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Governor McAuliffe Announces Virginia's Outstanding Scientists and Governor's Award for Science Innovation

Governor Terry McAuliffe and Science Museum of Virginia Chief Wonder Officer Richard C. Conti are pleased to announce Virginia’s Outstanding Scientists of 2014 and the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Science Innovation presented by Altria. The honorees receive their awards at the Science Museum of Virginia’s General Assembly Reception on Thursday, January 16, at 6:00 p.m.

“I am honored to recognize Virginia’s top science talents for 2014,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This year’s outstanding scientists are known worldwide for their contributions in particle physics that led to the discovery of the Higgs particle and pioneering discoveries to reveal the molecular causes of cancer. The Science Innovation Award winning organization has made significant leaps in developing Virginia’s STEM workforce pipeline. Their creativity, contributions and dedication are making Virginia a worldwide leader in STEM.”

“We are privileged to celebrate this globally significant work and hope that it inspires future participants into STEM careers,” said Conti. “These individuals are improving our quality of life through their stellar accomplishments.”

Virginia’s Outstanding Scientists 2014

Professor Bradley Cox
Professor Bradley Cox is one of a small number of physicists whose leadership was essential in making the historical discovery of the Higgs particle possible. Of the 2500-3000 physicists who come from over a hundred and fifty universities and institutes around the world working on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, his contributions toward the detection and measurement of the Higgs particle were highly important in shepherding the discovery to fruition. He is one of the four members of the Review committee that approved the data analysis and endorsed the announcement of the discovery to the world.

The research performed by the UVa experimental particle physics team led by Professor Cox aims at answering profound questions such as:

  • Why are there more particles than antiparticles? 
  • How do particles acquire their masses? 
  • What did the universe look like at its origin?

Earlier, Professor Cox had also made important contributions to several seminal studies in particle physics that shed light on symmetry violation and fundamental interactions in particle physics.  He has been one of the leaders in the field for his entire career.

Professor Bradley Cox is a Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics at the University of Virginia.

Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D
Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., is an accomplished molecular biologist investigating the mechanisms involved in cancer development and progression in order to define improved methods for cancer prevention, detection and therapy. Fisher pioneered a powerful technique to study gene expression in specific tissues or cell types known as subtraction hybridization, which he has used to identify genes involved in many important and medically relevant physiological processes including cancer, neurodegeneration and infectious diseases. Studies in his laboratory focus on understanding the molecular and biochemical reasons for cancer development with a specific focus on understanding how cancers spread, a process called metastasis. The ultimate aim is to use this collected knowledge to bring new, more effective prevention techniques, diagnostic approaches and therapies from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside. This is epitomized by his studies involving mda-7/IL-24, a gene that was discovered in his laboratory and has displayed significant clinical efficacy in a phase 1 clinical trial when injected directly into advanced cancers using a form of viral gene therapy. Using a novel cancer terminator virus, Ad.5/3-CTV, that is designed to replicate only within cancer cells while delivering the immune-modulating and toxic mda-7/IL-24 gene, Fisher and his clinical colleagues are developing a clinical trial in patients with glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer.

Fisher has been consistently funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over the past 35 years and is among the top 5 percent of NIH funded investigators during this time period. He has published over 500 primary papers and reviews, served on numerous NIH study sections and government and private grant review panels and has over 55 issued patents. He is the recipient of multiple National Cancer Institute (NCI) Program Project Grants; investigator initiated R01 grants from the NIH, NCI and National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS); private foundation grants from the National Foundation for Cancer Research and the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation; and an Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award from the NIH focusing on preparing students from groups underrepresented in the sciences for research careers.

Fisher is Professor and Chair of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Medicine, Founding Director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine and Thelma Newmeyer Corman Chair in Cancer Research and co-leader of the Cancer Molecular Genetics research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center.

Governor’s Award for Scientific Innovation presented by Altria

SySTEMic Solutions
Over the past three years, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) has been collaborating with area corporations and eight school divisions in Northern Virginia to develop a strategy for strengthening the STEM pipeline from high school, to NOVA, to a university or college, and into the workforce.  

SySTEMic Solutions has led the development of a collaborative arrangement among school divisions, higher education institutions, and employers through the Chambers of Commerce to create a sustainable workforce pipeline in the Northern Virginia region that in the year 2016 will have nearly 40,000 students preparing for STEM careers. 

Many regions in Virginia face a critical shortage of scientists, engineers and technicians.  The National Research Council and the National Science Foundation have identified the core underpinnings of a competitive economy as being the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In 2006, the US National Academies issued a warning about the decline of STEM education in America and recommended a number of actions.  One of their top recommendations was to enlarge the pipeline of students preparing to enter college and graduate with STEM degrees.

Currently, these activities are being provided in the eight Northern Virginia school divisions in cooperation with the educational foundations and corporate partners within these jurisdictions. The SySTEMic Solutions model provides a replicable footprint to overcome the challenge of supplying the technical workforce with skilled workers through bringing a comprehensive STEM curriculum, intensive teacher training process and numerous co-curricular student enrichment opportunities together in one research-based approach that will improve outcomes for middle tier students in a regional setting. SySTEMic Solutions provides the best readily available platform to reach the entire region in promoting and educating our future workforce on STEM related education.

Article courtesy Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Science Museum of Virginia