Virginia Tech College of Science

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Virginia Tech
College of Science
Motto Ut Prosim (That I may serve)
Established 2003
Type Public
Dean Lay Nam Chang
Location Blacksburg, Virginia

The College of Science at Virginia Tech contains academic programs in biology, chemistry, economics, geosciences, mathematics, physics, psychology, and statistics. In 2010-11, the College of Science consisted of 339 faculty members and 4,370 students.[1] The college was established in July 2003 after university restructuring split the College of Arts and Sciences, established in 1963, into two distinct colleges. Lay Nam Chang has been acting dean of the College of Science since its inception in 2003.[2]


The College of Science contains eight departments for undergraduate and graduate study. In addition to these eight departments, the college also offers degrees through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Biochemistry, which offers undergraduate students a bachelor of science in biochemistry and graduate students a master of science or doctoral degree. The college also houses Virginia Tech’s two largest undergraduate degree-granting programs, biology and psychology.[3]

Biological Sciences[edit]

As of 2010, the Department of Biological Sciences contained the largest undergraduate degree-granting program on campus. Undergraduates in this department can earn a Bachelor of Science and have the option to specialize in Microbiology and Immunology. Graduate students can earn a Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy degrees.[4]


The Department of Chemistry is located in Davidson Hall, Hahn Hall North, and Hahn Hall South. The department consists of approximately 300 undergraduate majors, 30 professors, eight instructors, and 40 staff members. Undergraduates can earn either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science in chemistry, and graduate students can earn either a master of science or doctoral degree.[5]


The Department of Economics is based in both the College of Science and the Pamplin College of Business. Undergraduates can earn a bachelor of arts in economics. Graduate students can earn a master of science or doctoral degree.[6]


The Department of Geosciences offers undergraduates a bachelor’s degree in geosciences by way of four options: geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and earth science education. Graduate students can earn a master of science or doctoral degree. The Department of Geosciences’ graduate program has two top-ranking programs: paleontology and earth sciences.[7]


In the Department of Mathematics, undergraduates can earn a bachelor of science in mathematics. Graduate students can earn a master of science or doctoral degree. The Department of Mathematics also offers a mathematics education option, in which students can earn master or doctoral degrees in education.[8]


The Department of Physics is housed in Robeson Hall and Hahn Hall North. The department also often uses labs in Derring Hall. Undergraduates can earn a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts. in physics. Graduate students can earn a master of science or doctoral degree. Graduate students can also participate in an internship program that leads to a master’s degree in applied and industrial physics.[9]


The Department of Psychology is located in Williams Hall. In 2010, the department’s undergraduate program in psychology was the second largest degree-granting undergraduate program on campus. Undergraduate students in this department can earn a bachelor of science in psychology. Graduate students can earn a doctoral degree in three areas: clinical psychology, biological psychology, and industrial/organizational psychology. (Students can earn a master of science en route to a doctoral degree, but the department does not offer a terminal master’s degree). The clinical psychology doctoral program is fully accredited by the American Psychological Association and is a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science Programs.[10]


The Department of Statistics is located in Hutcheson Hall. Undergraduates in this department can earn a bachelor’s degree in statistics, and graduate students can earn either a master of science or doctoral degree.[11]


The College of Science received $31.94 million in funding from government agencies and private corporations in 2010. This money was used to fund research opportunities for students and faculty in the college. As of 2010, 57 percent of undergraduates graduating from the College of Science participated in research for credit.[12]

Virginia Tech has numerous interdisciplinary research institutes available for use by the faculty and students of the College of Science, including:

  • Institute for Advanced Study
  • Fralin Life Science Institute
  • Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS)
  • Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment (ISCE)
  • Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTC)

Distinguished Faculty[edit]

Martha Ann Bell, professor of psychology, has published numerous articles related to the field of child psychology and has been the recipient of many internal and external grants, including grants from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.[13] She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association.[14]

Robert Bodnar, University Distinguished Professor of Geosciences, has played a major role in analyzing the costs and benefits of uranium mining in Virginia.[15]

Ezra “Bud” Brown, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, has taught at Virginia Tech since 1969.[16]

Arthur Buikema Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor of Biology, has been teaching at Virginia Tech since 1971; as a Fulbright fellow, he taught and developed programs in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.[17]

Dennis Dean, University Distinguished Professor of Biology, is the director of the Fralin Life Science Institute. Dean has received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Office of Naval Research.[18]

E. Scott Geller, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology, coined the phrase behavior-based safety in 1979. He also started an initiative called Actively Caring for People that promotes safety culture.[19]

Michael Hochella Jr., University Distinguished Professor of Geosciences, has been a Fulbright Scholar, a Humboldt Award winner, and Virginia Outstanding Scientist. He is also a Fellow of six international scientific societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).[20]

David Kingston, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, holds 14 U.S. patents and has two plants, Taxus kingstonii and Cordia kingstoniana, named in his honor.[21]

James McGrath is a University Distinguished Professor in Chemistry and Ethyl Corporation Chair.[22]

Thomas Ollendick is a University Distinguished Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Child Study Center in Blacksburg, Va. Since coming to Virginia Tech in 1980, he has served on several committees, including the Clinical Treatment Guidelines Advisory Steering Committee of the American Psychological Association, and he has been ranked the 10th-most frequently published core clinical faculty member in a study of 157 clinical psychology programs nationwide.[23]

John Tyson, University Distinguished Professor of Biology, has won numerous honors and awards, including the Virginia Outstanding Scientist award from the Office of the Governor, the Arthur T. Winfree Prize, and Associate Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Belgium.[24]


According to U.S. News & World Report’s “America Best Graduate Schools 2012,” the paleontology and earth sciences graduate programs rank ninth and 28th in the nation, respectively. Both of these programs are part of the Department of Geosciences, which has been consistently ranked among the best overall geosciences graduate programs in the nation for the past 20 years.

In 2011, the U.S. News & World Report also ranked the Department of Psychology’s clinical psychology program 33rd for the third consecutive year. In a recent study of 157 similar programs across the nation, the clinical psychology doctoral program was ranked seventh in research productivity and 19th in overall research. The Ph.D. program in clinical psychology is also a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science Programs, which is composed of the top 40 research-oriented programs in the United States and Canada.

Notable Alumni[edit]

  • Mary Brumfield (biology 1923; M.S. 1925) was the first female student to graduate from Virginia Tech.[25]
  • Robert M. Thomas (chemistry 1929) was the co-inventor of butyl rubber, a synthetic material that became famous during World War II.[26]
  • Wilson B. Bell (biology 1934; M.S. 1935; Ph.D. 1952) co-developed a new vaccine to protect calves against bovine leptospirosis, which had cost livestock raisers throughout the country thousands of dollars daily.[27]
  • James M. Smith Jr. (M.S. chemistry 1936) and his colleagues developed methotrexate as a cancer chemotherapeutic agent.[28]
  • Benjamin Rubin (M.S. biology 1938) invented the bifurcated vaccination needle to deliver tiny amounts of smallpox vaccine. The needle is credited with helping to eradicate smallpox.[29]
  • James F. Van Pelt Jr. (biology 1940) was the navigator of a B-29 Superfortress in both atomic bomb attacks against Japan at the close of World War II. He navigated the instrument ship in the first attack against Hiroshima, and his airplane dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.[30]
  • Robert C. Richardson (physics 1958, M.S. 1960) won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering how helium-3 can transform itself into a liquid that flows without friction at temperatures near absolute zero.[31]
  • William W. Lewis Jr. (physics 1963) was Virginia Tech’s first Rhodes Scholar and went on to earn a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Oxford in 1966.[32]
  • Roger K. Crouch (M.S. physics 1968; Ph.D. 1971) twice served as the scientific astronaut with the Columbia space shuttle in 1997.[33]
  • Jim Buckmaster (biochemistry 1984) is CEO of Craigslist, a centralized network of online urban communities that features free classified ads and forums on multiple topics.[35]
  • Mark Embree (mathematics and computer science 1996) became Virginia Tech’s second Rhodes Scholar in 1996. Currently, Embree is professor of computational and applied mathematics at Rice University.[36]
  • Roger Craig (biology 1999, biochemistry 1999) became the highest one-day total winner on the game show “Jeopardy!” in 2010. He won $77,000 in one evening, surpassing the previous record of $75,000. His seven-day total winnings of $231,200—amassed before his run as the show’s champion ended Sept. 21, 2010—was third highest for the show, excluding tournaments.[37]


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