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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2007 / 02 

Two professors receive the Commonwealth's highest faculty honor

February 8, 2007

Two professors were recognized by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for excellence in teaching, research, knowledge integration, and public service during a ceremony today at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

Marc A. Edwards, the Charles P. Lunsford Professor in the College of Engineering’s Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Doris T. Zallen, a professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences’ Department of Science and Technology in Society, were among 12 college and university faculty selected from a statewide pool of 95 nominees to receive the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, the Commonwealth’s highest honor for faculty.

The Outstanding Faculty Award program, now in its 21st year, is administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and funded by a grant from the Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion.

Featured by Time in April 2004 as one of the nation’s leading scientific innovators, Edwards — dubbed “The Plumbing Professor” by the national news magazine — has used his expertise in drinking water quality and corrosion to help identify and solve some critical problems, including the leaching of lead into home water supplies in Washington, D.C.

Edwards came to Virginia Tech in 1997 from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where, in 1996, the National Science Foundation (NSF) selected him as one of only 20 young engineering faculty in the nation to receive a Presidential Faculty Fellowship. Since joining the Via department faculty at Virginia Tech, he has achieved international renown for applying the principles of aquatic chemistry to solving problems related to corrosion and drinking water infrastructure degradation.

When Edwards learned in 2003 that lead levels were elevated in District of Columbia drinking water, he and his graduate students began investigating and found that chloramine, a compound used in drinking water treatment, was causing lead to leach from pipes in thousands of homes. As a result of that research, Edwards was asked to testify before Congress about the corrosion problem and was interviewed on National Public Radio’s “Living on Earth.”

Edwards is sought after as a consultant by water authorities throughout the nation. Along with civil and environmental engineering colleagues Andrea Dietrich and G.V. Loganathan, he is co-principal investigator on a $1.64 million NSF project aimed at solving widespread problems related to the effects of corrosion on drinking water quality and infrastructure.

In 2003 Edwards received the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize from the American Society of Civil Engineers and in 2004 he was appointed to the Lunsford Professorship at Virginia Tech. His research has been published extensively in professional journals and conference publications, and a number of CEE graduate and undergraduate students have won national research awards under his guidance.

Edwards completed his master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of Washington and earned his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Zallen has been a member of the Virginia Tech faculty for 23 years. Trained as a biologist, she has dedicated much of her career to educating both student and public audiences on the controversial issues arising out of advances in science, medicine, and technology, with the goal of providing individuals with the intellectual tools to confront these issues.

In her undergraduate and graduate teaching, Zallen has introduced bioethical components into science and humanities courses and has created new courses that deepen student experience with bioethical issues. Science and the Public, one of only a very few service-learning courses that exist at the graduate level, received an Innovation Award from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. One student of the course wrote, “I am more inspired than I was before the course to be more involved in public issues on many levels.”

Zallen has expanded the consideration of ethical, social, and policy issues to public audiences by founding and directing the award-winning Choices and Challenges forum project. For 20 years, through 22 forums, she has created a unique public classroom for the consideration of such sensitive and demanding issues as end-of-life decisions, global warming, assisted reproduction, genetically modified foods, and “designer children.” The forums have reached an on-site audience of 10,000 and, in partnership with PBS, video audiences at hundreds of sites throughout the country.

Zallen’s research focuses on the ethical and social issues raised by new advances in genetic medicine, especially genetic testing and human gene therapy. Among her publications is the book Does It Run in the Family? A Consumer’s Guide to DNA Testing for Genetic Disorders. Her book earned critical acclaim and has had wide influence beyond the academy, in particular on medical professionals and on affected families in the general public.

Nationally, Zallen served with distinction on the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) where she helped provide oversight of ground-breaking medical experiments involving human gene therapy. As chair of the RAC working group on informed consent, Zallen wrote the federal guidelines, currently in force, which protect human subjects in gene-therapy experiments.

“Professor Zallen is a most unusual academic,” said Jerry Niles, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “Her energy, passion and sense of scholarly activism have combined to make the lives of countless Virginians and others nationwide better as they struggle to understand the consequences of important scientific and technological advances . . . on their professional and personal lives.”

Zallen is the recipient of a Virginia Tech Certificate of Teaching Excellence, a Phi Beta Kappa Sturm Award for Outstanding Faculty Research, and a University Award for Excellence in Outreach. She completed her Ph.D. and master’s degree at Harvard University and her bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College.

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