Annual Research Symposium

29th Annual Research Symposium: March 15, 2018

Research symposium poster session
Learn more about the 2017 Research Symposium and view the event photo gallery.

Our twenty-ninth Annual Research Symposium will be held on Thursday, March 15, 2018 at the main college complex on the Virginia Tech campus.

The event showcases graduate student research and will feature keynote speakers Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, Deputy Director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Amy Pruden, the W. Thomas Rice Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. The symposium will also feature alumni speaker Dr. Tim LaBranche, Senior Director of Drug Safety Evaluation at Blueprint Medicines in Boston.

The symposium is sponsored by Zoetis and the college's Office of Research & Graduate Studies.

View the 2018 Symposium Program.

Symposium Keynote Speakers

Jennifer McQuiston, DVM, MS (CAPT, USPHS)

Deputy Director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control

Jennifer McQuiston

Jennifer McQuiston, DVM, MS (CAPT, USPHS), is the deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. She is also a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service. As a veterinarian, Dr. McQuiston specializes in outbreak investigations and research involving diseases that spread from animals to people (zoonotic diseases). During much of her career at CDC, she has worked on diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, and rabies. Her interests include diseases transmitted to humans by ticks, fleas, and livestock.

Dr. McQuiston received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. She earned a master's degree in molecular biology and a bachelor's degree in biology at Virginia Tech. She began her public health career at CDC in 1998 as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer assigned to work on rabies and other zoonotic diseases.

Widely recognized for her expertise on zoonotic diseases, Dr. McQuiston has received numerous national awards, including the Daniel E. Salmon award from the National Association of Federal Veterinarians and CDC’s James H. Steele Award for outstanding work on veterinary public health issues. She has more than 50 scientific publications and frequently is requested to speak at conferences and meetings. As a scientist, mother and veterinarian, Dr. McQuiston believes that helping people understand how to prevent disease is her most important job. Her life’s passion is translating science into easy-to-understand disease detection and prevention strategies to keep both people and animals healthy and on the go.

Learn more about Dr. McQuiston and her work.

Amy Pruden, Ph.D.

W. Thomas Rice Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech

Amy Pruden

Amy Pruden, Ph.D., is the W. Thomas Rice Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. Her research program focuses on applied environmental microbiology.

In relation to global change, Dr. Pruden studies the role of microbial communities in dynamic environmental systems. For example, there is currently a boom in the manufacture of nanomaterials, and therefore a need to understand the implications of these new products in terms of biodegradability by and toxicity to microbes in wastewater treatment plants. Similarly, efforts to conserve water and energy result in new “green” building designs that impose atypical water flow regimes in pipes. This will shift the kinds of microbes that reside there and the potential for pathogens to establish. A third example: how will changes in antibiotic use guidelines for livestock impact the actual attenuation of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the antibiotic resistance genes that they carry?

Dr. Pruden serves as an associate editor for the journal Environmental Science & Technology and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters on subjects pertaining to bioremediation, pathogens, and antibiotic resistance. She is currently the PI on a USDA CAP grant focusing on farm-to-fork sources for the spread of antibiotic resistance and Co-PI on an NSF Partnership for International Research and Education grant where students have the opportunity to collaborate abroad in examining antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater treatment plants in different countries.

At Virginia Tech, Dr. Pruden teaches CEE 5194 Environmental Engineering Microbiology and an IGEP course on interdisciplinary research, GRAD 5134. She is a core faculty member in three interdisciplinary graduate education programs, Water for Health, Sustainable Nanotechnology, and Interfaces of Global Change.

Learn more about Dr. Pruden and her work.

Symposium Alumni Speaker

Tim LaBranche, DVM, Ph.D., DACVP

Senior Director, Drug Safety Evaluation, Blueprint Medicines

Tim LaBranche

Tim LaBrache, DVM, Ph.D., serves as the Senior Director of Drug Safety Evaluation at Blueprint Medicines in Boston. As a leader in the Drug Safety Evaluation group, Dr. LaBranche is responsible for leveraging his toxicology and veterinary pathology expertise to perform the nonclinical evaluation of potential drug candidates across Blueprint Medicines’ portfolio of anti-cancer and rare genetic diseases drugs. He is involved in all steps of drug evaluation from evaluating target safety, leading GLP toxicology studies, and writing relevant sections of the Investigational New Drug (IND) and New Drug Application (NDA) regulatory submission documents. Blueprint's lead programs include BLU-285, in clinical trials for systemic mastocytosis (SM) and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), BLU-554 for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and BLU-667 which is the first selective RET inhibitor to reach the clinic and is being investigated in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC).

Dr. LaBranche is a three-time Virginia Tech alumni receiving his bachelor's degree in animal sciences, doctor of veterinary medicine degree, and doctor of philosophy from the university. Following his training at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. LaBranche completed a residency in anatomic pathology at the University of Georgia. In 2007, he became board certificated by the American College of Veterinary Pathologist. He continues to serve as an adjunct assistant professor for the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia and a member of the Advisory Committee for the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. LaBranche has published in several leading journals such as Journal of Autoimmunity, Science Translational Medicine, and Journal of Immunology.