Ageism is the latest form of prejudice being studied, although certainly not new in American culture, according to Toni Calasanti, professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech. Her research is the lead story in the winter 2011 Virginia Tech Research magazine.

We tend to resist signs of aging and want to keep passing for younger, Calasanti said, since being old affects our social status. She conducts interviews and studies Web pages, past scholarly articles, and other research to look at ageism. While people, including academics, do not want to think of themselves as growing old, "ageism oppresses the people we will become, cuts off our options for collective action now, and arms us for battles we cannot win alone, while leading us to ignore that which binds us," she said.

On a happier note, the magazine also features the successful, long-term research about how to help piping plovers, by Jim Fraser, professor of fisheries and wildlife sciences, and his student in the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech. When a massive storm in 1992 wiped out the homes on West Hampton Dunes, N.Y., the threatened shorebirds thrived on the post-storm island. Fraser, who had been studying the birds' decline, now had field site where he could study their recovery. As a result, Fraser’s team has provided land managers with the tools to create more favorable conditions for piping plovers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the hard data it needs to defend its conservation practices.

Other stories in the issue are about

  • The surprising social behavior of healthy birds and their sick flock mates, reported by biological sciences researchers;
  • A new program created by landscape architecture researchers that is providing planners and the public with 3-D interactive views via the Internet of the possible outcomes of development – using Claytor Lake as an example;
  • How physicians and veterinary researchers are collaborating to understand the causes of breathing disorders, speed diagnosis, and treat people and horses;
  • Safeguards being developed by the Synthetic Biology Research Group in the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute to help ensure that our new ability to design artificial biological systems moves in a safe and useful direction, such as new medicines and alternative forms of energy; and
  • Discoveries by engineers of how bats are able to navigate complicated, crowded, and changing environments while man-made sensory systems are prone to catastrophic failures in the same situation.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.


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