus vaccines and potential anti-norovirus drugs.
Yuan’s students called her a remarkable academic mentor and a compassionate individual who not only shares her joy in her work with students, but encourages their own passion for science. Students said she has the ability to take a student with little experience in the field and help them become well-trained researchers. She also encourages students to develop a good work-life balance. Through her mentoring, her students said, they have learned to become mentors themselves.
Yuan earned her bachelor’s degrees from Beijing University, her master’s degree from the Capital Institute of Pediatrics in Beijing, and her Ph.D. from Ohio State University.