The new Infectious Disease Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (ID IGEP) at Virginia Tech offers graduate students the opportunity to get involved in research as diverse as SARS-COV-2 reverse genetics, treating microbial contamination in drinking water, and reducing mosquito-borne diseases.

“This program is a realization of the Virginia Tech motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in the form of service to society through focus on real-world infectious disease problems like the pandemic we are currently experiencing,” said Kevin Edgar, professor of biomaterials and bioprocessing and co-director of the Infectious Disease IGEP.

Based in the new Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens, the new Infectious Disease IGEP brings together more than 100 faculty from six colleges and over 25 departments to educate the next generation of infectious disease researchers by providing interdisciplinary training opportunities.

Interdisciplinary opportunities provided by the ID IGEP will include a cohesive but diverse environment, a cutting-edge infectious disease seminar series, a broad-based introductory course on infectious disease, a research symposium, and networking events. The IGEP will draw upon Virginia Tech’s existing, diverse faculty experts in biological, biomedical, medical, engineering, agricultural, veterinary, plant, social, and environmental sciences who are currently affiliated with the Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens.

“The program will train graduate students to master technical skills, approach research questions from multiple perspectives, and develop novel solutions for issues related to infectious diseases while educating them to effectively communicate their research results to policymakers and the general public,” said Ann Stevens, professor of biological sciences and co-director of the ID IGEP.

In the ID IGEP, each graduate student's educational plan is customized by background, expertise, and interest. During the first semester, graduate students have the opportunity to participate in lab rotations through affiliated research groups to ensure they are a good fit with their research area — and their mentors. The Infectious Disease IGEP is not a degree-granting program; degrees are awarded through the department and college of the student’s research mentor. 

“In addition to training students to conduct basic and mechanistic research, the Infectious Disease IGEP and Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens will also partner with industries to train a new generation of infectious disease professionals focusing on translational and applied research,” said X.J. Meng, the founding director of the center and University Distinguished Professor of Virology in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s one of the aspects that makes this center unique, as it spans from disease vector to animal reservoir, from social science to engineering science approaches of tackling infectious diseases, and from animal and plant pathogen to human pathogen.”

Funded by the six participating colleges, the Virginia Tech graduate school and the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, the Infectious Disease IGEP is one of 15 Virginia Tech IGEPs.

"I’m delighted that we are moving to the next phase of interdisciplinary graduate education across the university and am pleased to welcome the Infectious Disease to the existing outstanding IGEPs. ID promises timely and important research in a critical education focus area with not only local but global implications," said Karen DePauw, Virginia Tech vice president and dean for graduate education.

These programs address a variety of complex societal issues requiring interdisciplinary teams of scholars. The Graduate School supports Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Programs to promote and sustain interdisciplinary graduate education and research at Virginia Tech. These interdisciplinary graduate programs have been developed by colleges, schools, departments and units across the university. Each program addresses a major fundamental problem or complex societal issue requiring an interdisciplinary team of scholars.

Review of applications for the first cohort of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program in Infectious Disease will begin on Dec. 1.