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Summer 2020 Newsletter

Jennifer Wayne - By Peter Means

We hope this newsletter finds you and your loved ones healthy and happy during these unprecedented, tumultuous times. I am coming to the conclusion of my first year as Department Head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. It has certainly been one to remember! These past few months in particular have presented tremendous challenges, but the entire year has been energized by the dedication, resiliency, and fortitude of our faculty, staff, and students.

Since our last newsletter, the department held a successful faculty retreat which culminated, amongst other achievements, in a new mission and vision for the department. In the middle of spring semester, we successfully reformulated in-person instruction to online delivery while dealing with the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was accompanied by halting non-essential research, then phased reopening research laboratories, and then expending considerable energy to create the framework to deliver our curriculum in multiple modes for fall 2020. All while adhering to CDC, Virginia state government, and Virginia Tech guidelines and regulations to maintain the safety and health of ourselves and our community. Zoom meetings have become second nature to us all, as we strived to maintain connections amongst one another and our students, achieve our instructional mission, progress research, as well as to attend conferences, workshops and seminars, and understand best practices for online teaching methods and experiential learning. These new insights will certainly inform our practices for the future.

This spring also vividly displayed the unjust and often horrific treatment experienced by many in our under-represented minority community. Virginia Tech has long been a beacon of inclusion and diversity, reinforced recently by President Sands and College of Engineering Dean Ross. BEAM embodies Virginia Tech's Principles of Community and supports a very active Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

This newsletter presents a glimpse into some recent highlights from the department. There are so many more – please enjoy perusing our website and other publications. And certainly reach out to us with questions and input. We look forward to the coming months and eventual return to a better normalcy.

Go Hokies!
Jennifer Wayne

Department Head, Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics


Image of a video of biomedical engineers

Meet Virginia Tech's first cohort of undergraduate biomedical engineering students

The new biomedical engineering undergraduate program is underway with 40 second-year College of Engineering students that began the degree this past fall. Students in this program will be trained to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and technology.

Announcing the H. Pat and Nancy E. Artis BEAM Laboratory

We are pleased to formally share a gift commitment from Dr. Pat and Nancy Artis to support the outfitting of the newly renovated BEAM instructional laboratories in Norris Hall!

Pat and Nancy have been a part of the Virginia Tech family for many years. An alumnus himself and a proud corps member, Pat went on to start a successful company. He then returned to Virginia Tech as a faculty member, has served on the ESM, AOE, Engineering Education, and College of Engineering Advisory Boards. Pat continues to interact with BEAM in many ways, including senior design, lectures, and seminars.

Special Thanks to Alumnus Dr. John Lee '68

Virginia Tech’s Engineering Science and Mechanics alumnus John Lee said he did not even know Virginia Tech existed when he applied as a high school student. His guidance counselor mentioned it to him – due to its strong engineering college and his desire in engineering – so he applied and got in. He arrived early and washed dishes to earn money. He worked through all of his school years, earning the necessary money to pay tuition.

“Virginia Tech is a great place,” John Lee said. “Each place has its own approach to life, set of values, and characteristics. The thing that stood out to me – that I loved – at Virginia Tech is the sense of community and of giving back.”

Embodying Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Lee recently made a generous gift to establish an endowed scholarship for students in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. The driving force behind this gift was to give back, to make it easier for someone to get through school financially. As a man who put himself through school, he understands the time, effort, and burden that can have on someone while also attending full-time school. So, he decided to try to help someone not have to do that while pursuing their degree.

This gift will have a lasting impact in the department, and we are very grateful for his generosity.

Image of video showing 3D printing of PPE

Biomedical engineering and mechanics postdoc and students adapt lab spaces and resources to 3D print PPE parts

Research groups have joined up in a coordinated response to design, produce, and test critical equipment like PPE and ventilator components.

Plaque of dean's awards 2020 for college of engineering

Congratulations to BEAM faculty who received a 2020 Dean's Award!

  • Certification of Teaching Excellence: James Lord, BEAM
  • Excellence in Research: Scott S. Verbridge, BEAM
  • Excellence in Service: Pam VandeVord, BEAM
  • Faculty Fellows: Robin M. Queen, BEAM
  • Outstanding New Assistant Professor: Eli Vlaisavljevich, BEAM
  • Alumni Award for Research Excellence: Rafael Davalos, BEAM


Jake Socha sits in The Socha Lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. Peter Means of Virginia Tech.

X-ray images help reveal insects’ physiological responses to gravity

Jake Socha, a professor in biomedical engineering and mechanics, conducts research in Virginia Tech's Socha Lab. His recent publication in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science journal discusses insects' physiological responses to gravity.

Grace Wusk, doctoral student in biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech

Biomedical engineering and mechanics doctoral student studies spacewalks with NASA

Grace Wusk, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering and mechanics in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, is simulating spacewalks using virtual reality headsets.

Join BEAM's Industry Partner Program (IPP)

Are you ready to help us prepare the next generation of biomedical engineers? Virginia Tech's new undergraduate program is seeking professional and industry mentors and sponsors for the following areas:

  • Academic advisory group members
  • Industry Speakers Bureau appointments
  • Senior design project sponsors
  • Co-op and internship position providers
  • Collaborative research projects with faculty and students

Please contact Claudia Rodriguez at and visit BEAM's IPP page for more information.

Portrait of alumna

Ayesha Johnson '05, B.S. in Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM)

Johnson is a U.S. Navy missile compartment project officer.

"What do you wish you would have known as an engineering student that you know now?"

While I was an Engineering, Science, and Mechanics student at VT, I learned a lot about Bernoulli and right hand rule as a basis for a lot of problem solving. Outside of the coursework, I learned the importance of networking and multitasking.


(cont.) However, what I wish I learned then was how to diversify my elective courses. The engineering program, specifically ESM, had a demanding schedule and I did not feel like I had the wiggle room for any additional courses outside of my school of engineering. Looking back, I would have taken a few business and theatre arts courses. I have always found these areas interesting but I did not feel I could devote any time.

Taking these courses would have given me better insight for future learning outside of engineering. Certainly, it is never too late, but I wish I grasped the opportunity to expose myself to other interests outside of my engineering major.

Portrait of Dean Mook

In Memoriam: Dean Mook

Dean Mook, passed away on Friday June 19 in Blacksburg. Professor Mook had received his BS in 1954 and MS in 1960 from VPI&SU, and then a PhD in 1966 from the University of Michigan in Engineering Mechanics.


(cont.) He joined the VT faculty in 1966 and retired in 2003 - a 37-year career! He was the N. Waldo Harrison Professor at his retirement. He was subsequently honored with Professor Emeritus status.

Our heartfelt sympathies to Professor Mook's loved ones and friends that he left behind.

Verbridge with students

Gifts help our students

  • $50 can provide glassware for an experiment.
  • $100 can provide lab coats for five students.
  • $250 covers the student registration fee for a national conference.
  • $1000 funds one hands-on lab experience.

Keep in touch

We love to hear from our alumni! Contact Claudia Rodriguez, assistant director of alumni and external relations, for more ways to get involved with the department.

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