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Video: Hands-on, Minds-on

Learn more about the people in this video.

    Ellington Graves

Ellington Graves is an instructor in the Department of Sociology and an assistant director of the Center for Race and Social Policy. A 2009 recipient of the Edward S. Diggs Teaching Scholars Award, he teaches courses about race and ethnic relations, social inequality, and Africana studies. "I think one of the really powerful things about the classroom is the excitement of discovery. My favorite moment in the classroom is when students get it – when you see that light bulb go on and you see almost a sparkle in their eye because they grasp something that they never understood before," Graves said.

    Julie Ozanne


Julie Ozanne is the Sonny Merryman Professor of Marketing in the Pamplin College of Business. Ozanne teaches classes such as marketing, society and the public interest, advertising, consumer behavior, and marketing theory. "I love teaching students who share my enthusiasm, who want to use what I'm teaching to go out and change the world," Ozanne said. "I want to make them better people. When they leave my class, I want them to have higher standards for what they expect of themselves."

    Tempest West

Tempest West of Richmond, Va., a 2013 graduate with a degree in communications, is part of the first group of students to earn a minor in 21st century studies. The signature program in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences includes a five-week period of research, service-learning, and hands-on cultural experiences in Morocco, Turkey, and Sri Lanka. "The coursework gave me insight on the different countries through poetry, novels, research, and other literary articles," West said.

    rock climbing

J.T. Bell, a senior from Boone, N.C., is an officer of Virginia Tech's rock climbing club, one of more than 700 student organizations on campus. The rock climbing club is dedicated to helping people of all skill levels experience the joy of climbing. Bell is also a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. Pursuing a degree in geography with a minor in leadership studies, Bell has a R.B. Pamplin Family Emerging Leader Scholarship.

    Dr. Bill Hopkins and eastern hellbender

Bill Hopkins, associate professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, studies the development and early growth of a variety of species, including birds, turtles, snakes, and amphibians.  He is most interested in how water pollution and maternal behaviors affect offspring health. One species Hopkins studies is the eastern hellbender. Hopkins also started a mentoring program called Facilitated Learning for Developing Graduate Experiences that pairs graduate student mentors with undergraduate researchers.

    Dan Goff

Dan Goff of Christiansburg, Va., a 2013 graduate with degrees in meteorology and geography, is a member of the Hokie Storm Chase team. Each spring from mid-May to mid-June, the Department of Geography conducts a field course in severe weather forecasting on location in the Great Plains. Goff was named the Outstanding Graduating Senior in the College of Natural Resources and Environment for the 2012-13 academic year.

    Kaitlyn Andreano

Kaitlyn Andreano of Olean, N.Y., a 2013 graduate with a degree in biochemistry, conducts undergraduate research in the Center for Drug Discovery. Virginia Tech is committed to hands-on, minds-on learning and creates opportunities for undergraduate students to conduct high-level research.

    Dennis Hong

Dennis Hong, an associate professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, teaches courses such as mechanical design, robot locomotion, and kinematics and dynamics of machinery. He is also the head of the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, a facility for graduate and undergraduate robotics research and education with an emphasis on studying novel mobile robot locomotion strategies. "In our lab we do hands-on, mind-on learning. Through brainstorming sessions, we create new ideas and we try to figure out how to apply this to solving real-life engineering problems," Hong said. "We set the rule up that no one criticize anyone's ideas and it is amazing how the classroom is electrified with different types of ideas and solutions."


Award-winning designers Keith and Marie Zawistowski, faculty members in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, provide an opportunity for their students to see a project through from conception to building. "Having students solve real-world problems is a way to build durable knowledge and is a very empowering experience for students," Marie Zawistowski said. "It also gives them a sense of high professional ethics. By solving real-world problems and helping communities in doing so, they gain a sense of social consciousness," Keith Zawistowski added.

    Carla Finkielstein

Carla Finkielstein, assistant professor of biological sciences in the College of Science, researches how changes in circadian rhythms may contribute to the development of breast cancer in women. "My contribution is to be sure that we can eradicate this disease and I take it very personal. Not because I know someone in particular with breast cancer, but I know a lot of women with breast cancer that I see fighting really hard to survive this disease," Finkielstein said. "I love the challenge of generating new ideas and new ways to solve this problem."

    Stefan Duma

Stefan Duma, a professor of biomedical engineering and department head of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, researches sports safety, particularly helmets, and the effect contact has on the body. "It has really changed how manufacturers are designing their helmet," Duma said. "It can be safer. And that's what we are all about – reducing risk."

    Alex Villanueva

Alex Villanueva of St-Jacques, New-Brunswick, Canada, is a postdoctoral associate in mechanical engineering. He is part of a team that recently unveiled a life-like, autonomous robotic jellyfish, 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighing 170 pounds, as part of a U.S. Navy-funded project. The goal is to place self-powering, autonomous machines in waters for the purposes of surveillance and monitoring the environment, in addition to other uses such as studying aquatic life, mapping ocean floors, and monitoring ocean currents.


    David Schmale

David G. Schmale III, an associate professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was named one of Popular Science’s 2013 Brilliant Ten. Schmale uses drones – also called unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs – to explore microbial life in the atmosphere. "New tools are really needed to understand the flow of life in the atmosphere," said Schmale. "And so my interests have been to develop those tools to allow us to actually study life in the atmosphere – tens to hundreds of meters above the ground."

    Ashley Taylor

Ashley Taylor of Fort Chiswell, Va., a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, has spent a majority of her time at Virginia Tech participating in undergraduate research through the Scieneering program, which offers students innovative interdisciplinary coursework and research opportunities. “One of the cool things about the Scieneering program is that it’s not a cookie-cutter approach,” Taylor said. “It’s a glimpse at the big picture when you look at the diversity of projects Scieneers are researching. But they are all about making the world a better place, from all of the different angles.”

    Lauren Herrity

Lauren Herrity of Ashburn, Va., a junior majoring in communication, is a cancer survivor and  lives out the university's motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), by helping to organize the largest collegiate Relay For Life. The event, which takes place on the Drillfield each spring, has nearly 6,500 participants each year and has raised 3 million dollars since 2001. "I plan the survivor banquet before Relay For Life. It is cool to see how I'm making such a small difference in their life," Herrity said. "That just means a lot to me because I know that if I had that in my life when I was going through treatment, or right after treatment, that I would just feel so much better. I'm glad I can be doing that for someone."

    Tony Wolf

Tony Wolf, professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is recognized around the world for his research and outreach in the area of viticulture. Through his work with Virginia Cooperative Extension, Wolf is directly impacting the growth of the commonwealth’s grape and wine industry.

    Grace Mulholland

Grace Mulholland of Freehold, N.J., a 2013 graduate with a degree in biological sciences, was named the Outstanding Graduating Senior for the College of Science for the 2012-13 academic year. In spring 2013, Mulholland participated in the Presidential Global Scholars program, which utilizes interdisciplinary, hands-on learning experiences, enabling students to discover new cultures and become a global citizen. The students live in the university’s villa in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, while take trips through Europe and to Ghana, Africa.

    Justin Graves

Justin Graves, who graduated in 2012 with a degree in sociology and is now pursuing a master's degree in educational leadership and policy studies, tries to live out the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), every day. In fall 2012, a group of Graves' friend got together and carried him in his wheelchair on a 4-mile hike. Graves, from Fredricksburg, Va., is very involved in the Actively Caring for People movement. "Go out there and care for other people. Just try that. Leave this room and try doing something nice for someone else," Graves said in his 2012 TEDxVirigniaTech talk. "I encourage you to care for someone else when they least expect it. Because I think that is when it has the strongest impact."

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