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Alumni Award for Research Excellence

The Office of Research and Innovation requests nominations for the Alumni Award for Research Excellence.

The Alumni Association established the Award for Research Excellence in 1975 to promote research at Virginia Tech. To achieve this purpose, individuals or research teams who have reached a level of significant research achievement will be considered.

Awards are made in the following two categories:

  • Science or engineering
  • Social sciences, humanities, or arts

One award may be given in each category and there may be no more than one awardee from a single major unit (college or institute) each year. Nominations may come from alumni, students, faculty, department heads, directors, and deans. Self-nominations are not permitted.

Nominations and Eligibility

  • Nominations may come from alumni, students, faculty, department heads, directors, and deans. Self-nominations are not permitted.
  • The title of Distinguished Professor is the highest honor bestowed by Virginia Tech;  therefore, Distinguished Professors are not eligible.
  • Retired faculty are not eligible.
  • Individuals can be honored with the award more than once.
  • The award may be granted jointly to two or more persons where the research was done jointly, not otherwise.
  • Recipients must be a member of the Virginia Tech community for at least three years and hold the rank of associate professor or professor (or equivalent).
  • Individuals who were nominated last year are automatically considered for an award for the 2023-24 academic year if dossiers are complete. The nominator may update elements of the nominee’s dossier, e.g., nomination cover letter, external reference letters, Curriculum Vita (CV).

Nomination Package Instructions

Nominators should prepare the required documentation so that peers in unrelated fields can appreciate the significance of the nominee's work. The impact of the research on the field should be addressed clearly and concisely.  

Required Elements:  Cover letter, external reference letters, Curriculum Vita.

Cover Letter: Format the cover letter using 11- or 12-point, Times New Roman font, and one inch margins. Content should not exceed two pages. Cover letter must include the following sections and headings in this order:

  1. Name(s) of the nominee:  The award may be granted to an individual or jointly to two or more persons for joint research. 
  2. Research category: Designate whether the nomination is for science or engineering; or social sciences, humanities, and arts.
  3. Specific scholarly achievements: Brief description with highlights of scholarly achievements such as publications and presentations.
  4. Research area: Address the importance of the area of research or scholarship and the impact of the work of the nominee. If quotations from reviews or other papers are given, supply copies of the complete text. Indicate the significance, frequency, etc. of awards or prizes received. Service in professional societies, fellowships, may be cited as evidence of professional visibility, but do not cite university or community service, or accomplishments in instruction.
  5. Exemplary contributions: Cite no more than five refereed papers or the appropriate equivalent.
  6. Proposed citation: Provide a statement about the nominee and the reason for the nomination in 20 words or less. 
  7. Proposed by: Provide the nominator(s) name, title. If a committee is making the nomination, list all members. Include date of nomination.
  8. External Referee Information: Provide name, title and brief description of the qualifications of the three external referees providing letters.

External Reference Letters: Provide three professional reference letters from recognized scholars outside the university who can speak clearly to the quality and significance of the nominee’s work in the field. Letters must be on official letterhead and signed. The nominator is responsible for acquiring the external reference letters.

Curriculum Vita: The nomination should be accompanied by a CV(s), to include lists of publications by category, or performances, grants and contracts, awards, etc.


Nominations must be submitted to Robyn Smyth by Jan. 31, 2024, close of business. The nomination cover letter, external reference letters, and CV should be included as one single PDF document.  

Selection Criteria

  • The research must have been conducted since the time the nominee joined the Virginia Tech faculty, although it may be a continuation of research started prior to coming to Virginia Tech.
  • Preference will be given to sustained research our outstanding work over a period of three years to ten years, although in exceptional cases, the award may be given for a single piece of outstanding work without regard to time.
  • Evidence of excellence in the performance of diligent research, studious inquiry, exhaustive investigation, having as its aim the discovery of new facts, and their correct interpretation, the revision of accepted conclusions, theories or laws in light of newly discovered facts or the practical application of such new or revised conclusions, theories, or laws. Evidence may be shown through:
    • Impact: the impact should be measurable and may be assessed through products, awards, and association recognition, it may be national and/or international.
    • External recognition: this may include prestigious awards, association fellowships, record of presenting at national and/or international conferences, etc.
    • Funding: the amount of funding received through sponsorship, fellowships, grants, contracts, etc.
    • Prestige of products relevant to area of research:  e.g. pieces of music, publications; installations. 
  • One of the bases on which applicants shall be chosen will be their research ability as evaluated by peers in the appropriate discipline and as indicated by peer-refereed publications and/or exhibits (refereed journal articles, books, patents, and/or recognition of exhibit competitions).

Updated 7-26-23 by the Guidelines Subcommittee for the Alumni Award for Research Excellence.

Past Winners


  • Mehdi Ahmadian
  • Ralph Buehler


  • Brett Jones
  • Maury Nussbaum


  • Amy Pruden
  • Kevin Boyle


  • Rafael Davalos
  • Martha Ann Bell


  • Carol Mullen
  • Leo Piilonen


  • Wenjing Lou
  • Billie Lepczyk


  • Janell Watson
  • Liwu Li


  • Joyce Arditti
  • Kathy Lu



  • William Hopkins
  • France Belanger



  • Elizabeth Struthers Malbon
  • Shashank Priya


  • Jeffrey Walters
  • Joseph Pitt



  • Stephen Prince
  • T. Daniel Crawford



  • J. Riffle
  • N. Ramakrishnan



  • T. Long
  • S. Xiao


  • R. Ekirch
  • B. Tyler


  • X. Meng
  • T. Oyama


  • T. Calasanti
  • D. Viehland


  • K. Roberto
  • M. Edwards
  • H. Dorn


  • M. Hochella, Jr.
  • M. Hyer



  • R. Batra
  • H. Gibson


  • D. Farkas
  • D. Lindsay


  • M. Akers
  • T. Watson


  • R. Winett
  • N. Castagnoli, Jr.


  • S. Desu
  • J. Schetz


  • C. Fuller
  • J. Ball


  • T. Rappaport
  • H. Sherali


  • F. Gwazdauskas
  • W. Velander, R. Yoon