Part of the GlycoMIP research center at Virginia Tech. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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New research hub opens at Virginia Tech

The most abundant biological materials on our planet are composed of carbohydrates. These glycomaterials are part of the field of study known as glycosciences. 

To accelerate glycomaterials research in the United States, in 2020 the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded nearly $23 million to a new multi-university partnership, jointly led by Virginia Tech and the University of Georgia, that will bring together leading scientists and engineers from those institutions, as well as Brandeis UniversityRensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to establish a national glycomaterials research hub.

The GlycoMIP team recently celebrated the grand opening of its national user facility with ribbon cutting ceremonies in February at Virginia Tech and at the University of Georgia.

The GlycoMIP user facility houses two automated glycan synthesizers from GlycoUniverse and is the only facility in the country able to provide on-demand glycan synthesis and characterization. Other instrumentation of note are two state-of-the-art mass spectrometers, two vibrational optical activity spectrometers, and a microfluidic-based surface plasmon resonance instrument.

“Visitors to the GlycoMIP user facility at Virginia Tech may take advantage of the synergistic proteomics and glycomics capabilities located at Steger Hall in the Fralin Life Sciences Institute,” said X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor and interim executive director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, in a statement.

Other research facilities accessible to users of the GlycoMIP user facility include the Virginia Tech Materials Characterization Lab and Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Lab and the CCRC’s NMR facility. “Bridging the gap between glycobiology and materials research can only occur if the tools and resources needed for both endeavors are co-housed and consistently supported. The Materials Innovation Platforms, or MIPs, established by the NSF, allow that to occur. It is an exciting time for glycan-based research,” said Rich Helm, director of the GlycoMIP User Facility at Virginia Tech and director of Core Services at the Fralin Life Sciences Institute in a statement.

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New members appointed to Roanoke College President’s Advisory Board and to the Community Advisory Group

Four Roanoke College alumnae have joined the College’s President’s Advisory Board. They are Michelle R. Austin ‘93, Amy Hansen Geddes ‘92, Carrie Taylor McConnell ‘99 and Karen Rymers Winslow ‘02. In another appointment, Erin Burcham was appointed to the College’s Community Advisory Group.  (Disclosure: Burcham is also a member of Cardinal’s community advisory committee but committee members have no role in news decisions.)

Michelle R.  Austin ‘93 is the Executive Vice President – Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer for Bank of Botetourt. Austin holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Roanoke College and a Master of Business Administration degree from Troy University. Austin is a graduate of the Virginia Bankers School of Bank Management at UVA where she is also now on the faculty. She is also a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University. Austin serves on the Virginia Bankers Association Benefits Board of Directors. Austin is a member of the GO Virginia Region 2 Council, an initiative to drive private-sector growth, create higher-paying jobs, and foster regional collaboration in every region of the Commonwealth.  From 2017-2021, Austin represented the Buchanan District on the Botetourt County School Board, serving two years as Chair.   

Amy Geddes ‘92 has practiced law in Virginia since 1995 and concentrates her practice in the area of disability law involving both public and private benefits. She represents claimants at all levels of the administrative process and in federal court. Geddes was an English and history double major at Roanoke College and earned a law degree from Valparaiso University. She is a member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives, the Virginia Women Attorneys Association (VWAA), Ted Dalton Inn of Court, Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (VTLA), Salem/Roanoke County Bar Association, and the Roanoke Bar Association. She serves on the board of the Roanoke Bar Association. Geddes is an active member of College Lutheran Church.    

Carrie McConnell ‘99 is the president of Ridge View Bank in Roanoke. McConnell has over 20 years of banking experience with extensive experience as a commercial lender. McConnell served as senior vice president of commercial lending at HomeTown Bank. Prior to that, she was instrumental in the development of a new bank that grew to over $550 million in assets before it was acquired. McConnell, who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Roanoke College, is very active in her community, serving most recently on the board for the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia Board and the Salem Family YMCA Board. 

Dr. Karen Rymers Winslow ‘02 is a pharmacist and works for the Virginia Pharmacists Association. Winslow also is the recent past chair of the Richmond Alumni Chapter for Roanoke College, a position she held for 14 years. Winslow majored in biology at Roanoke College and earned a Doctor of Pharmacy at the Medical College of Virginia. She previously worked as a pharmacist for CVS, Target Corporation and for the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Group.  

Erin Burcham was named to Roanoke College’s Community Advisory Group. Burcham is the president of Verge and executive director of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. Verge is the regional technology alliance that includes affiliates of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, Valley Innovation Council and RAMP (the Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program), a Roanoke-based business accelerator. Burcham spearheads initiatives for technology, innovation, and talent development in the region including multiple GO Virginia projects. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in leadership with a focus on economic development from Virginia Tech.  

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Firefighters and support personnel in Bedford, Lynchburg, Staunton and Tazewell County win honors

Governor Glenn Youngkin has announced the recipients of the 2021 Governor’s Fire Service Awards as part of the annual Virginia Fire Chiefs Association and Rescue Conference in Virginia Beach.

Established in 2002, the Governor’s Fire Service Awards honor excellence in Virginia’s fire services and are facilitated by the Virginia Department of Fire Programs in collaboration with the Virginia Fire Services Board.

Here are those from Southwest and Southside who were honored and what the governor’s release said about them:

Captain Earl Copes, Lynchburg Fire Department. Copes is a fire service professional that has dedicated his life to improving the Lynchburg Fire Department’s response abilities. Captain Copes developed a Recruit Academy Academic Report Card to assist recruits in being successful through continuous feedback during their academy experience. This comprehensive evaluation system identifies strengths and weaknesses that assists the recruit in prioritizing areas of focus for overall program success. In addition, Captain Copes initiated a Wide Area Search Rope Train the Trainer program for regional responders to increase their knowledge, skills, and abilities on searching large open areas such as schools and warehouses and also developed a Firefighter Assistance Search Team Train the Trainer program for regional responders on firefighter rescue and removal techniques.

Rebecca Brewster, Tazewell County. Brewster provides support to the Tazewell County Chief’s Association by keeping the minutes, as well as supporting the individual fire departments. She has assisted with grant writing, designed multiple fire department forms and has assisted in training members in computer skills. She has volunteered her time for all COVID-19 vaccination clinics throughout the year, as well as many other events.


Russell Stevens, Town of Bedford Fire Department. Since joining the fire service in 1974, Russell Stevens has been a hallmark of the central Virginia fire and emergency services and a stable force in the volunteer fire community. He has served as a Bedford County Fire training officer for many years and is one of the original Deputy Hazardous Material Coordinators, which is a role that he continues to serve in today. Many of the roles that Russell has performed have greatly evolved over time with the advent of technology and Russell is a true believer and user of technology. His willingness to aid any person regardless of their need is so uncommon that he is not only a tremendous example of the Virginia’s fire service but he is a family man, spouse, church member and dear friend and mentor to so many. His actions and dedication to the fire service are examples of a man that truly reflects the mantra of “service above self.”


R. Scott Garber, City of Staunton Fire & Rescue. Under his leadership, Chief Garber has demonstrated for many years how greatly he cares for the community that he serves. He has continued his support of the Firefighters for Literacy program that was developed by the department in 2019. Chief Garber enables the department to interact and form pivotal relationships with the community. Leadership and inspiring confidence are common themes with Chief Garber. He has not only dedicated his time to the department, but also to educating others around the Commonwealth, as he instructs more than 20 classes each year around the state.

Brad Creasy, Town of Bedford Fire Department. The amount of leadership, comradery, and passion that Chief Brad Creasy has brought to the Bedford Fire Department is unimaginable, and truly impossible to put into words. Leadership for Chief Creasy comes naturally, and his drive and determination are contagious to those around him. Since walking into the department in 1996, Chief Creasy has kept up with the history and core values established before him and has remained committed to instilling them into the members of the department. Chief Creasy is an advocate for continuous improvement and encourages training through classroom workshops, drills, cross training with other organizations, and peer-to-peer education and coaching. He recently completed the Chief Fire Officer program which he can now add to the long list of accolades achieved over the years.