The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors has honored T. Daniel Crawford of the Virginia Tech Department of Chemistry with the title of University Distinguished Professor.

The board voted Crawford as a University Distinguished Professor at its April 1 meeting. The award is a pre-eminent faculty rank bestowed upon members of the university faculty whose scholarly attainments have attracted national and/or international recognition.

Crawford, the Ethyl Corporation Chair in Chemistry in the College of Science and director of the Molecular Sciences Software Institute, joined the Virginia Tech College of Science faculty in 2000 and has since been recognized for his groundbreaking work in theoretical and computational chemistry. Among his core research, Crawford has developed a series of quantum mechanical models capable of high-accuracy simulations of the interaction of polarized light with chiral molecules, a class of compounds that includes most modern medicines ranging from chemical sedatives to anti-tumor agents. These new computational tools are said to shorten the development time of new chiral drugs.

“I’m honored beyond measure by this appointment, and I hope I can endeavor to deserve it,” Crawford said. “The University Distinguished Professorship will give me a unique opportunity to serve my university, my college, and my department in ways I’d only previously imagined.”

Crawford’s work in computational chemistry led him to launch the Molecular Sciences Software Institute in 2016. The MolSSI, as known in shorthand, is a $19.4 million National Science Foundation-funded initiative headquartered at Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center that serves as a nexus for scientists, educators, and corporations serving the worldwide community of computational molecular scientists – a broad field that includes biomolecular simulation, quantum chemistry, and materials science.

The MolSSI’s goal: Spur significant advances in software infrastructure, education, standards, and best practices that could lead to solutions to such vexing data-heavy problems as climate change, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, as well as the creation of new energy storage systems. Its partner members include industry, government agencies, and such universities as Rice University and the University of Southern California.

“Daniel is a stellar scientist who has transformed our institution and is transforming the way computational scientists throughout the world approach software challenges,” said Alan Esker, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry. “I know he will succeed in his ultimate goal: ‘to change fundamentally the software development enterprise – both education and culture – of the entire computational molecular sciences community.’ ”

Crawford has published more than 120 papers and has brought in nearly $25 million in external research funding to Virginia Tech. Among his awards are the 2010 Dirac Medal of the World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2002, and a Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award in 2000. He became a Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2015. In 2012, Crawford received Virginia Tech’s Alumni Award for Excellence in Research.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Duke University in 1992 and his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 1996. He was postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas from 1996 to 2000.

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