A team of three faculty members and two graduate students from two different colleges at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2009 XCaliber Award for excellence as a team on a large-scale project.

The team includes

  • Taranjit Kaur, assistant professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine;
  • Jatinder Singh, adjunct research assistant professor of veterinary medicine in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine;
  • Matthew Lutz of Newport, Va., assistant professor of interior design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies;
  • Nathan King of Christiansburg, Va., a graduate student in industrial design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies; and
  • David Bradley Clark II of Fredericksburg, Va., a graduate student in architecture in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Established in 1996 by Office of the Provost, the XCaliber Award (shorthand for exceptional, high caliber work) is presented annually by the Virginia Tech Center for Innovation in Learning to recognize individual faculty members or teams of faculty and staff who integrate technology in teaching and learning. The award celebrates innovative, student-centered approaches to learning activities. Awardees receive a cash award and are called upon to demonstrate their work.

The team was recognized for their innovative approaches to teaching using technologies as they designed, developed and deployed the P.L.U.G. (Portable Laboratory on Uncommon Ground), a prototype laboratory that facilitates bioinformatics research in isolated settings around the world.

The selection committee noted that authentic learning contexts are a hallmark of student-centered teaching, and this project provided an excellent example of this enacted.

During the design phase, students within the School of Architecture and Design collaboratively devised and fabricated the P.L.U.G. prototype through the use of computer-aided manufacturing based upon real-life specifications provided by faculty and students in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. This design incorporates highly technical data collection and transmission equipment that is now being deployed in the field by faculty and students performing chimpanzee research in remote areas of Tanzania.

Kaur received her bachelor’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University, a doctorate in veterinary medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master of public health degree from the Johns Hopkins University. Singh received his bachelor’s degree from Agricultural University, India, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Agricultural Sciences, India. Lutz received a bachelor’s degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a master’s degree from Virginia Tech.