Dear Colleagues,

CALS Dean Alan Grant

Alan Grant, dean
Alan Grant, dean

I am extremely pleased to welcome 15 new tenure-track faculty members to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. These individuals represent the best in their fields and will help us remain at the forefront of academics, research, and Extension.

Their specialties focus on some of the world's most critical issues and target strategic areas of growth in the college. They also reflect the university's Destination Areas that will solidify Virginia Tech's role as a leader in higher education for decades to come. This new group of faculty members will be instrumental in helping shape that vision for the college.

Positions were identified to bring new talent to our focus areas, such as food and health, infectious disease, biodesign and processing, and agricultural profitability and environmental sustainability. Their appointments are distributed across teaching, research, and Extension — a reflection of our land-grant mission that is at the core of everything we do.

Please join me in welcoming these outstanding individuals to the college and Virginia Tech.

Sincerely, 

Alan Grant, dean

A. Jonathan Auguste

A. Jonathan Auguste

Assistant professor
Department of Entomology

jauguste@vt.edu
540-231-6158
306 Fralin Hall, 360 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/17

Education 

Ph.D., Molecular Genetics, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, 2011.

B.Sc., Biochemistry, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, 2006.

Focus 

Auguste's general research theme involves understanding the ecological and evolutionary factors involved in emergence, dispersal, and maintenance of arboviruses. Auguste is also a "virus hunter" and studies the genetic and structural characteristics of novel arboviruses he discovers during his fieldwork.

His current focus is understanding the mechanisms by which insect-specific viruses are unable to replicate in vertebrate cells and elucidating the mechanism by which insect-specific viruses preclude super-infection of pathogenic flaviviruses in vivo. Auguste's research employs mosquitoes and small animal models and is performed at biosafety levels 2 and 3 labs at the Fralin Life Science Institute.

Susan Elizabeth Chen

Susan Elizabeth Chen

Associate professor
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

ecsusan@vt.edu
540-231-4730
208 Hutcheson Hall (0401), Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/17

Education 

Ph.D., Economics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004

M.S., Agricultural Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1995

B.A., Economics and Chemistry, Cornell University, 1992

Focus 

Chen's research specialty is in health economics. Her research focuses on the health care sector and also on the effects of government expenditure programs such as Social Security, nutrition assistance programs, and education initiatives on the behavior of individuals. Her current research applications focus on obesity and health, labor supply and health, and school policy and child disability.

Margaret J. Couvillon

Margaret J. Couvillon

Assistant professor
Department of Entomology

mjc@vt.edu
540-231-5707
302 Price Hall, 170 Drillfield Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 12/25/16

Education 

Ph.D., Behavioral Ecology of Bees, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 2007

M.S., Neurobiology, Duke University, 2004

B.S., Biology, Loyola University, New Orleans, 2000

Focus 

Couvillon is a broadly trained bee researcher with a particular interest in the how/where/when honey bees and other flower-visiting insects collect their food in the landscape, thereby providing the ecosystem service of pollination.

Her research plans to scale up a methodology, which she helped develop, that uses honey bees as environmental consultants. Their unique and fascinating foraging and recruitment dance behaviors represent an untapped resource for ecology that may be used to evaluate the profitability of the landscape for all flower-visiting insects.

Jonathan A. Czuba

Jonathan A. Czuba

Assistant professor
Department of Biological Systems Engineering

jczuba@vt.edu
540-231-4858
301 Seitz Hall (0303), 155 Ag Quad Lane, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/2017

Education 

Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Civil Engineering, 2016

M.S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Civil Engineering, 2009

B.S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Civil Engineering, 2007

Focus 

Czuba performs fundamental, quantitative research on physical processes in rivers, their linkages to water quality, nutrients, vegetation, and biota, and the interactions between these processes and humans. His current research includes: (1) watershed-scale dynamics of sediment, nutrients, and biota, (2) river-floodplain-vegetation morphodynamics, and (3) river hydraulics and sediment transport; utilizing theory, numerical modeling, and field measurements.

As a doctoral student, Czuba was the recipient of a 2015-16 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship, 2015-16 Edward Silberman Fellowship, and 2015 Alvin G. Anderson Award. Czuba also has more than five years of experience working for the U.S. Geological Survey in Illinois and Washington.

Aaron D. Gross

Aaron D. Gross

Assistant professor
Department of Entomology

adgross@vt.edu
540-232-8448
307 Latham Hall (0390), 220 Ag Quad Lane, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/2017

Education 

Postdoctoral Training, Emerging Pathogens Institute, University of Florida, 2014-17

Ph.D., Toxicology (minors: Entomology and Neuroscience), Iowa State University of Science and Technology, 2014

M.S., Toxicology, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, 2010

B.S., Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, St. Cloud State University, 2007

Focus 

Gross' research program focuses on controlling arthropod pests that have a significant impact on human health, animal health, and agriculture. His research interests focus on the discovery and mode of action of natural and synthetic pesticides at underutilized targets (GPCRs and ion channels). Additional research interests include investigating the mechanisms involved in host-vector interaction.

Gross received a U.S. EPA-STAR fellowship to investigate the mode of action of natural terpenoids against ticks. Additionally, he received the American Chemical Society’s (Agrochemical Division) New Investigator Award for research on the mode of action of a pyrazole oxime at mosquito muscarinic acetylcholine receptors.

Matthew "Matt" T. Holt

Matthew "Matt" T. Holt

Professor and department head
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

mattholt@vt.edu
540-231-2609
208-A Hutcheson Hall (0401), 250 Drillfield Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/16/17

Education 

Ph.D., Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri, Columbia, 1987

M.S., Agricultural Economics, Purdue University, 1983

B.S., Agricultural Economics, Purdue University, 1981

Focus 

Holt's research uses modern time-series methods to study the behavior of agricultural and natural-resource commodity markets. His recent publications have focused on interactions between climate anomalies and agricultural commodity markets, the role of transactions costs and, more generally, nonlinearities in domestic and international commodity price relationships, and the role of large-scale mechanical refrigeration in altering U.S. agricultural markets and production patterns during the industrial revolution (1880-1910). His current research examines co-shifting in global, hemispheric temperature trends and the impact of climate anomalies on conditional corn yield distributions over time.

Leonie Jacobs

Leonie Jacobs

Assistant professor
Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences

jacobsl@vt.edu
540-231-4735
368 Litton Reaves Hall (3120), 175 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/17

Education 

Ph.D., Veterinary Science, Ghent University, Belgium, 2016

M.S., Animal Sciences, Wageningen University, Netherlands, 2012

M.S., Animal Sciences, Swedish Agricultural University, Sweden, 2012

B.S., Animal Management, Van Hall Larenstein, Netherlands, 2009

Focus 

Jacobs' research focuses on the welfare of poultry. Her interests include applied measures to improve welfare, pre-slaughter issues, on-farm welfare assessments, effective worker training, and humane slaughter. Her appointment at Virginia Tech includes research and Extension work.

Her Ph.D. research aimed at identifying broiler chicken welfare problems during transportation. Besides pinpointing problem areas, she developed a pre-slaughter welfare monitoring protocol with an integrated welfare-score calculation. Other poultry work includes a project on humane on-farm killing of individual birds and an M.S. thesis on the impact of Northern Fowl mites on night-time behavior of laying hens.

Timothy Jarome

Timothy Jarome

Assistant professor
Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences

540-231-3520
2150 Litton-Reaves Hall, 175 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 12/25/17

Education 

Postdoctoral Fellow, Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2013-17

Ph.D., Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2013

M.S., Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2010

B.A., Psychology, Kent State University, 2006

Focus 

Jarome's research examines the neurobiology of learning and memory, focusing on how memories of aversive experiences are stored in the brain and shape future behavior. He is particularly interested in how aversive experiences drive epigenetic changes in neurons, which in turn control future behavioral and physiological responses.

During Jarome's postdoctoral training, he was funded by a fellowship from the American Federation for Aging Research. Prior to that, his graduate work was funded by a grant from the American Psychological Foundation and an individual National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Jacob Lahne

Jacob Lahne

Assistant professor
Department of Food Science and Technology

jlahne@vt.edu
540-231-7428
402F HABB1 (0924), 1230 Washington Street SW, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/17

Education

Ph.D., Animal, Nutrition, and Food Sciences, University of Vermont, 2014

M.S., Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2010

B.A., Mathematics, Oberlin College, 2006

Focus

Lahne's specific expertise is in sensory evaluation and how food is perceived by humans. He is particularly interested in craft and artisan food production, which broadly includes small producers, traditional practices, and home and restaurant cooking. He is currently working on a number of research projects, including the development of a measurement tool for individuals' capacity for food preparation; the flavor profiling and consumer liking for American whiskeys; and the perception of foods in vivo within real-meal contexts.

Justin A. Lemkul

Justin A. Lemkul

Assistant professor
Department of Biochemistry

jalemkul@vt.edu
540-231-3129
303 Engel Hall, 340 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/17

Education

Ph.D., Biochemistry, Virginia Tech, 2012

B.S. in Honors, Biochemistry, Virginia Tech, 2007

Focus

Lemkul's research focuses on applying computer simulations to understanding mechanisms of protein aggregation and using new approaches to computer-aided drug design. He is particularly interested in disordered states in proteins and nucleic acids, as these are new targets for pharmaceutical design.

Lemkul was named the Outstanding Doctoral Student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2012, and was awarded the Outstanding STEM Dissertation by the Virginia Tech Graduate School in 2013. His postdoctoral work was funded by a fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, during which time he developed the simulation model used in his current work.

Clinton Neill

Clinton Neill

Assistant Professor
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

cneill@vt.edu
540-231-0770
322 Hutcheson Hall, 250 Drillfield Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/17

Education

Ph.D., Agricultural Economics, Oklahoma State University, 2017

M.S., Agricultural and Applied Economics, Texas Tech University, 2014

B.S., Agricultural and Applied Economics, Texas Tech University, 2014

Focus

Neill's appointment is focused on Extension and teaching. His primary research is on food-system economics and agribusiness. Specifically, his work involves understanding consumers' desires for food labels and the potential policy effects of such labels. Neill is also interested in understanding how firms spatially compete against each other locally and regionally.

Additionally, Neill's Extension program targets new agribusinesses and encourages them to develop business plans in order to be successful in the long-term. He also disseminates the differences between potential food labels and which ones are most effective in marketing new products.

Ford Ramsey

Ford Ramsey

Assistant professor
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

aframsey@vt.edu
540-231-5032
202-B Hutcheson Hall, 250 Drillfield Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/2017

Education

Ph.D., Economics, North Carolina State University, 2017

M.A., Teaching, University of North Carolina, 2011

B.M., Music (second major in Economics), University of North Carolina, 2010

Focus

Ramsey's research is focused on the development of statistical and econometric methods for the analysis of risk in agriculture. He is especially interested in temporal and spatial models for agricultural yields and commodity prices. He holds a research and teaching appointment.

While a Ph.D. student, Ramsey conducted research, under a fellowship from the National Science Foundation's East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes, on the off-farm labor habits of Japanese farmers. He was also awarded the Heading South Award by the American Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and the Australasian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.

Sherif Sherif

Sherif Sherif

Assistant professor
Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center

ssherif@vt.edu
540-869-2560
595 Laurel Grove Road, Winchester, VA 22602

Hire Date: 01/25/17

Education

Ph.D., Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, 2011

M.Sc., Horticulture, Alexandria University, Egypt, 2004

B.Sc. (Honors), Horticulture, Alexandria University, Egypt, 2000

Focus

Sherif is responsible for developing research and Extension programs that support and improve the productivity and profitability of Virginia fruit producers. Sherif's research focuses on improving the efficiency of horticultural crop production through the selection of appropriate cultivars and rootstocks; improvement of fruit yield, quality, and storability; enhancing plant adaptability to biotic and abiotic stresses; discovery of safer, yet effective, approaches for disease management; and application of contemporary approaches in germplasm development.

Sherif's Extension activities are largely based on direct communication — through workshops, regional meetings, fruit schools, and on-farm visits — with all constituents of the tree fruit industry in Virginia. His Extension program also aims at engaging a wide audience beyond commercial fruit producers through social media and blogs.

Clement Vinauger

Clement Vinauger

Assistant professor
Department of Biochemistry

vinauger@vt.edu
317 Engel Hall, 340 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 10/10/2017

Education

Ph.D., Biology, Université François Rabelais, Tours, France, 2011

M.S., Biology, Université François Rabelais, Tours, France, 2008

B.S., Biology, Université d’Orléans-La-Source, France, 2006

Focus

The central theme of Vinauger's research is to seek to understand how disease-vector insects interact with their environment. In particular, his work is centered on the factors that modulate vector-host interactions. Among other things, he is focusing on how vectors' ability to learn to recognize and remember the best hosts (e.g., least defensive and easiest to feed on) could help them to reduce the uncertainty associated with their risky feeding habits. In this context, and relying on a collaborative and integrative approach, Vinauger's research combines field and laboratory work, quantitative analysis of behavior, electrophysiology, and molecular biology.

Karen Vines

Karen Vines

Assistant professor
Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education

kvines@vt.edu
540-231-1264
266 Litton-Reaves Hall, 175 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/17

Education

Ph.D., Agriculture and Extension Education, Penn State University, 2017

M.S., Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, 1989

B.S., Animal Sciences, University of Kentucky, 1987

Focus

Vines' primary interest is in providing Extension agents with professional-development experiences that allow them to excel and provide greater sustainability and resilience to their communities. Her dissertation explored the use of engaged delivery methods in Cooperative Extension. Some specific projects in which she has been involved include needs assessments of early-career Extension agents and online training on the use of social media for the national Extension Master Gardener program.

Vines is lead investigator on a NIFA-funded project focused on the prevention of prescription opioid abuse in rural Virginia. Vines teaches Introduction to Cooperative Extension and Educational Methods in Non-Formal Teaching and Learning courses.

Bain Wilson

Bain Wilson

Assistant professor
Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences

tbwilson@vt.edu
540-231-5253
368 Litton Reaves Hall (0306), 175 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/17

Education

Ph.D., Animal Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2015

M.S., Animal Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2012

B.S., Animal Sciences and Industry, Kansas State University, 2009

A.S., Agriculture Transfer, Black Hawk College East Campus, 2007

Focus

Wilson's appointment includes research and Extension responsibilities. Applied beef cattle nutrition and management research focuses on improving efficiency and profitability of forage-based production systems. His specific interests include grazing systems, targeted supplementation strategies, cow/calf management, and beef quality assurance.

Wilson's Extension efforts include working with beef producers to improve nutritional management in their operations and providing leadership for Virginia's state youth livestock programs. Wilson also coaches both 4-H and collegiate livestock-judging teams.

Previously, Wilson spent two years as a youth livestock educator at Virginia Tech. Wilson's graduate research focused on the influences of maternal nutrition on subsequent feedlot progeny.

Bo Zhang

Bo Zhang

Assistant professor
Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences

bozhang@vt.edu
540-231-1731
509 Latham Hall (0404), 220 Ag Quad Lane, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Hire Date: 08/10/17

Education

Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Arkansas, 2006

M.S., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, 2003

B.S., Horticulture, Shenyang Agricultural University, 1998

Focus

Zhang's research focuses upon developing new, improved, and market-needed soybean cultivars adapted to Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region. Her specific interests are to develop new and improved, conventional and herbicide-tolerant soybean varieties adapted to various production systems in a steady flow; to incorporate value-added traits to specialty soybeans to reinforce Virginia soybean growers' competitive ability in various markets; and to utilize molecular techniques to modify seed compositions for seed quality improvement. Zhang has been leading the soybean breeding program in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences since 2013 in a non-tenure track position.

New Faculty Advice

A selection of junior faculty were asked questions about coming to Virginia Tech and getting settled in the area. We hope this helps you get a head start on getting to know the area and your department.