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Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award

Recognizing faculty whose research, teaching, or Extension accomplishments have potential or realized state or national level impacts on agriculture and life science industries, communities, and agencies in fulfillment of the land-grant mission.

The winner will be selected based on his or her creative accomplishments as they contribute to solving practical problems and enhancing production and profit in agriculture and life sciences, as related to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' vision and mission.

The Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award is made possible by an endowment established in honor of former Dean Andy Swiger. The award includes $2,000 (personal funds), plus an additional $2,000 in operating funds for the winner.

All full- and part-time, regular and restricted appointments, academic- and calendar-year faculty with teaching, research, or Extension appointments (including Extension agents) in the college are eligible.

A committee of faculty and agribusiness representatives will review nominations and recommend a winner to the dean.

Richard Helm

Rich established the Virginia Tech-Mass Spectrometry Incubator in 2007 and continues to be its director. The operation of this facility serves as a critically important resource not only for the faculty in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences but also for the whole university. Rich single-handedly started the efforts to acquire the instrumentation and physically established the infrastructure and personnel that became VT-MSI.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Rich worked with Carla Finkielstein to transform the Steger facilities into the first COVID testing site at Virginia Tech. He then helped Carla to transition the program to the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke in the fall of last year and continued to work with her group on this effort, recently establishing sequencing protocols and procedures to track SARS-CoV-2 variants in the region. Rich’s ability to scale up sample processing anddata analytics, while implementing a high level of quality control, have in both cases been critical to success.

Virginia Tech’s ability to mount a rapid and effective response to the need for testing, and now also variant tracking, is in no small measure due to Rich’s expertise, insight, and ability to foster collaboration in an extremely challenging and largely unexplored environment.

The nomination packet should be no more than five (5) pages and include all of the following:

  • A description of the nominee's activities that emphasizes his or her creative accomplishments in applied or basic research, teaching, and/or Extension.
  • A description of the impact that the nominee has made impactful progress towards solving practical problems and how this effort has enhanced production and profit in agriculture and life sciences.
  • A clear identification of the time period and who has been impacted by or has benefited from the faculty member's accomplishments. Evidence may be included as excerpts from supporting letters or the original letter(s) within the nomination packet's five-page limit.
  • A short summary of the faculty member's education, experience, and responsibilities.

Colleagues, department heads, staff, or members of the community who are familiar with the nominee's work are encouraged to submit nomination letters. You can resubmit an updated nomination letter for a previous year's nominee.

  • A certificate will be presented to the selected individual(s) either at the annual meeting of the college's dean or during another appropriate ceremony organized to recognize the accomplishments of the college's  faculty.
  • If not selected during the first year of consideration, each nominee will be considered by the award committee for two additional years.

Submitting your Nominations

All nominations must be submitted via the Submittable link below. For questions regarding the award or submission process, please contact Laura Rasnick, or 540.231.6336.


Former Dean Andy Swiger

Andy Swiger

“I and others in the industry and university created the awards to keep the land-grant spirit alive by honoring the college’s outstanding faculty and staff members each year who most personify this spirit of serving the industry by making a real difference in the areas of food, agriculture, and life sciences,” said Dean Emeritus Andy Swiger.