When faculty members from different disciplines gather, they learn one another’s language.

So the process continued Wednesday as two groups of about 100 faculty members each joined at the Graduate Life Center to discuss the Adaptive Brain and Behavior Across the Lifespan destination area, and the Resilient Earth Systems destination area.

The sessions are part of a continuing process to identify difficult problems in society — areas that Virginia Tech can tackle with established, cross-disciplinary expertise to improve the human condition while also positioning the university as an important hub for research, scholarship, and learning.

Karen Roberto, a University Distinguished Professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, provided the 30,000-foot general overview for the “adaptive brain” session, while William Hopkins, a professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, briefed faculty in the Resilient Earth Systems workshop.

Along with participants in the National Capital Region, faculty members were asked to think about large societal problems – for example, brain function in various contexts of health, injury, or disease, within a variety of societal and economic contexts — to add substance to the destination areas.

“The end result is to improve people’s lives,” Roberto said. “Today we want to further define what this area might look like and consider the opportunities we may address.”

Later in the day, Hopkins touched on challenges of providing food, water, and energy to a growing population, and provided examples of potential problem spaces where Virginia Tech could have a strong impact, such as antibiotic resistance, invasive species, and habitat loss.

“Every problem we mentioned involves real people and we need to have sociologists, economists, and other interdisciplinary people working in these areas,” Hopkins said. “As we move forward, we need to think about solving problems that benefit society and the environment.”

The overview talks were webcast and should soon be available for viewing. An announcement about a new Destination Area website where the collected information will be available is coming next week.

Meanwhile, the next two destination area sessions are scheduled next week, with Data and Decision Sciences set for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, and Integrated Security for 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. Both are in the Graduate Life Center, where faculty are encouraged to attend in person.

Faculty members in the National Capital Region have options to participate in the round tables via WebEX. Remote locations are set up in Room 103 in the Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church, the Foggy Bottom Room in the Virginia Tech Research Center-Arlington; and Potomac Room 310 at 1021 Prince St., Alexandria.

The overview talks and reporting sessions are also livestreamed.

Town Hall meeting for faculty to discuss Destination Areas, this session devoted to Resilient Earth Systems. Bill Hopkins

William Hopkins, a professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, facilitates a table discussion during the Resilient Earth Systems destination area meeting.
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