Jen Irish, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, was recently selected as a member of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (VASEM). Irish was honored as a newly selected member at a reception at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2.

“Bringing visibility to rising stars in Virginia for future consideration for selection to VASEM is one of the goals of growing the membership. Another is to bring new expertise into the VASEM that can help with big issues facing Virginia now and into the future,” said Patricia Dove, VASEM past president and member of the board of directors. “Jen has demonstrated an impressive record of service to her profession and to society.”

VASEM is one of 11 state academies composed primarily of National Academy members, although this year, the academy selected members who are not already National Academy members, with Irish being one of them. Those who are not in one of the National Academies are considered only if they “have an outstanding record of scientific accomplishments, national and international recognition, and willingness to participate in the activities of the corporation,” according to the website.

Irish joined the Virginia Tech community in 2011 and is an expert in storm surge dynamics, coastal hazard assessment, and nature-based infrastructure for coastal hazard mitigation. She has received research grants totaling $14.6 million from agencies, including the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Commission on Energy Policy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant Program.

In 2019, Irish lived abroad in Israel as part of a U.S. Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship. She also leads Coastal Hazards at Virginia Tech, along with Robert Weiss and Tina Dura, which seeks to gain a more complete understanding of coastal hazards that will ultimately lead to more disaster-resilient coasts.

Irish joins other newly selected members Alfred Grasso, retired president and CEO of The Mitre Corporation, director of NetScout Systems Inc.; Sallie Keller, University of Virginia (public health sciences), director of Social & Decision Analytics Division of the Biocomplexity Institute; Rear Admiral Thomas Eccles, CEO of Trident Maritime Systems; LLC.; Edward Egelman, University of Virginia (biochemistry and molecular genetics); Sara Kiesler, National Science Foundation; Alex Krist, VCU (family medicine and population health); and Heidi Shyu, president and CEO of Heidi Shyu Inc.

Founded in 2013, the academy provides nonpartisan, objective guidance to decision-makers in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The mission of the academy is to inform, advocate, and serve the commonwealth by providing expertise in science, engineering, and medicine in ways that will guide and support decisions for the future of Virginia.

VASEM holds annual summits on issues of concern to every Virginian, from the future of transportation to preparedness for emerging disease. Since its founding, this independent, expert resource for Virginia has become a model for new state academies across the nation.

- Written by Courtney Sakry