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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
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Administrators appointed in Arts and Sciences

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 19 - February 5, 1998

Robert C. Bates, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has appointed Joseph Merola associate dean for research and outreach and Donna Ferrandino assistant to the dean.
Merola, professor of chemistry, assumes some of the duties performed by former Associate Dean Lucinda Roy before she returned to teaching and writing. Among other things, Merola will provide leadership and vision to research and outreach opportunities in the coming decade, lead college implementation of the Academic Agenda, facilitate communications among departments, manage graduate-assistantship allocations and COTA opportunities, and represent the college on various university committees and commissions. He also will assist the college in its extended campus course delivery and program management.
"Dr. Merola's experience in industry, combined with his academic experience, makes him particularly well-suited for assisting the college with a wide spectrum of activities, from research to outreach," Bates said. "He is well balanced in the three missions of the university--teaching, research, and outreach. He will be able to bring new ideas and creative solutions to university activities in all three areas."
Merola has been at Virginia Tech since 1987, having come here from Exxon's Corporate Research and Engineering Co., where he was a senior research chemist. He also has served as visiting associate at the California Institute of Technology and as a research assistant and teaching assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Merola earned a bachelor's degree at Carnegie-Mellon University and the Ph.D. from MIT. He is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Chemical Society and Inorganic Chemistry Division. He has published extensively in professional journals and books, organized a symposium for the ACS's Southeast Regional Meeting, and served as a reviewer for proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, and the Department of Energy.
Merola's research involves water-soluble catalysts for chemical reactions. Currently, most industrial chemical reactions to make products used in everyday life, such as plastics and pharmaceuticals, are carried out in solutions using expensive, toxic, environmentally dangerous solvents, Merola said. "Our research focuses on ways that we can carry out some of these reactions in the more environmentally friendly solvent, water," he said. "The heart of this research involves finding new, water-soluble catalysts that will allow these reactions take place in water."
Merola has received the College of Arts and Sciences Certificate of Teaching Excellence three times and the University Alumni Award for Teaching Excellence in 1997. He served on the college's Teaching Awards Committee for five years and has served his department and the university in several positions, including a member of the University Council and the Graduate Research Policies and Programs Committee, co-chair of the University Committee on Academic Integrity, and chair of the Commission on Graduate Studies. He is a member of Cyberschool II.
His public-service contributions include work in the public schools promoting science with elementary and middle-school students, judging science fairs, and serving on county school advisory boards.
Ferrandino assumed the duties of assistant to the dean in January. She works directly with the dean to enhance his efficiency and effectiveness in matters of personnel, program review, training, and information dissemination.
Ferrandino comes to Virginia Tech from Steubenville, Ohio, where she served as associate professor and dean for Health Technologies, Public Services and Natural Sciences at Jefferson Community College. She administered degree work in eight health-technology programs and for the biological-sciences program. She also administered five public-service programs and taught in the human-nutrition program. She successfully guided her faculty and programs through a progressive series of changes in degree programs, community-education efforts, and facilities.
Ferrandino received her B.A. and M.S. from Hunter College in New York, N.Y., and her doctorate in the Department of Human Nutrition and Foods at Virginia Tech in 1995. She also received a graduate certificate in gerontology. From 1989 to 1995, she served as a graduate assistant in administration in the Dean's Office of the College of Human Resources. During that time, she also served as a GTA for the Department of Human Nutrition and Foods and for the college's Professional Seminar.
"We are pleased to have attracted such a well-qualified individual to this position," Bates said. "Her extensive professional experience in higher education has enabled her to contribute a great deal to the college from the first day of her employment."