Cyberbiosecurity researcher and expert Randy Murch was the featured presenter at the university’s media roundtable series On the Record with Virginia Tech this month in Washington, D.C.

On the Record was launched by the university’s media relations team last fall with a goal of elevating Virginia Tech research and connecting faculty to reporters from national and trade publications based in Washington, D.C.

“Virginia Tech faculty members in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and Arlington are leading experts in their fields," said Tracy Vosburgh, senior associate vice president for University Relations. “These media events showcase their work and help make important connections to relevant news and information. Media opportunities help raise our national profile and increase awareness of our teaching and research.”

Murch, research lead for the National Capital Region Research Development Team, called his 20-minute presentation “Cyberbiosecurity: Life Sciences Have Gone Digital - What Could Go Wrong?”

Murch explained that “cyberbiosecurity is an emerging new field at the intersection of biosecurity and cybersecurity that has potential value and applications for national security, economic competitiveness, and societal well-being across personal and public health, agriculture and food systems, and natural resources protection and management.”

Following his presentation, Murch facilitated an informal question-and-answer session with the journalists to dive deeper into the research surrounding this emerging field. As a result of the event, Murch was featured in a story by Defense News, recorded a podcast with CyberWire, and sat down for one-on-one interviews with the Washington Business Journal and National Defense Magazine.

Murch, a former FBI agent who recently led a project to study cyberbiosecurity for the Department of Defense, about which interest is spreading in the U.S. government, said he's happy to see the university working to raise Virginia Tech's visibility in the Washington, D.C., region.

A half dozen reporters attended the inaugural On the Record with Virginia Tech in September 2017, featuring Mark Blanks, director of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, talking about unmanned aircraft system research and projects. His topics included ongoing remote identification work, air traffic control for drones, and safety testing — and why all that research is vital to applications like widespread package delivery of consumer goods by unmanned aircraft.

Blanks has lots of experience working with the news media. He's been featured for his team's work on a number of high-profile projects, including the university's partnership with Project Wing (a project of X, Google parent company Alphabet's innovation lab); Wing conducted the first commercial tests of their package-delivery system at Virginia Tech, delivering more than 1,000 Chipotle lunches by drone.

He praised the informal format of the new lecture series.

“The UAS industry is in the news more and more, and when you’re working with journalists there’s no substitute for making a face-to-face connection,” Blanks said. “In an informal setting like On the Record, we were able have a really wide-ranging, substantive dialogue. Those interactions, and the subsequent conversations that I’ve had as a result, have elevated our name in the media and increased our recognition inside and outside the industry.”

Stories featuring Blanks in USA Today, Politico Pro, and the AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) website were published as a result of the event and follow-up interviews. He was also interviewed by the Washington Post's Mike Laris.

Shannon Andrea, media relations director in the National Capital Region, organizes Virginia Tech On the Record events, which are held at lunchtime at a location in Washington or Arlington convenient to the reporters who are invited.

Andy Schaudt, project director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute's Center for Automated Vehicle Systems, is the featured researcher at the next On the Record event March 21.

For more details or to suggest a future speaker or topic for On the Record, contact Andrea at sandrea@vt.edu.