The University of Virginia's College at Wise. Courtesy of UVa Wise.

Chef Sean Brock to deliver keynote at UVA Wise economic forum

Pound native Sean Brock, an award-winning chef and restaurateur who has garnered international acclaim for his Southern-focused eateries, will deliver the keynote address May 25 at the eighth annual Southwest Virginia Economic Forum at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

Brock will share what makes Appalachia special and unique, how growing up in Southwest Virginia shaped his entrepreneurial spirit, and his passion for Southern food and love of building community, according to a news release from the college.

The daylong forum will be held at the college’s David J. Prior Convocation Center. It will be a hybrid conference where participants can attend either online or in person. Registration is required. Virtual tickets cost $25 and in-person attendance tickets are $45. Day of conference walk-ins are welcomed.

Visit the Southwest Virginia Economic Forum website for registration, program updates and sponsor information.

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Chestnut Ridge Natural Area Preserve doubles in size

A Virginia natural area preserve in Giles and Bland counties that features old-growth forests has doubled in size with funding support from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. 

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has expanded Chestnut Ridge Natural Area Preserve by purchasing 775 acres of land, bringing the size of the preserve to 1,596 acres, according to a news release.

“With this expansion of Chestnut Ridge Natural Area Preserve, we are protecting core forest habitat for native plants, natural communities and animals in the Central Appalachian region,” said DCR Director Matthew Wells. “This addition also protects a ConserveVirginia land conservation priority, including a scenic corridor and 1.5 miles of riparian forest along Dry Fork, a native trout stream.”

The preserve, originally 233 acres, was established in 2006 with an open space easement and natural area deed of dedication recorded by the former landowners through a grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation. In 2020, the first preserve expansion occurred through DCR’s purchase of additional land.  

Funds for the latest acquisition were awarded through VOF’s Forest Community Opportunities for Restoration and Enhancement Fund, which was established to mitigate for forest fragmentation caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

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Virginia Tech and 10 other universities partner with Micron, National Science Foundation to develop semiconductor talent

Virginia Tech is a founding member of an 11-university network spanning the U.S. and Japan that has partnered with Micron Technology Inc. and the U.S. National Science Foundation to cultivate a talent pipeline for the semiconductor workforce. 

The partnership, known as UPWARDS for the Future, will invest $50 million to launch the initiative and is designed to deepen ties between industry and higher education, promote industry-backed curriculums, and advance collaborative semiconductor memory research, according to a news release announcing the collaboration.

The initiative is projected to involve 5,000 students over five years, with an emphasis on engaging women in engineering.

Along with Virginia Tech, partner universities from the U.S. are Boise State, Purdue, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Washington. Partner universities from Japan are Hiroshima University, Kyushu University, Nagoya University, Tohoku University and Tokyo Institute of Technology.

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Roanoke County student takes first place at international science fair

Franziska Borneff, a junior at Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke County, placed first in the earth and environmental sciences category at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair in Dallas.

Franziska Borneff, a junior at Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke County. Photo courtesy of Roanoke County Public Schools.

She also received a $5,000 prize for her first place finish in her category, according to a news release from the school system.

Franziska’s project, “Measuring the Effects of Climate Change on Arctic Rivers,” also received two special awards, the Excellence in Geography and Geospatial Science Award and the NOAA Judges Award.

Two other Roanoke County students also participated at this year’s ISEF: Aanandi Parashar from Hidden Valley High School and Claire Wei from Cave Spring High School.

The Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair is the world’s largest global science competition for high school students.