A prominent international gathering of virologists is expected to bring more than 1,300 scientists from the U.S. and abroad to Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus this summer. Held from June 18-22, the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society for Virology will not only attract the world’s leading virus experts but also create a tourism boost for the region.
According to co-chair of the Virginia Tech organizing committee X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology, the university first submitted a bid to host the conference in 2009, and it was approved in 2011.
“This is the first time Virginia Tech has hosted an American Society for Virology annual meeting,” said Meng, who is a faculty member in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences for his virus research.
The five-day conference will feature keynote and state-of-the-art lectures, symposia, workshops, poster sessions, and special events about viruses affecting humans, animals, and plants — including “hot topics” in the field of virology like Zika, Ebola, and HIV. It will take place in several buildings on Virginia Tech’s campus, including the Moss Arts Center, Squires Student Center, McBryde Hall, and Torgersen Hall. In addition to staying at area hotels, many attendees will stay in Virginia Tech residence halls.
“This is a great way to show off Virginia Tech’s campus to a national and international audience,” said co-chair Zach Adelman, associate professor of entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We would especially like to thank the Provost’s Office for arranging all of the space that we need for such a large annual meeting.”
Several Virginia Tech faculty members will also speak at the conference. Sarah McDonald, an assistant professor at both the veterinary college and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, will give a lecture on her rotavirus work, while Kevin Myles, associate professor of entomology, will give a symposium presentation on antiviral immunity in disease-vector mosquitoes. In addition, most of Virginia Tech’s graduate students in virology will present, and approximately 75 individuals, including many graduate students and postdocs, will volunteer their time during the conference.
“Virology has long been a focus of our college’s research efforts and we have superb researchers whose work has significant human and animal health implications,” said Cyril Clarke, dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. “Hosting a large scientific meeting for an organization like the American Society for Virology means that we have an opportunity to showcase our research, learn from our colleagues across the world, and give our students a better understanding of the breadth and depth of virology.”
According to Meng, the university would not have been a conference host without the support of several university officials during the bidding process, including former Provost Mark McNamee; Dennis Dean, director of the Fralin Life Science Institute; Janet Webster, associate director of Fralin Life Science Institute; and Gerhardt Schurig, former dean of the veterinary college. Staff at the university’s Continuing and Professional Education office are helping with the meeting logistics.
“Virginia Tech is an ideal place to host a conference of this caliber,” said Dean, who is also the university’s Stroobants Professor of Biotechnology and a University Distinguished Professor. “Our strengths in research, education, and outreach in the life sciences — particularly in the realm of infectious disease — make Virginia Tech a prime destination for such an important meeting.”
In addition to Meng and Adelman, the members of the local organizing committee include Myles; Roger Avery, professor of virology and senior associate dean for research and graduate studies of the veterinary college; Lijuan Yuan, associate professor of virology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology; Tanya LeRoith, associate professor of pathology; Xiaofeng Wang, assistant professor of virology in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science; McDonald; and Andrea Bertke, assistant professor of virology in the Department of Population Health Sciences.
The conference also received support from Virginia Tech’s Fralin Life Science Institute, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences, Office of the Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at the veterinary college, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, and Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.
Conference organizers are seeking additional student volunteers for the annual meeting. If you are a Virginia Tech student or trainee and would like to volunteer, please contact Janet Webster, associate director of operations at the Fralin Life Science Institute, at 540-231-9547.