Cal Ribbens, professor and head of the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, has been named interim executive director of the university’s Biocomplexity Institute effective immediately.

His appointment follows the announced departure of the institute’s executive director, Chris Barrett.

“Analyzing and understanding large-scale, complex systems with a transdisciplinary approach is at the core of the Virginia Tech research and innovation vision, and Cal is a leader who embraces that approach,” said Theresa Mayer, vice president of research and innovation. “As head of computer science, Cal has demonstrated strong leadership with a commitment to the research, teaching, and service mission of Virginia Tech. We are confident that the cutting-edge and highly collaborative research at the institute will continue to evolve and grow under his direction.”

Cal Ribbens
Cal Ribbens talks during a reception at the Biocomplexity Institute on Aug. 17. He was named that day as the interim executive director of the institute.

“I am excited by the opportunity to work with the researchers at the institute who are at the forefront of developing new technologies and computational platforms to address some of the most complex problems we face as a society.” Ribbens said. “New opportunities to connect computer science faculty and Biocomplexity Institute researchers with the Data and Decisions Destination Area will lead to new and innovative areas for research.”

Ribbens, a member of the computer science department since 1987, has focused his research on advancing high-performance computing and its applications for computational science and engineering with the goal of making high-performance computing an effective tool for solving important scientific and engineering problems. He was named associate head for the department in 2003, associate head for undergraduate studies in 2008, and department head in 2015.

“I am grateful to Cal for his commitment to Virginia Tech and the Biocomplexity Institute. The faculty, staff, and students of the Institute are performing research that is at the forefront of this emerging field, creating powerful new tools for understanding the world around us” said President Tim Sands. “They are central to the future of our global land-grant research university and to our commitment to research that serves the commonwealth. With Cal’s leadership, I am confident we will move the Institute forward.”

Ribbens completed his undergraduate degree in mathematics at Calvin College. He earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in computer science from Purdue University. He has been widely published in journals, including the Journal of Parallel and Distributed Computing, the Journal of Computational Science, and ACM Transactions on Mathematical Software.

For almost 20 years, the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech and its predecessor, the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, has applied a deeply contextual approach to some of the most pressing challenges to human health, habitat, and well-being. Its research is interdisciplinary to its core, integrating methods from the life, cognitive, and social sciences, as well environmental studies and infrastructural development.