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

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New River Community College receives NSA cyber designation

New River Community College has been designated as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency, according to a release from the school. Beginning this year, students who graduate with an associate degree in information technology – cyber security specialization will receive a letter with their diploma indicating this designation.

The college received this designation after a multiyear, peer-reviewed process of NRCC’s cybersecurity program that includes a range of student activities. The activities offered included a Computer Club, a Cyber Day for the local community, several Cyber Ninja summer camps, competitions events, and refurbished donated computers to students in need with the Computer Club giving out a total of over 200 computers.

With the CAE-CD designation, NRCC will receive opportunities to apply for federal grant projects, participate in professional development for faculty, and more.

NRCC joins nine other community colleges and 13 four-year universities in Virginia that hold the National Center for Academic Excellence designation. They include Danville Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College and Virginia Western Community College.

The information technology – cyber security specialization program at the college is a two-year program that requires students to take several industry recognized certification exams. Along with that program, NRCC also offers nine other programs in the information technology field. To learn more about the NRCC Center for Cyber Defense, visit or contact Dave Filer at or 540-674-3600, ext. 4272.

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Carilion is part of $3.5 million NIH grant to study concussions in seniors

Ten million people visit emergency departments in the United States every year for head trauma, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. However, “Traumatic Brain Injury: A Roadmap for Accelerating Progress” found that due to testing limitations, emergency physicians often diagnose “brain injury” incorrectly, resulting in missed follow-up and potentially debilitating symptoms down the road for patients. 

While many associate concussions with sports, only 3% to 4% of head injuries are in athletes who visit emergency departments. In fact, U.S. adults over the age of 75 have had the highest incidence of traumatic brain injuries since 2013. The rates of geriatric mild TBIs and subsequent mortality have doubled in the past decade.

A $3.5 million National Institutes of Health grant from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke has been awarded to the Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic, the Richmond-based BRAINBox Solutions and the University of Pennsylvania to develop a new way to diagnose brain injuries in the elderly, according to a release from Carilion.

The research occurs in two phases. The first step is enrolling patients and designing a new panel of blood markers and cognitive testing to identify brain injury in all elderly patients, even those with cognitive impairment such as dementia. Phase two will utilize phase one data to determine the tests’ accuracy. When it comes to something as common as concussions, also known as mTBIs, an accurate tool does not currently exist to diagnose the injuries rapidly.

“I think the surprising piece when I talk to not only patients, but the community about the type of research we are doing is, most people don’t know that it hasn’t been solved yet,” said Dr. Damon Kuehl, vice chair of emergency medicine for Carilion and a co-principal investigator, in a statement. “Elderly patients requiring acute care visits after evidence of suspected head trauma commonly undergo a computed tomography (CT) scan. Despite most geriatric patients receiving this test, CT is very limited as a diagnostic or predictive tool in those TBI patients.”

Disclosure: Carilion is one of our donors but donors have no say in news decisions; see our policy.

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Dr. Audrey Zink-Sharp. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Tech professor wins international honor for wood science

Audrey Zink-Sharp, professor of wood science and associate head of the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials at Virginia Tech, has been named one of 16 international Women Ambassadors Creating the Future of Wood Science by the Society of Wood Science and Technology.

An exhibition highlighting Zink-Sharp’s research encompassing wood anatomy and the impacts of ecological disturbance on wood properties and quality will be unveiled this summer during the society’s 2022 International Convention in Australia and then travel around the world. The exhibition is designed to encourage women and young girls to pursue careers in wood science and technology.

Zink-Sharp joined Virginia Tech in 1992 and was the first woman to be hired into a tenure-track position, achieve the rank of professor, and serve as department head in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

In 2004, Zink-Sharp was elected the first woman president of the Society of Wood Science and Technology, having been a member of the organization since she was an undergraduate.

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Forest Service to conduct prescribed burns in Craig and Wise County.

The U.S. Forest Service is scheduled to conduct two prescribed burn today.

The particulars:


Location: The 302-acre Mill Creek Unit 1 prescribed burn will take place east of Fenwick Mines Recreation Area in Craig County.

Date and time: The Forest Service will begin ignitions on Tuesday. This prescribed burn will be completed in one day. Firefighters will continue to monitor the area for several days after the burn.  

Objective: Prescribed burns improve wildlife habitat by restoring open woodlands and grasslands to the forest landscape. Safety is the Forest Service’s top priority, and forest fire managers will conduct the prescribed burn only under appropriate weather conditions.

Additional information: Smoke from the area may be visible from New Castle, Barbours Creek and Oriskany. Depending on wind direction on the day of the burn, residents of Oriskany and the Craig Creek Valley along County Road 615 (Craigs Creek Road) may smell smoke.

For more information on our prescribed burn program, please contact the Eastern Divide Ranger District Office at 540-552-4641. For the most up-to-date information visit and follow on Twitter: and Facebook:


This is the prescribed burn that was supposed to take place Monday but was rescheduled.

Location: A portion of the control lines around the Cable Gap burn unit will be burned in preparation for burning the larger unit later this spring. The unit is located three miles northeast of Pound, VA, 2.7 miles Southeast of Jenkins, KY and approximately 1.8 miles southwest of Gaskins and Burdine, KY. 

Date and Time: Forest Service fire specialists will conduct the burn on Tuesday, March 22, if weather conditions permit. The ignition-phase will be concluded before the end of the day. 

Purpose: This fire will burn a 200-foot wide perimeter across the ridgetop of the larger burn unit which will act as a safety control line during the prescribed burn later this spring. Damp conditions and forecasted rain will extinguish the fire. 

 Additional Information and Road/Trail Closures: Pine Mountain Trail and any connecting trails will be closed. For your safety, please follow posted signs and trail closures when they occur. The controlled burn is expected to have lingering smoke effects in Wise and Letcher counties.
For the most up-to-date information visit and follow on Twitter: and Facebook: