BLACKSBURG — Professor Susan Duncan has been named associate director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station at Virginia Tech. Duncan has been a faculty member since 1990 when she joined the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Food Science and Technology. 

The mission of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station is to engage in innovative, leading-edge research to discover new scientific knowledge, and in collaboration with Virginia Cooperative Extension, to create and disseminate science-based applications to ensure the wise use of agricultural, natural, and community resources while contributing to economic and environmental viability and enhancing quality of life. It was created in 1886.

Today, the research projects and activities of the experiment station encompass the work of over 350 scientists in five colleges including the College Agriculture and Life Sciences, theCollege of Natural Resources and Environment, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the College of Science, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. The research network also includes 11 field stations located throughout the state. 

In her new role, Duncan will shepherd major research initiatives through the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station by coordinating the funding of Hatch research projects, as well as the McIntyre-Stennis and Animal Health and Disease projects. The Hatch program supports basic research related to the broadest aspects of agricultural challenges facing the planet today. The program encompasses areas ranging from soil and water conservation, food safety, biotechnology and aquaculture, and animal and crop production. Hatch projects allow faculty members to focus on clearly defined research and appropriate outreach. 

Duncan’s other responsibilities include the oversight of experiment station and the 11 Agricultural Research and Extension Centers around the state. They are research sites and serve as field laboratories for faculty and students and disseminate the latest scientific findings to stakeholders. Duncan will work closely with the directors and superintendents who participate in advisory meetings and field day activities. 

“We are looking forward to Dr. Duncan’s stewardship of the [Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station] which includes our network of research and Extension centers throughout the state,” said Saied Mostaghimi, director of Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “As a faculty member who is preeminent in her field and successful in collaborating across departments she brings a wealth of not only institutional knowledge to her new post, but also expertise in promoting and facilitating funded research for the faculty.” 

Research in Duncan’s lab has addressed the nationwide obesity epidemic by incorporating interdisciplinary methodologies to study the physiological and emotional responses to food using methods which uncover the processes at work deep inside the brain that affect food choices. 

Duncan also has an active research program in the role of food packaging for protecting and enhancing food quality. Most recently she collaborated with colleagues that span the university including researchers from many colleges and institutes across the campus, including the departments of chemistry; human nutrition, foods and exercise; psychology; civil and environmental engineering; accounting; agricultural, leadership, and community education; the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology; and the Fralin Life Sciences Institute. 

She received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University, her master’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and her Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. 

She is also co-director of the Virginia Tech Water INTERface Integrated Graduate Education Program, which promotes and sustains interdisciplinary graduate education and research at the university. From 2004-2011 Duncan also served as the director of the Virginia Tech Macromolecular Interfaces with Life Sciences Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program funded by the National Science Foundation. Professional affiliations include president of the Dairy Science Association as well a membership in the Institute of Food Technologies, the American Chemical Society, and the International Association of Food Protection.

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.