Shernita Lee of Birmingham, Ala., a doctoral candidate with an interdisciplinary major in genetics, bioinformatics, and computational biology, and Ryan C. Smith of Hardyville, Va., a doctoral candidate in psychology in the College of Science, have been named the 2013 Graduate Woman and Man of the Year at Virginia Tech.

Each received a $500 award for their significant contributions to the Virginia Tech graduate community.

Shernita Lee, Graduate Woman of the Year

Lee is a doctoral candidate in genetics, bioinformatics, and computational biology. Her research focuses on building a mathematical model to better understand the human body’s innate immune response to a common fungus.

She served as president of the Black Student Organization for two years and is currently president of Alpha Epsilon Lambda, the Virginia Tech chapter of the graduate leadership honor society. As a graduate ambassador and diversity scholar Lee mentored middle-school and undergraduate students and motivated young women and underrepresented minorities to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Lee earned her bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University.

Ryan C. Smith, Graduate Man of the Year

Smith is a doctoral candidate with research interests in traffic safety, alcohol abuse and misuse, bullying, race policies, and education. He has presented at numerous professional conferences nationally and internationally and has mentored more than 60 undergraduate students each semester in the Center for Applied Behavior Systems.

Smith has been highly involved in the university and has served on both the undergraduate and graduate student governments and honor systems. In 2007-08, he was the undergraduate representative to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. Smith is the winner of numerous awards and recognition, among them the William Preston Society Master's Thesis Award and the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools Thesis Award. He was named the 2008 Undergraduate Man of the Year, making him the first individual to receive both of Virginia Tech’s highest student honors.

Smith earned three bachelor's degrees and a master’s degree from Virginia Tech.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.