Virginia Tech early-career faculty earn 54 prestigious awards | VTx

In a reception held at Virginia Tech’s University Club last week, the Research and Innovation office honored faculty who have received prestigious early career awards over the past three years.

Since 2019, Virginia Tech faculty have received 54 early career awards, including the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, Department of Energy Early Career Research award, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award, National Institutes of Health Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (R35); and the Office of Naval Research and Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Program awards, which provide resources for promising early career faculty to build a strong foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

At the inaugural event, host Dan Sui, senior vice president of research and innovation, emphasized that the first years of faculty careers are full of challenges and opportunities and critically important to launch a successful academic career.

“The early stages of the faculty career are important formative years,” said Sui, also the university’s chief research officer, who reflected on his personal experiences. “I can tell you first-hand that this is a highly stressful time – pre-tenure with lots of uncertainty with the expectation to develop new courses, publish in high-impact journals, serve on various committees, and secure extramural funding to support research and graduate students. ”

Prestigious award programs such as the NSF CAREER Program recognize early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

During the event Ron Fricker, vice provost for faculty affairs and interim dean of the College of Science, introduced faculty who spoke about their personal experiences in pursuing these awards and described their research to peers and leadership.

Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke acknowledged their “hard work and scholarship, especially over the past couple of years during this most challenging time in our university’s history, which has set a standard for academic and research excellence.

“I am grateful for your efforts and commitment to advancing Virginia Tech’s research enterprise, and the global reputation of our university,” Clarke said.

Today, Randy Heflin, senior associate vice president for research and innovation, is hosting an NSF CAREER award workshop for junior-level, tenure-track faculty to learn how to prepare effective proposals for the program. A similar seminar series, tailored to scholars in the social sciences, is offered annually by the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment.

Enhanced efforts to support faculty in their research efforts has been a priority for Research and Innovation. Last year, Sui’s office launched a research development microsite within research.vt.edu, providing research faculty direct access to resources, training, funding opportunities, partners, and events and programs. Sui also launched the Research Development Support series to help faculty in their journey to increase the scope and impact of their research, creativity, and innovation portfolio.

Additionally, the university has a long-standing program, currently led by Alex Leonessa, professor of mechanical engineering, called the Proposal Development Institute. The semester-long program provides a variety of experiences that collectively enhance the ability of Virginia Tech tenure-track faculty and research assistant professors to successfully pursue externally funded grants and contracts to support their research and scholarly activities. The program is designed to help early-career faculty members to translate research ideas into formally written proposals to external sponsors and includes a portfolio of activities tailored to the participants, regardless of their affiliation.

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