Skelton with his fist in the air: a student artist's depiction of the body's response to disease.
About the cover art and other art in this issue: Students
from Virginia Tech's art department
who were enrolled in Advanced Visual Communications for spring semester
2002 were given a special assignment; they were asked to do an editorial
illustration for the article on infectious
disease research. Professors Robert Fields, Meg Nugent, and
Chris Bailey worked with them to develop the finished pieces.
the assignment was first made, we didnt know what to expect.
How would they reflect the publics apprehension in the wake
of Octobers anthrax incidents?
students responses ran the gamut from fearful to flag-wrapped
and in-your-face. We found that we favored those with confidence
bordering on attitude. We selected those that depicted an aggressive
response, such as Shaun Websters cover illustration
a weaponized fantasy germ under fire.
wasnt room for all the illustrations we liked. So, in addition
to the cover and the art that accompanied the article, weve
included Jennifer Trotters fist-in-the-air depiction for this
page. She says she was thinking of the human bodys response
and the medical researchers response to disease as she created
On their way to oceans and lakes, streams — like university research — support communities, anglers, and many other life forms; recycle nutrients; enrich the land; remove pollution; and sometimes become diverted or dry up.
A concept often used in discussing research process and productivity
is that of a pipeline. Research is said to be in the pipeline.
A project can enter the pipeline at several stages in the range from
basic to applied research as a theory or question to be explored,
as a discovery to be unfolded or developed, or as a product to be tested
With the pipeline analogy, one imagines valves and faucets. Open a valve
funds or some other form of resources, and the research moves
toward the faucet, where results will pour out to refresh economic development,
national security, health, all depending on what was in the pipeline.
Perhaps a more accurate analogy is a stream.
Ideas and projects can flow in, like surface runoff after a heavy rain,
length of the stream. Ideas also filter in like water through marshes
and groundwater from far-reaching watersheds. Lively creeks can feed the
stream in a steady and reliable manner. Occasionally, a dam opens its
gates and a rush of water pours down, sometimes enriching and sometimes
diluting the activity of the stream. Or there is a spill ... Well, we
can work this analogy in many ways.
The point is, the university research process is an ecosystem, not a
A few years ago, a team of researchers that included Virginia Techs
stream team in biology, published an article in Science that reported
on how small streams impact water quality, by removing nitrogen, for instance.
The article and other publications from the same project talked about
how shaded streams and sun-lit streams marshal different resources to
support a variety of life.
On their way to oceans and lakes, streams like university research
support communities, anglers, and many other life forms; recycle
nutrients; enrich the land; remove pollution; and sometimes become diverted
or dry up.
The research process is important. Many people learn in the process.
New directions and possibilities are discovered by researchers who are
as alert to the process as they are to a desired outcome.
That is why this magazine tells you about research that is in process.
been some discoveries, such as a John Donne work or a way to grow ginseng
in the wild; and some creations, such as software to study earthquakes
or a piano composition that wrenches the heart with historical and modern
allusions. But the research is ongoing, as is the study of small aircraft
for transportation and smaller aircraft to scout fields for disease.
And while we may row gently down the stream lest we miss its wonder
riches, or miss an exciting fork life is not a dream. Thus we do
research to combat infectious diseases that are a natural part of life
and to combat use of disease as a weapon.