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Research Day (RD) is an annual one-day event in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. It consists of a keynote presentation by department alumni and invited oral presentations by graduate students, breakout sessions with talks by graduate students, and poster presentations by graduate and undergraduate students. 

As such, it provides an opportunity for graduate students to showcase their research and fosters interaction among Biological Sciences research labs.  It also serves to update and highlight the breadth of research activities in the department to alumni and prospective graduate students.

This year, Research Day will be held February 1st at The Inn at Virginia Tech/Skelton Conference Center.  

Important Submission Deadlines:

  • Breakout Session Oral Presentation Abstracts: NOON on Friday, January 24, 2020 (download abstract instructions here) (send abstracts to
  • Poster Files for Printing: Friday, January 24, 2020 (instructions at this link)
  • Poster Abstracts: Monday, January 27, 2020 (download abstract instructions here) (send abstracts to

Please note that, due to time and space limitations, students who are giving oral presentations, whether invited or during breakout sessions, will NOT also be accommodated for poster presentations.. We are aiming for having high quality breakout talks that reflect the exciting and diverse aspects of research that is unfolding in our department.  If you are NOT chosen to give a breakout talk, you will be automatically considered for a poster presentation and notified at least two weeks before the event.

If you have problems registering, please contact Valerie Sutherland at




Keynote Speaker


Dr. Beth Norman

Director of Science and Research, Lacawac Sanctuary and Biological Field Station, Lake Ariel, PA

Title: "Facets of nitrogen limitation in freshwaters: From microbes to food webs to the fate of ecosystems"

I am an aquatic ecosystem ecologist interested in how interactions among organisms influence ecosystem function. Broadly, my research investigates the transformation and transportation of nutrients in aquatic ecosystems, topics that lie on the intersection of ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology, and community dynamics.  As a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech (under advisor Jack Webster) I researched consequences of nitrogen enrichment in headwater streams in southwest Virginia and the Coweeta LTER in North Carolina. My post-doctoral research at Trent University and Michigan State University focused on ecosystem responses of boreal lakes to emerging contaminants and understanding how nutrient dynamics contribute to mosquito production from water-filled tree holes. I am currently the Director of Science and Research at Lacawac Sanctuary and Biological Field Station where I am studying the role of nitrogen availability on the trophic fate on browning lakes.

Nitrogen is an essential component of biomass and a critical element in many metabolic pathways. The availability of nitrogen can limit primary productivity and influence the transformation and transport of matter at ecosystem scales. My work aims to understand the factors driving nitrogen cycling in freshwater ecosystems and how various aspects of global change are affecting these dynamics. I will present research describing how N fertilization affects N uptake by leaf-associated microbes in streams, how assimilated N moves through stream food webs, and how N availability may determine the fate of lakes experiencing eutrophication and browning. I will also discuss the potential role of dissimilatory N processes in the production of one of the most dangerous species on the planet: mosquitoes. 

Invited Student Speakers

Timofey Arapov (Scharf Lab):  "Blots, blots, and more blots: deciphering Sinorhizobium chemotaxis protein function and stoichiometries" (Microbiology)

Holly Packard Bartholomew (Stevens Lab): "Living in planta: Understanding gene regulation of the phytopathogen, Pantoea stewartii subsp. stewartii during xylem colonization of sweet corn" (Microbiology)

Jessica Hernandez (Moore Lab): "Birds, sex, and bacteria: mating behavior and the cloacal microbiome in female tree swallows" (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)

Ryan McClure (Carey Lab):  "Near-term iterative forecasting of reservoir methane ebullition using high-frequency water temperature data" (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)



(may be subject to minor changes)

8:30 am – 9:25 am

Coffee/refreshments/poster setup
Coffee/refreshments outside Alumni Assembly Hall, poster setup in Latham Ballroom A and Foyer

9:25 am – 9:30 am

Opening Remarks from Dr. Bob Cohen
Alumni Assembly Hall

9:30 am – 10:30 am

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Beth Norman
Alumni Assembly Hall

10:30 am – 10:45 am

Break (coffee, etc.)
Outside Alumni Assembly Hall

10:45 am – 12:05 pm 

Invited Student Speakers
Alumni Assembly Hall

12:05 pm – 1:00 pm

Latham Ballroom C-D-E-F

1:15 pm – 3:30 pm

Breakout Sessions
Alumni Assembly Hall and Latham Ballroom B

3:30 pm – 5:45 pm

Poster Sessions and Happy Hour (4:00 – 6:00 p.m.)
Latham Ballroom A and Foyer

5:45 pm – 6:00 pm

Award Announcements
Latham Ballroom A

6:00 pm – 6:15 pm 

Closing remarks by Dr. Bob Cohen
Latham Ballroom A

Breakout Session Oral Presentations

In each session, moderators and an independent judge will evaluate the presentations. The moderators will be responsible for introducing the presenters, managing the time of the sessions, and, most importantly, will aid in the selection of the best graduate student presentation in their sessions.

Patrick Calhoun (Smyth Lab): "Subversion of cellular gap junctions by human adenovirus" (Molecular and Cell Biology)

Alex Grimaudo (Langwig Lab): "Host and environment interact to drive the persistence of remnant host populations following pathogen invasion" (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)

Arba Karcini (Lazar Lab): "Uncovering the cell surfaceome through orthogonal enrichment approaches in SKBR3 breast cancer cells"  (Molecular and Cell Biology)

Lauren Maynard (Whitehead Lab): "Secondary metabolites in a neotropical shrub: spatiotemporal variation and role in fruit defense and dispersal" (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)

Yirui Chen (Chen Lab) "Mathematical modelling of gliding motility and its regulation in Myxococcus xanthus" (Molecular and Cell Biology)

Catherine Hucul (Sewall Lab) "The effects of urbanization on artificial nest predation and predator vigilance" (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)

Rachel Padget (Smyth Lab) "Cardiotropic adenovirus subverts electrical coupling and increases arrhythmia susceptibility during acute infection" (Molecular and Cell Biology)

Kisha Pradhan (Li Lab) "Mechanisms responsible for the inflammatory polarization of monocytes by subclinical low-dose LPS" (Microbiology)

Keane Dye (Yang Lab) "Cyclic-di-GMP and ADP bind to separate domains of PilB as mutual allosteric effectors" (Microbiology)

Sean Kelly (Opell Lab) "Orb spider capture silk evolution and functionality" (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)

Benjamin Unruh (Kojima Lab) "Degradation plays an important role in driving circadian gene expression" (Molecular and Cell Biology)

Kylie Ryan (Schubot Lab) "Cross-talk between histidine kinases mediates the infection state in Pseudomonas aeruginosa(Microbiology)

Xiangyu Yao (Kojima/Chen Labs) "Critical role of deadenylation in regulating poly(A) rhythms and circadian gene expression" (Molecular and Cell Biology)

Florical Gonzalez (Scharf Lab) "Bacterial and viral factors mediating infection by flagellotropic Agrobacteriumphage 7-7-1" (Microbiology)

Carolina Martínez-Guitiérrez (Aylward Lab) "Strong purifying selection is associated with genome streamlining in epipelagic Marinimicrobia" (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)

Wen Xiong (Capelluto Lab) "Structural basis for ligand recognition by the endosomal adaptor protein TOM1" (Molecular and Cell Biology) 

Elizabeth Shadle (Mims Lab) "Amphibians in a changing world: assessing the effects of climate change" (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior)

Xiguang Xu (Sun Lab) "Egr1 Recruits Tet1 to Shape the Brain Methylome during Early Postnatal Development"  (Molecular and Cell Biology) 


The deadline for submitting poster abstracts is Monday, January 27, 2020 (download abstract instructions here) Please email your abstracts to

Posters should be 48" wide and 36" high; landscape is the preferred orientation.

Students are responsible for having their posters printed by submitting them, along with an ISR, to the Biological Sciences IT Support Lab by Friday, January 24, 2020.  Instructions for submitting your poster files are here