Virginia Tech It launches a National Safety Center and incorporates hands-on learning

Virginia Tech It launches a National Safety Center and incorporates hands-on learning

“As chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, I am pleased that Virginia Tech is strategically organizing and prioritizing its national security research and workforce efforts,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Warner. “Given the university’s nearly $50 million Department of Defense research portfolio, and its strategic locations in Northern Virginia near key national intelligence agencies and the Pentagon, this purposeful focusing of Virginia Tech’s efforts in national security is welcome news. Virginia Tech’s new National Security Institute will help our nation develop new security-related technological advancements while helping train the future generations of intelligence leaders.”

Bringing together transdisciplinary researchers, programs, and resources from across the university, including the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology and the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT-ARC), the institute will integrate student learning and cutting-edge research at a scale unmatched by other organizations.

With a presence in Blacksburg and the Washington, D.C., metro area, the Virginia Tech National Security Institute will be one of the university’s thematic research institutes, joining the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. These institutes bring together exceptional interdisciplinary faculty, unique research infrastructure, and deep relationships and contracts with sponsors to execute impactful research and development. In 2020, researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute executed 17 percent of Virginia Tech’s sponsored research programs.

“I am excited that Virginia Tech is continuing to foster growth that supports the defense and intelligence communities,” said Letitia “Tish” A. Long, chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and current rector of the VIrginia Tech Board of Visitors. “Virginia Tech has created a thriving ecosystem of security-related research and workforce development that provide the critical foundation necessary to support the National Security Institute’s mission of shaping the next generation of intelligence leaders, and in pursuit of a safer America.”

Story Highlights

  • Virginia Tech has announced the formation of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute, aspiring to become the nation’s preeminent academic organization at the nexus of interdisciplinary research, technology, policy, and talent development to advance national security.

  • The Department of Defense is Virginia Tech’s largest source of federal funding with approximately $50 million in fiscal year 2020.

“Since our founding as a land-grant military institution nearly 150 years ago, Virginia Tech has been dedicated to supporting our nation’s security in the spirit of our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve),” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “The institute’s mission, combined with our vision to advance education and discovery Beyond Boundaries, creates an opportunity for faculty and students to reimagine national security outside the traditional silos and develop a collective response to the diverse, interconnected physical and social hazards we face.”

Drawing on the experience of its faculty members and experts, the institute will produce research and impact policy related to legal and practical challenges facing national intelligence, defense, law enforcement, homeland security, and cybersecurity communities that are relevant to current questions of national security law and policy and that will aid senior policymakers, key departments, and agencies.

“Virginia Tech’s existing strengths in security research and expertise provides the springboard to expand research capabilities that will impact the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world,” said Virginia Tech Vice President for Research and Innovation Dan Sui. “I am proud of the Virginia Tech faculty and staff who have worked together over the past decade to build a vision for research excellence that addresses national security needs, which has culminated in a university-wide effort to develop a charter and launch this new institute.” A collaborative process led by Stoney Trent, previously chief of missions for the Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and principal advisor for the Office for Research and Innovation at Virginia Tech, involved dozens of stakeholders from colleges, institutes, and departments across the university to define the institute’s priorities.

The institute charter was further refined by a review committee of deans, institute directors, and vice presidents convened by Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke, and by the Commission on Research. Both groups voted this spring to recommend approval of the charter. “Interdisciplinary collaboration, scholarship, and innovation are hallmarks of Virginia Tech’s research enterprise and its significant contributions to our land grant mission,” said Clarke. “The National Security Institute represents a long-standing commitment to leverage the interdisciplinary strengths of our faculty and industry partners to enhance our impacts on and service to the national security community.”

Leading with momentum Eric Paterson, world-renowned expert in naval hydrodynamics and 30-year veteran of combined industry and higher education experience, will lead the Virginia Tech National Security Institute as its inaugural executive director.

Under Paterson’s direction, the department’s research portfolio grew from $6 million in 2012 to $15 million in 2020. As interim director of the Hume Center, Paterson facilitated growth of the research portfolio from $13 million to $18 million, focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, and enhanced research and education programs. Paterson was also engaged with the Office of Research and Innovation on the development of a dedicated space for security-related research in Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center, which is now home to the newly launched Virginia Tech National Security Institute.

“Building upon the Hume Center trajectory and its successful model of blending research execution, graduate education, and experiential learning, I look forward to steering the Virginia Tech National Security Institute into new areas and fostering partnerships across the entire university,” said Paterson, the Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Professor of Marine Propulsion. “By growing our applied research portfolio that also integrates student learning, this institute will enable Virginia Tech to help solve tomorrow’s national security challenges, and to deliver the workforce of the future.” Paterson has served as interim executive director for the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology for over two years and has led the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering as department head for almost 10 years.