R. Michael Akers of Blacksburg, will become the new head of the Department of Dairy Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, effective July 1.

A native of Pulaski County in southwest Virginia, Akers joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1981. He became a full professor in 1992, and in 1996 he was selected as the Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor of dairy science.

"The dairy industry, and thus the dairy science department, play an important role in the state’s and the region’s agricultural economy," said Sharron Quisenberry, dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "Dr. Akers’ talents and experiences will be invaluable in making the department and the industry even stronger. We are indeed fortunate to have someone of Mike’s abilities to lead this department."

Akers said of his new appointment: "I believe that with the support of an outstanding group of faculty members and in cooperation with the industry, we can reach new heights. I look forward to this opportunity."

Akers has received four national awards for research excellence, including the Growth and Development Award from the American Society of Animal Science in 2003. He also received Virginia Tech’s Alumni Award for Research Excellence in 2000. The American Dairy Science Association also recognized his work with the Pharmacia & UpJohn Physiology Award (2000), the Borden Award (1993), and the Agway Young Scientist Award (1986).

His research has emphasized endocrine and growth-factor regulation of mammary development and mammary function. Most recently, he has focused on identification of local tissue elements that regulate mammary cell proliferation and especially the role of insulin-like growth factor molecules and proteins on mammary stem cell development.

He has authored or co-authored 140 full papers and 153 abstracts, including more than 60 papers in the past 10 years. In 2002, he also completed a book, Lactation and the Mammary Gland, published by Iowa State Press.

Although his major responsibility has been research, Akers has taught the college’s fundamental anatomy and physiology course to about 70 undergraduate students as well as graduate courses. He has been the major professor for seven master’s and five Ph.D. students.

Akers earned his bachelor’s in biology and a master’s in dairy science from Virginia Tech and his Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He was a research physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research center in Beltsville, Md., before joining the dairy science department.

Consistently ranked by the National Science Foundation among the top 10 institutions in agricultural research, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers students the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading agricultural scientists. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives students a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. The college is a national leader in incorporating technology, biotechnology, computer applications, and other recent scientific advances into its teaching program.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.