Virginia Tech, Wake Forest biomedical research program grows at a record pace
The School of Biomedical Engineering and Science (SBES), a joint venture between Virginia Tech and the Wake Forest University School of Medicine had a record performance on the Blacksburg, Va., campus in terms of new sponsored research awards in fiscal year 2004-05.
The unit brought in more than $4 million in new grants. This figure has been growing rapidly since the school was conceptualized in 2001. (Totals were $500,000 in 2001, almost $1.2 million in 2002, over $1.2 million in 2003; over $3 million in 2004, and just over $4 million in 2005).
SBES was the first initiative of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, a multi-disciplinary institute that fosters the development of high growth opportunities within the university’s engineering and physical sciences disciplines.
“This is a classic example of how we would like to see the university’s investments pay off,” said Rodd Hall, term director of ICTAS. “It takes a few years for the awards to start coming in, but when you have invested carefully in a high-potential area, the growth can be tremendous.”
The idea to partner the two schools that reside in neighboring states developed through a joint effort of several faculty members. They include: Wally Grant, a professor of engineering science and mechanics, and Elaine Scott, a professor of mechanical engineering and the director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Biomedical Engineering, both at Virginia Tech; and Peter Santago, chair of Wake Forest’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and an alumnus of Virginia Tech’s Department of Computer Science, and C. Douglas Maynard, former chair of the radiology department, also of Wake Forest.
Scott became the first SBES acting director, stepping down during fall, 2005, and Grant now fills the position on an interim basis as of Sept. 9. “We have moved the SBES program forward, and our vision is to create an environment that will attract outstanding researchers from around the world. I believe we are off to a good start,” Scott said.
In 2006, SBES will recruit its full-time, permanent director to start with the 2006-07 academic year.
“Wake Forest was able to move the entire tissue engineering research group from Harvard University to its campus two years ago, establishing the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and at Virginia Tech, we have faculty like Stefan Duma in mechanical engineering and Kevin Granta in engineering science and mechanics who have collectively brought in more than $3.3 million in new awards in the past two academic years,” she added.
In the university’s financial system, the productivity was divided between eight departments over two colleges (colleges of engineering and veterinary medicine). Leaders were: mechanical engineering, $1.353M; engineering science and mechanics, $910,000; the Northern Virginia Division, $796,000; and industrial and systems engineering, $753,000.
Hall said that making sure these departments receive dual-credit for their efforts is one of the highest priorities of ICTAS. “When departments and colleges receive credit for the work of their faculty members, everyone seems to work together with a real sense of collegiality. That has certainly been the case with SBES.”
Santago concurred, saying: “SBES is a driving force to link technology and medicine, a key element for increasing the research bases for both Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. The newly funded CIREN Center, a collaborative effort between the Division of Surgical Sciences at Wake Forest’s Medical Center and the Center for Injury Biomechanics at Virginia Tech is a prime example of the kinds of successes we expect in the future.”
Dick Benson, dean of the College of Engineering and chairman of the school’s governing board, said, "This positive news will assist us in the recruitment of a new director. When this school is fully up and running, it will be a true powerhouse with its combined resources."