The Lynchburg skyline. Photo by Rachel Mahoney.

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

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Lynchburg named one of 25 best college towns in U.S.

Lynchburg has been named by Travel & Leisure as one of the “25 Best College Towns and Cities in the U.S.”

The site said of Lynchburg: “Nearly one quarter of the entire population of Lynchburg is a student at either Liberty University or the University of Lynchburg, making it an easy spot to make friends. It is also a rather happy place, as it was voted number six on Gallup-Sharecare’s list of Highest Well-Being Communities in 2018.”

The U.S. Census Bureau says Lynchburg has the fifth-youngest median age of any city or county in Virginia. For background, see this column on the census data.

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Judy Logan. Courtesy of Virginia Tech

Virtual event addresses the importance of women working in data science

Virginia Tech will hold a virtual event to discuss women in data science.

That is the topic of discussion for “Inspiring Diversity in Data Science: A Worldwide Movement,” the next event in the Northern Virginia Technology Council Data Science Speaker Series. Held in partnership with Virginia Tech, the event is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 29, at 1 p.m. Registration is required.

This virtual event features keynote presenter Judy Logan, co-director of the Women in Data Science (WiDS) Conference at Stanford University. Logan will discuss why she and her colleagues at Stanford started the Women in Data Science initiative and how the WiDS worldwide community is working to increase the representation of women in the field.

Angie Patterson, who serves as the co-director of the Computational Modeling and Data Analytics Capstone program at Virginia Tech and became a WiDS ambassador in 2021, will moderate the event.

Also joining the panel discussion are Poornima Ramaswamy, chief transformation officer at Qlik, and Radha Sambasivan, vice president of software development at Mastercard.

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Beatriz T. Ceja Pinkston

Tech doctoral student receives NIH award

A doctoral student at Virginia Tech has received an award from the National Institutes of Health to study a particular type of brain cell.

Beatriz T. Ceja Pinkston, a Ph.D. student in the Olsen Lab at Virginia Tech, part of the School of Neuroscience, calls astrocytes the “multitasking workhorse of the brain.”

These cells have complex, sponge-like shapes with thousands of branches from their cell body that allow them to interact with thousands of things at once. They’re involved in nearly every aspect of what keeps the brain going, Ceja Pinkston said in a statement, including brain development, maintaining homeostasis, formation of the blood-brain barrier, and all things neurons.

Supported by the Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health, Ceja Pinkston will explore a fundamental question about astrocytes: What first draws them to synapses to support all of this action? She believes that understanding astrocytes in this way could help scientists fill knowledge gaps in how neurodevelopmental disorders arise and how to treat them.

The Olsen Lab is run by Michelle Olsen, an associate professor of neuroscience in the Virginia Tech College of Science.