Blog Posts

2020 Spring Newsletter

President’s Message

Dear Friends:

The events of this spring have underlined the importance of the scientific, engineering, and medical expertise the Virginia Academy brings to bear for the good of the Commonwealth.  Many of our members are actively involved in responding to the COVID-19 crisis—and we are planning to play an active role in restarting our economy once the threat decreases.

As you may recall, we have previously raised awareness about the possibility of a pandemic, focusing our 2017 Annual Summit on the theme of Emerging Infections and Preparedness. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was our keynote speaker.  As Trish Dove points out in her editorial, Dr. Fauci made it clear that “federal administrations should expect to face future infectious disease crises.”  You can find the summit report on our website.

Dr. Fauci’s example only highlights the value of scientific expertise in making public policy.  Accordingly, we are pleased to announce the Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) Fellowship program, which we developed in conjunction with Holly Mayton, a cofounder of the National Science Policy Network, and several UVA graduate students. Starting this summer, six graduate student scientists and engineers from participating Virginia universities will spend 12-weeks serving as science advisors at legislative offices, executive agencies, and prominent companies and nonprofits in Virginia.

One way we will be active in responding to the crisis is through the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA), which was established during the 2020 Virginia legislative session.  As part of the VIPA authorization, the Virginia Academy was designated to provide technical support for all VIPA activities. In addition, we be continuing our work on sea level rise. Thanks to the quality of the resources we assembled for our 2018 Annual Summit on Securing Prosperity in the Coastal Zone, the legislature passed a joint resolution that tasks the Joint Subcommittee on Technology and Science with tapping the expertise of the Virginia Academy in conducting a study on the impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding in Virginia.

The Virginia Academy is partnering with the Virginia Bar Association to use the combined expertise to improve life in the Commonwealth.  With past-president Trish Dove’s leadership, the VBA offered the 90-minute program—Is the Law of Virginia Sufficient to Meet the Threats of Sea Level Rise?— during its Williamsburg annual meeting in January. The outcome of this effort has already provided excellent information for the planned study.

We will also be taking a closer look at healthcare logistics, which will be the theme for our 2020 Annual Summit. The summit will be held on November 11-12, 2020 at the Downtown Marriott in Richmond.  More information will be available as the details of the summit are finalized.

For me, one of the high points of the newsletters is the occasion to learn more about our members.  First, one of our newly elected Virginia Academy members, Dr. Sallie Keller, was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).  In addition, Dr. Chen-Ching Liu, another new NAE inductee from Virginia Tech, automatically became our newest member.  Finally, we profiled David Roop, a National Academy of Engineering member who retired in January as the director of electric transmission operations and reliability in Dominion Energy’s Power Delivery Group.  As Tom Ferrell, the company’s CEO, noted about David, he was the go-to person for issues within the transmission operation.

As you can see, the Virginia Academy has its work cut out for it!  In the meantime, please do what you can to stay safe.

James H. (Jim) Aylor
President, Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

Table of Contents

Editorial: Back to the future – Emerging Infectious Diseases and the 2017 VASEM Summit
The Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) Fellowship Program
VASEM to support the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA)
VASEM to support JCOTS study on Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding
VASEM Organizes Sea Level Panel for the Virginia Bar Association
Summit 2020 UPDATE: Healthcare Logistics
Member elected to NAE: Sallie Ann Keller
Welcome new member: Chen-Ching Liu, NAE
Member Profile: David Roop

Back to the future:  Emerging Infectious Diseases and the 2017 VASEM Summit

Patricia Dove, Past-president VASEM

At this writing, the scenario that was described during the 2017 VASEM Summit is unfolding across the United States.  Many of you will remember the words of our keynote speaker, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that emphasized “while each pandemic has unique features, federal administrations should expect to face future infectious disease crises.”  And here we are.

Keeping with the stated mission of VASEM to identify and advise the Commonwealth on emerging opportunities and threats, the 2017 VASEM Summit on “Emerging Infections and Preparedness” and the subsequent report (view and download here) was organized by University Distinguished Professor X.J. Meng of Virginia Tech.  Dr. Meng is an internationally-renowned virologist and member of the National Academy of Sciences who worked extensively on coronaviruses including the SARS-coronavirus, and later developed commercial vaccines against emerging swine viruses that are being used worldwide.  Infectious diseases are an all-hands-on-deck problem, and indeed, the Summit also included environmental engineers, such as VT Professor Linsey Marr, a recognized environmental engineer. Her research has established relationships between droplet size and relative humidity that influence airborne virus transmission.  Public health leaders such as (former) Secretary of Health, William Hazel, reminded everyone of how IT surveillance of emerging diseases is also a critical part of protecting the public.

If you are sheltering-in-place, as you read this, I urge you to revisit this informative report on Emerging Infections and Preparedness.  You are sure to be struck by its uncanny familiarity with today’s events and doubly grateful that the leadership of Virginia took a proactive and science-based stand in protecting citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.  You will also be inspired by the insights and recommendations for how Virginia and the nation can achieve greater preparedness in the future.

Emerging Infections and Preparedness:  2017 VASEM Summit Report
Organizer:  Dr. X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine; Dept. of Internal Medicine, Virginia Tech Carillion School of Medicine 

New Fellowship Program Will Help Young Scientists and Engineers Impact Public Policy

The events of this spring have only underscored the vital importance of government leaders having the most accurate scientific and technical information at their fingertips.  One challenge is the shortage of scientists and engineers with the necessary training to be effective policy advisors.  “Although many young scientists are interested in taking a more active role in policymaking, the opportunities to gain exposure during their graduate and postgraduate careers are limited,” says Holly Mayton, a cofounder of the National Science Policy Network (NSPN).The Virginia Academy partnered with Mayton and several UVA graduate students this year to launch the Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) Fellowship program. Thanks to these efforts, six young scientists and engineers from Virginia universities will spend 12-weeks this summer, no doubt virtually, serving as science advisors at legislative offices, executive branch agencies, and prominent companies and nonprofits in Virginia. Fellows will be paired with a Virginia Academy member who will act as their science policy mentor and will receive a summer stipend and professional development funds.

We have exceptional graduate and postdoctoral students in Virginia with the expertise to make a real contribution to public policy,” says Jim Aylor, Virginia Academy’s president.  “The fellowship program gives them the opportunity to have an impact now while hopefully inspiring them to pursue careers in government service.”

Creating a Path to Policy

Mayton helped found NSPN in 2018 as a forum for local science policy groups organized by graduate students at universities across the nation.  Its goals include sharing best practices and encouraging collaboration across these organizations, promoting training to give early career scientists and engineers the skills they need to flourish in the policy world, and promoting the inclusion of science and engineering in the policy process. Today, NSPN has more than 400 graduate student members representing 40 different chapters at institutions across the country.

NSPN has been endorsed by some of the most prominent and visionary leaders in technology. The organization received its initial round of funding from Schmidt Futures, which was founded by Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO and Executive Chairman from 2001 to 2018, and his wife, Wendy.

Mayton graduated from UVA in 2014 and returned, after completing her doctorate at the University of California-Riverside, to take a post-doctoral fellowship in chemical engineering.  She was inspired to explore the possibility of creating a policy fellowship program at UVA by the example of such organizations as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which has a year-long federal policy fellowship for young engineers and scientists, and state-level programs in a number of states.  Through VASEM member Anita Jones, a professor emerita of computer science at UVA, Mayton connected with Aylor, who as dean, oversaw the Engineering School’s policy program for undergraduates. Aylor brought the proposal to the Virginia Academy’s board, which enthusiastically agreed to host the program.

“We chose a three-month summer model because it’s a better fit for students actively conducting research in their advisors’ labs,” Mayton said. “And also because Virginia’s part-time legislators draft new legislation during the summer, so the fellows’ participation with groups helping to shape policy is particularly useful.”

Eight Virginia universities are participating in the inaugural year.  George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, and William & Mary are each supporting a fellow.  The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, established by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla, is providing funding for a fellowship from one of three historically black college and universities: Hampton University, Norfolk State University, and Virginia State University.

To launch the program, Mayton hosted two informational webinars that ultimately attracted 13 applicants. The universities have submitted their slates of candidates to COVES and finalists will be selected by the COVES Advisory Board and Working Group. Once the fellows are selected, Mayton will work with them to match their interests with the needs of host offices. The program begins with a two-day science policy boot camp in Richmond and ends with a convocation in August, during which fellows present their accomplishments and lessons learned.

“We were very pleased with the quality of the applicants this year and the range of their interests,” Mayton says. “As word of the opportunity spreads and faculty advisors become more comfortable with allowing students to take a leave of absence from their labs for 12 weeks, we expect the program to grow.”

The Virginia Academy was instrumental in building relationships with the participating universities, identifying host offices, and opening doors for the program in Richmond. “We’re very excited about the program,” Aylor says. “It meshes perfectly with our mission of supporting emerging leaders in science, engineering, and medicine.”

More information about the COVES Program is available on the VASEM website here.

Questions? Contact the COVES Working Group at

The Virginia Academy will support the newly-created Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority

During the past Virginia legislative session, the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA) was created.  VIPA was developed to consolidate all innovation initiatives within Virginia such as the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, Virginia Research Investment Committee, the Commonwealth Center on Advanced Manufacturing, and the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative. Its overall goal is to support the entire life cycle of innovation, from translational research, to entrepreneurship, to pre-seed and seed stage funding, to acceleration, growth and commercialization, enhancing Virginia’s tech-based economic development. The idea is that a collaborative, consistent, and consolidated approach will assist the Commonwealth in identifying its entrepreneurial strengths, including the identification of talents and resources that make the Commonwealth a unique place to grow new innovation-based businesses.

As part of the VIPA authorization, the Virginia Academy will be asked to be available to provide technical support for all VIPA activities.  Over the past several years, the Virginia Academy has provided general scientific support to the Commonwealth through such things as proposal evaluation for the Virginia Research Investment Committee and development of the 2020 Commonwealth Research and Technology Strategic Roadmap development for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

The Virginia Academy will support JCOTS on a study on Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding 

In 2018, the Annual Virginia Academy held a very successful summit on Securing Prosperity in the Coastal Zone.  It covered a range of interconnected issues that impact the prosperity of all Virginians. Hampton Roads and the surrounding coastal region in Virginia is host to the world’s largest Navy base, a bustling port, top-tier research assets in the universities in Virginia, national labs and NASA facilities, and a fast-growing population and private sector economy. The goal of the summit was to provide opportunities for our policymakers and industry and research professionals to collaborate in order to develop a plan to maximize the potential of the coastal zone’s assets and to work to address emerging issues.

The goal of all of the Virginia Academy annual summits is to develop a follow-on technical study on a related issue.  Over the period since the 2018 summit, a number of the Virginia Academy members have been asked to present its outcome.  In December, The Virginia Academy was asked to present the results of the 2018 Summit to the Joint Subcommittee on Technology and Science (JCOTS).  Based on this presentation, a joint resolution was introduced during the 2020 legislative session by Senator Cosgrove in the Senate and co-patroned by Delegate Sickles in the House for a follow-on study on the topic.  The study, which will begin immediately, will evaluate the various aspects of sea-level rise and coastal flooding as it relates to the safety, economy and quality of life in the Commonwealth, including the scientific thoroughness and validity of data that have been presented to various Joint Subcommittees over many years and the costs and effectiveness of possible remedies.

Virginia Academy Organizes Sea Level Panel for Virginia Bar Association Meeting

The Virginia Bar Association’s (VBA’s) Committee on Special Issues of National and State Importance is, in many respects, like the Virginia Academy. It consists of some of the most highly regarded members of its profession —including practicing attorneys, judges, legislators, and law school faculty — who are determined to use their expertise to improve life in the Commonwealth.

One difference is that the special issues committee also includes outside experts who provide their perspectives in fields like medicine, insurance, and manufacturing. A member of the committee, UVA law professor Richard Bonnie, noted that it lacked representation from science.  A member of the Virginia Academy and the National Academy of Medicine, Bonnie asked Patricia Dove, a fellow member of the Virginia Academy and a member of the National Academy of Science, to join the group.

“I soon found out what a terrific organization it is,” said Dove, who was president of the Virginia Academy at the time. “The members are committed to strengthening Virginia’s legal system and getting ahead of some of the challenges the Commonwealth is facing.”

Dove suggested the VBA committee devote a continuing legal education session at its upcoming annual meeting to the question of whether Virginia’s legal framework is equal to the challenge of rising seas.  She was inspired to build on the momentum of the Virginia Academy’s most recent summit, Securing Prosperity in the Coastal Zone.  The VBA enthusiastically endorsed the proposal, which was approved by the Virginia State Bar.

With Dove’s leadership, the VBA offered the 90-minute program—Is the Law of Virginia Sufficient to Meet the Threats of Sea Level Rise?— during its Williamsburg annual meeting in January.  The session attracted, in the words of David Landin, the special committee’s chair, “a packed and engaged audience” of approximately 185 participants. “I was especially pleased that there were many law students in attendance,” Dove said, “They are going to be at the forefront of dealing with these issues.”

Presenting to an Appreciative Audience

Dove organized the presentation so that attendees would come away with a sense of the underlying science of sea level rise and the many impacts that are projected for the coastal region.  This background provided a starting point for examining current laws and identifying legal shortfalls.

She recruited four speakers for the program, three of whom had presented at the Virginia Academy summit. The four panelists were Elizabeth Andrews, director of William & Mary Law School’s Virginia Coastal Policy Center; Christopher ‘Kit’ Chope, vice president of sustainability for the Port of Virginia; Mark Luckenbach, associate dean of research and advisory service in the School of Marine Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science; and Rear Admiral Ann Phillips (Ret.), special assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection.  Dove acted as the moderator.

“Our panelists were fantastic,” Dove said, “and VBA participants were enthusiastic to learn about the issues through the lens of legal challenges.” Landin noted that the program video was subsequently incorporated into a number of online courses that law schools are now broadcasting during the COVID-19 shutdown.  Ahead of the event, Dove worked with the panelists to create course materials and have the session qualified by the Virginia State Bar for CLE credits.

In addition, Dove used the occasion to introduce participants to the Virginia Academy. “VBA members compose a facet of Virginia leadership that was previously unaware of VASEM,” she says. “They are an influential group, and the program provided great visibility for us.” Virginia Academy president Jim Aylor and secretary/treasurer Antonio Elias were also on hand to meet VBA members and reiterate the urgency of coastal issues in Virginia.

Summit 2020 UPDATE: Healthcare Logistics

Save the date for the Virginia Academy’s 2020 Annual Summit on Healthcare Logistics. The Summit will be held on November 11-12, 2020 at the Downtown Richmond Marriott , 500 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219. The program will begin at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, November 11 and conclude on Thursday, November 12 at 1:00 PM. The Wednesday afternoon session will be followed by a reception and dinner which will include a keynote speaker.  A block of rooms is being held for those who wish to stay overnight. Reservations should be made by the cut-off date of October 21, 2020. More detailed information about the venue and room block will be sent at a later date.

The final Steering Committee is being formed. Individuals from Longwood University, George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Virginia have agreed to be on the committee. Other universities have been contacted for involvement. In addition, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership has been contacted and through it, connections with Merck, Glaxo Smith Kline, and Abbott Labs have been recommended. Fort Lee, the United States Army Base in Petersburg, has been contacted. Its mission is to provide logistics doctrine to sustain a campaign quality Army and is an obvious partner in this meeting. Each of these organizations are being used to gain participation in the Steering Committee and possibly conference participants. A Steering Committee should be established and operating by the end of April.

Please contact Barry Johnson at if you wish to participate or have additional recommendations.

VASEM Member Elected to NAE

Sallie Ann Keller

The National Academy of Engineering has elected Sallie Ann Keller as a member of its new class for the development and application of engineering and statistical techniques in support of national security and industry.Dr. Sallie Ann Keller is an endowed Distinguished Professor in Biocomplexity, Director of the Social and Decision Analytics Division within the Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative at University of Virginia and Professor of Public Health Sciences. Her areas of expertise are social and decision informatics, statistical underpinnings of data science, and data access and confidentiality. Dr. Keller’s is a leading voice in creating the science of all data and advancing this research across disciplines to benefit society.

Her prior positions include Professor of Statistics and Director of the Social and Decision Analytics Laboratory within the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech; Academic Vice-President and Provost at University of Waterloo; Director of the Institute for Defense Analyses Science and Technology Policy Institute; the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at Rice University; Head of the Statistical Sciences group at Los Alamos National Laboratory; Professor of Statistics at Kansas State University; and Statistics Program Director at the National Science Foundation. Dr. Keller is an Elected Member of the National Academy of Engineering. She has served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Mathematical Sciences and Their Applications, the Committee on National Statistics, and has chaired the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics. She is fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, elected member of the International Statistics Institute, fellow and past president of the American Statistical Association, and member of the JASON advisory group.

Individuals in the newly elected class will be formally inducted during a ceremony at the NAE’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4.  A list of the newly elected members and international members, with their primary affiliations at the time of election and a brief statement of their principal engineering accomplishments is available here.

VASEM Welcomes New Member

Chen-Ching Liu, NAE

VASEM is pleased to welcome its newest member from the National Academy of Engineering, Chen-Ching Liu. Dr. Liu was elected to the NAE earlier this year for contributions to computational methods for his power system restoration and cybersecurity.Chen-Ching Liu is American Electric Power Professor and Director, Power and Energy Center, at Virginia Tech. He served as Boeing Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Washington State University from 2011-2017. During 1983-2011, he was on the faculty of University of Washington, Iowa State University, and University College Dublin, Ireland. Professor Liu received an IEEE Third Millennium Medal in 2000 and the Power and Energy Society Outstanding Power Engineering Educator Award in 2004. In 2013, Dr. Liu received a Doctor Honoris Causa from Polytechnic University of Bucharest, Romania. He chaired the IEEE Power and Energy Society Fellow Committee, Technical Committee on Power System Analysis, Computing and Economics, and Outstanding Power Engineering Educator Award Committee. Chen-Ching is the U.S. Representative on the CIGRE Study Committee D2, Information Systems and Telecommunication. Professor Liu is a Fellow of the IEEE, Member of Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, and Member of the National Academy of Engineering.

NAE’s announcement of its newest members is available here

Member Profile: David Roop

David Roop occupied a series of ever-more responsible positions during his 43-year career at Dominion Energy and its predecessor companies, but regardless of his role, he always viewed it as an opportunity to solve problems. And Dominion Energy, to its credit, values engineers like Roop whose appetite for overcoming obstacles leads them to welcome the challenges that a modern, forward-thinking electric utility faces.

Roop is unusual, however, in several respects. He approaches industry-scale issues with the same level of creativity and pragmatism that he applies to operational and technical problems. And the range of the challenges he has taken on — which span a variety of transmission and distribution issues — speaks to his enthusiasm for exploring new areas. The extent of his interests is captured in the citation the National Academy of Engineering published when he was elected a member in 2018: Roop was cited for “leadership in electric vehicles, grounding methods, and safety and training in transmission and distribution grid operations.”

Supporting Network Reliability

Roop retired in January as the director of electric transmission operations and reliability in Dominion Energy’s Power Delivery Group, but he demonstrated his penchant for problem-solving even as a young engineer fresh from Virginia Tech. His first IEEE paper describes a method he developed to stop arcing ground faults in network vaults. These faults can escalate in a fraction of a second, producing immense heat that can destroy equipment and severely injure personnel. “The broad experience I had during my early years at the company really gave me a good sense of how a utility operates,” he says.

Roop was a highly respected manager, but taking on administrative duties did not deter him from conducting research. While district manager for the Charlottesville area, he found time to develop and patent a grounding device that to this day helps Dominion’s system perform more reliably during lightning storms.

Taking on National Issues

Dominion recognized that Roop was equally at home tackling broad engineering challenges as he was taking on the responsibilities of a district office. “In the early 1990s, the company realized that it had to do more to moderate demand growth,” Roop recalls. Dominion asked Roop to return to Richmond to lead its conservation group and promote the development of energy-efficient technologies. Roop, who is an advocate of building teams of experts, did so in typical fashion, forming alliances with manufacturers of heat pumps and hot water heaters and working closely with the U.S. Department of Energy on commercial building systems.

The 1990s also saw automakers make their first foray into electric vehicles since abandoning battery power almost a century earlier. Dominion became the North American electric vehicle distributer for GM and Toyota, and the company asked Roop to collaborate with car companies to set charging standards, create safe charging equipment and, in concert with other utilities, prototype a nationwide system of charging stations.

Dominion itself made a commitment to electric vehicles — it had the largest electric fleet in the U.S. — but the automakers, sensing demand was not there, withdrew from the market by the end of the decade. “The moment wasn’t right but, nonetheless, the work we did was valuable,” he says. “It provided a foundation for moving forward when the car companies returned to electric vehicles in the 2010s.”

Here again, Roop made a lasting contribution, though his inspiration was inadvertent. The shock he accidently received while charging an electric vehicle inspired him to create language for the National Electric Code requiring additional safety features to be incorporated in future chargers.

Innovating in a Time of Change

Roop made what is probably his most significant and far-reaching contribution at Dominion in the early 2000s after he was asked to take over the field operations for the company. It was clear to Roop that the economy was becoming more dependent than ever on the electric grid even as the electric industry faced a new set of complex and often interrelated risks that would affect the reliability, security, and resiliency of the system. These included vulnerabilities caused by the transition from electro-mechanical- to computer-controlled equipment, terrorist attempts to take down the grid, and the advent of renewables. The company’s models were not sophisticated enough to account for these risks, and it lacked the expertise to develop them.

In response, Roop established an operations engineering group and hired a new generation of highly trained engineers to take on this task. The open-source tools they developed have been widely adopted by other utilities and established Dominion as a global innovator. “It changed the way we harden and configure our network,” Roop says. The group also piloted the use of synchrophasors, which gave the company complete visibility into the state of its network.

Even in retirement, Roop is no less engaged in helping guide the future of the industry. He is president of CIGRE in the United States, an international power group headquartered in Paris that shares knowledge and power system expertise. “The effect of adding renewable generation and smart devices is a dramatic increase in system complexity and vulnerability as well as in the amount of data it produces,” he says. “Our challenge now is to find better ways to understand the data so that we can manage our systems effectively.”