McAuliffe announces 2017 Outstanding STEM Award recipients

virginiaGovernor Terry McAuliffe and the Science Museum of Virginia’s Chief Wonder Officer Richard C. Conti today announced the recipients of Virginia’s 2017 Outstanding STEM Awards. Recognizing excellence in science for over 30 years, these annual awards celebrate statewide efforts to strengthen the Commonwealth’s position as a leader in STEM fields.

“It is an honor to continue the tradition of celebrating professionals, businesses and citizens who have made significant contributions to cutting-edge STEM disciplines,” said Governor McAuliffe. “These winners represent Virginia’s dedication to the academic excellence and entrepreneurial spirit we need to remain competitive nationally globally and build the new Virginia economy.”

The scientific contributions of academics, organizations and students are honored in four distinct and prestigious award categories: Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist, Science Innovation, STEM Catalyst and STEM Phenom.

“The individuals we honor for their exciting accomplishments in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines are the future of the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Education Dietra Trent. “We congratulate their achievements and successes, and encourage even more citizens to follow in their footsteps to pursue careers in high-demand fields.”

“The accomplishments of this year’s honorees improve our quality of life – from sustainability efforts to understanding our origins to developing breakthrough technologies that save lives,” said Richard C. Conti.“Their cumulative work is awe-inspiring and the Museum is proud to celebrate the enormous efforts these individuals put forward to advancing our global well-being.”

The six honorees will receive their awards at the Science Museum of Virginia on the evening of Thursday, February 23. The Virginia’s Outstanding STEM Awards ceremony is made possible by the generous support of Altria.


Virginia’s Outstanding Scientists

Awarded to Virginia scientists who have made globally significant contributions to their field.

Marc A. Edwards, M.S., Ph.D.
Dr. Marc Edwards is the Charles P. Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. Dr. Edwards is considered one of the world’s leading experts on lead in water, childhood lead poisoning from water, corrosion and Legionella in building plumbing. His efforts, most recently in Flint, Michigan, and Washington, D.C., helped uncover public health harm and misconduct by agencies responsible for protecting public health. Dr. Edwards’ research has provided an invaluable framework for diagnosing real-world water problems and identifying workable solutions through appropriately tailoring the water chemistry, plumbing materials and flow conditions. His leadership and perseverance has drawn nationwide attention and national investments in deteriorating water infrastructure.

Dr. Edwards was named amongst TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential people, the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine, Politico Magazine’s Top 50 visionaries who have transformed American politics, and Foreign Policy Magazines 100 Greatest Thinkers. He is the recipient of the numerous professional awards for defending the public interest at great personal risk including the IEEE SSIT Carl Barus Award and the Praxis Award in Professional Ethics from Villanova University.


William A. Petri, Jr., M.D., Ph.D
Dr. William Petri is the Wade Hampton Frost Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Dr. Petri is an internationally renowned biomedical scientist who has dedicated his career in infectious diseases to bettering the health of children worldwide. His seminal research on amebiasis, an intestinal infection commonly found in children living in poverty, has redefined the modern understanding of enteric parasitic infections in infants. Dr. Petri’s work is fighting malnutrition, vaccine failure and impaired cognitive development across the world. His FDA-approved antigen-detection tests are in worldwide use, and he has written over 400 publications.

Dr. Petri is the recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Award of the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia, Infectious Disease Society of America Squibb Award, the University of Virginia Distinguished Scientist Award, the All-University Teaching Award, the Dean’s Excellence in Faculty Research Award and the Kadner Graduate Teaching Award.


Shuhai Xiao, M.S., Ph.D.
Dr. Shuhai Xiao is Professor of Geology at Virginia Tech. Dr. Xiao is a world leader in geobiology, investigating the emergence of complex life and redefining our understanding of how early life evolved on Earth. Throughout his career, he has made numerous discoveries that reshape our knowledge about the early evolution of eukaryotes, multicellular organisms such as animals and algae, animal biomineralization and symbiosis.  Dr. Xiao has led an international effort to establish a critical stratigraphic framework for geobiological studies of the biosphere and its environments during the Ediacaran Period (635–541 million years ago), and has provided new insights into the structure of early life and its evolution on our planet. His research has been cited over 8,000 times and has been featured in textbooks, international media and museums.

Dr. Xiao is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Phi Beta Kappa Society Visiting Scholarship, the Paleontological Society Charles Schuchert Award, the Geological Society of America’s Outstanding Contributions in Geosciences Award, the Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Excellence in Research and two “Journal of Paleontology” Best Paper Awards.


Governor’s Award for Science Innovation

Awarded to a Virginia enterprise whose STEM innovation shows both economic promise and contributes to the greater good.

HemoShear Therapeutics
HemoShear Therapeutics, LLC, launched operations in 2009 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The biotechnology company focuses on discovering drugs that treat metabolic disorders with high, unmet patient need.  HemoShear has developed a transformational, human disease biology platform, called REVEAL-TxThis innovative technology uses tissue from patients to recreate diseases in the laboratory, allowing HemoShear’s scientists to understand complex pathophysiological pathways and predict success of drug candidates.

HemoShear is utilizing REVEAL-Tx to recreate children’s fatal rare diseases using transplanted liver tissue from children with the diseases to discover of safe and effective drug treatments.  Since mid-2015, HemoShear has created the first biologically responsive models of propionic acidemia, methylmalonic acidemia and maple syrup urine disease, which are severe children’s diseases that have no approved drug treatments. Through collaborations with partners such as Children’s National Medical Center and the University of Virginia Health System, HemoShear is rapidly advancing our ability to combat fatal diseases.


STEM Catalyst

Awarded to a Virginia citizen whose passion, ingenuity and efforts inspire others to recognize the power of STEM to improve our world.

Rohan Suri
Rohan Suri is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Suri has developed computational models and mobile applications to better understand and create solutions to real-world issues. From tracking the outbreak of an infectious disease to diagnosing concussions based on eye movements, Suri’s prototypes rely on his strong background in coding and computer science. Suri developed the mobile application, Averia, to detect human head trauma by using an iPhone’s rear-facing camera. The diagnostic app and companion headset tracks a patient’s eyes while they follow a visual stimulus on the screen. The phone records the user’s eyes and uses computer vision algorithms to track the pupil and determine if vision impairment is present in the athlete. Averia has already been utilized at local high schools and a pediatric clinic as part of a pilot program to aid youth sports injuries.

Suri’s startup earned a spot as one of 12 finalists in the National Capital Consortium for Pediatric Device Innovation’s pitch competition at the 4th annual Pediatric Surgical Innovation Symposium. Suri plans to continue clinical and field trials of his prototype and raise money to bring his device to the market. In college, he hopes to study computer science and continue innovating at intersection of Healthcare and Technology.


STEM Phenom

Awarded to a Virginia student who applies STEM principles for exceptional ends, to make our world a better place.

Gabby Taylor
Gabby Taylor is a freshman at Landstown High School. Taylor’s interest in beekeeping began with her involvement in a local 4-H club, discovering how honey bees live, work and impact the environment. Ordering her first beehive in sixth grade, Taylor tends to over 35,000 bees in her backyard under the guidance of hobbyist mentors. Taylor actively shares her passion with others, highlighting the crucial role bees play in our ecosystem, encouraging sustainable practices and dispelling fear of the hardworking insect. She is an award-winning writer on the topic of bees, placing first in two statewide essay contests on the subject.

Taylor was featured in the HBO documentary “Saving My Tomorrow,” a series in which youth share their thoughts on topics ranging from endangered animals and pollution to climate change. Taylor plans to continue growing her passion by studying veterinary science.

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