Ed Smith, a professor of animal and poultry sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Smith, the program director of two competitively funded National Institutes of Health training grants, was among 489 distinguished fellows in this year’s cohort. Smith also leads Virginia Tech’s Comparative Genomics Lab, which focuses on activities involving both aspects of comparative genomics: building genomic information on little-understood avian species using information from more widely studied organisms and using information on model species to understand a biological phenomenon in humans.

“Being named an AAAS fellow is a humbling validation of my lifetime work. I am very grateful to Virginia Tech and to so many colleagues, administrators, and scholars who have helped move these ideas along to impact our research enterprise,” Smith said. “Virginia Tech provided the support for me to accomplish a lot of the goals I set out to pursue when I arrived here, especially in the face of challenges that life can pose.”

Since coming to Virginia Tech in 2000, Smith set out to create an innovative environment for conducting research. He pioneered research training grants from NIH at Virginia Tech, which has resulted in significant NIH funding and turned Virginia Tech into one of the leading land-grant institutions that receives NIH funding for training graduate students.

Two of Smith’s most successful programs are the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) and its sister program Post-Baccalaureate Research and Education Program (PREP). IMSD and PREP have brought a considerable number of graduate students to the institution, many of whom are minorities or from historically underrepresented groups, and bring in $800,000 annually.

IMSD and PREP Trainees at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in 2018 in Tampa. Left to right: Naya Eady, Alyssa Debra, Crystal Kennedy, and Deon Brown.

IMSD and PREP Trainees at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in 2018
IMSD and PREP trainees at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in 2018 in Tampa. Left to right: Naya Eady, Alyssa Debra, Crystal Kennedy, and Deon Brown.

Smith has also helped introduce several innovations to Virginia Tech’s research and graduate education enterprise, including the Grant Writing course, which paved the way for the first competitively funded prestigious NIH Fellowship, and the use of an ombudsperson as a resource for trainees, faculty, and program leadership in 2003. The programs have received significant institutional support and have supported more than 200 trainees.

A virtual Fellows Forum – an induction ceremony for the new AAAS Fellows – will be held on Feb. 13.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current members or by the chief executive officer. Fellows must have been continuous members for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected. The Fellow honor comes with an expectation that recipients maintain the highest standards of professional ethics and scientific integrity.