University announces opening of Alexandria Research Institute
By Lynn Nystrom
Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 10 - October 29, 1998
Virginia Tech is establishing the Alexandria Research Institute (ARI) in Northern Virginia to help ensure the state's global pre-eminence in research-intensive technology fields.
"The institute will accommodate expanding research activities and respond to long-standing requests from industry to increase high-technology research efforts in Northern Virginia," President Paul Torgersen said. "The College of Engineering held many discussions with Northern Virginia legislators and industry leaders before it made this commitment to a major expansion of its research and graduate-education programs in Northern Virginia," he adds.
Among the legislators, U.S. Congressman James P. Moran of the Eighth District, State Senator Patricia S. Ticer, and Virginia House of Delegates Representative Marian Van Landingham, all of whom represent Alexandria, have endorsed the establishment of the ARI. The mayor of Alexandria, Kerry Donley, has also welcomed the institute.
Initially, faculty members and researchers from Virginia Tech's departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE), Civil and Environmental Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Mining and Minerals Engineering will be housed at the institute, and they will carry out their research and graduate advising from this facility. Each of these departments has existing relationships with corporate and federal partners in the Washington, D.C., area.
Several highly regarded Virginia Tech centers will also conduct research at the institute, including the Fiber & Electro-Optics Research Center, Center for Wireless Communications, and Center for Energy and the Global Environment. Several other Tech engineering centers are expected to have their Washington-area satellite facilities located at this site.
This expansion will be led by the college's ECpE department which will increase its numbers in northern Virginia from two to eight faculty members this year. Leonard Ferrari, head of this department, conceived the idea of the ARI, and has served as a leading advocate during its development.
The department will concentrate its teaching-and-research efforts in the major business areas of Northern Virginia which include computer networks, fiber optics and wireless communications, software engineering and micro-electronics systems design.
The engineering college anticipates 25 faculty members and 75 full-time students to be housed in the new institute by the end of academic year 1999-2000.
College of Engineering Dean F. William Stephenson announced that the institute will be directed by Saifur Rahman, an ECpE professor at Virginia Tech and director of the university's Center for Energy and the Global Environment, a research group that deals with international energy and environmental studies.
Rahman's responsibilities as director will include working with corporate sponsors, federal agencies, international organizations and foreign universities to establish academic and research programs, training activities, short courses, and faculty and student exchanges. Pamela Kurstedt, an assistant dean for the College of Engineering who directs the college's programs at the Northern Virginia Graduate Center in Falls Church, will act as liaison between the center and the institute.
Closely linked to the ARI is a recently introduced, part-time, inter-disciplinary Master of Information Technology Program (IT@VT) which is being offered state wide by the ECpE computer science, management sciences and information technology, and accounting and information systems departments. Classes in the professional master's-degree program will be offered live at the Virginia Tech--University of Virginia Northern Virginia Center (NVC) in Falls Church and over the state's new ATM network, Net.Work.Virginia.
ECpE faculty members will conduct research and supervise full-time graduate students at the ARI and will teach at the Falls Church NVC. Until this time, the College of Engineering has not had adequate space or facilities in Northern Virginia to support full-time graduate students and faculty research programs, which has made it difficult to attract more than a small number of outstanding full-time faculty members. With the new commitment of the college to full-time graduate programs and research in Northern Virginia, it is anticipated that recruitment of outstanding faculty members and students to the region will be greatly enhanced and the number of faculty members will grow rapidly.
Faculty members at the ARI will be encouraged to work closely with the more than 3,000 high-technology companies and the large number of federal agencies in the Washington Capitol Region.
The selected site, 206 Washington Street, is close to the King Street Metro Stop, two miles from Reagan National Airport, and within 10 minutes of several federal funding agencies (NSF, DARPA, NRL). Alexandria is part of the Arlington-Crystal City-DC-Alexandria industrial cluster which contains approximately one-third of Northern Virginia's high-technology companies. Fairfax City and Dulles Airport are at the center of the other two industry clusters.
The location in Alexandria builds upon and extends the experience and success of the Virginia Tech College of Architecture's Washington-Alexandria Center a few blocks away. This center provides students and faculty members from U.S. and international universities opportunities to study and do research in the nation's capitol area. Similarly, the ARI will provide increased opportunity for Virginia Tech engineers to interact with their peers from around the world, which is increasingly necessary to maintain world-class status as a research institution.
Because of its close proximity to the Capitol and the international embassies, the ARI will have a strong international component. The institute will serve Northern Virginia industries with a window to international markets. Visiting faculty members, students and industry scholars are expected to comprise nearly 20 percent of the residents of the ARI. Scholars from France, Switzerland, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, and Singapore are expected to be among the first international visitors to join the high-technology research teams at the ARI.