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Tech Professor Named Outstanding Scientist

January 19, 2013

Samantha Morgan
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Patricia Dove grew up in the town of Huddleston, in south Bedford County. As a girl, she developed a yearning for science and an appreciation for excellent teachers.

Dove remembers how passionate her middle-school teacher, Margaret Garrett, was at Otterburn Academy. And at Liberty High School – “home of the Minutemen” – Dove grew to love science thanks to another great teacher.

“I had Margaret Duncan,” Dove recalled. “She not only taught classes in biology and worked with other teachers in all sorts of areas; she also worked a lot with kids to develop science fair projects and go to competitions both local and regional. And I did that all through high school.”

During her senior year, Dove won a trip to Denver to attend a science and engineering fair. After high school, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Virginia Tech and her Ph.D. at Princeton University, and then went to Stanford for a National Science Foundation fellowship. In 2000, Dove returned to Virginia Tech to join the faculty: She is the C.P. Miles Professor of Science in the Department of Geosciences.

On Thursday, Dove added another prestigious line to her impressive résumé: She was honored by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and other officials as one of Virginia’s Outstanding Scientists of 2013.

Dove has already achieved a lifetime of success, but she hasn’t let up.

“I am busier than ever. You might like to think that having this award, you can kick back a little. But it’s not like that at all,” she said.

“I have big projects with the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy, and I am on a number of councils in both California and in Washington.”

Dove leads the Biogeochemistry of Earth Processes research group at Tech. She specializes in the study of biomineralization – how crystals form in nature, from the skeletons of animals to rock formations.

Dove was one of two scientists honored at the awards ceremony at the Science Museum of Virginia. The other was Harold Burkhart, a professor in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation at Virginia Tech.

Bolling also presented the Governor’s Award for Science Innovation to Cupron Inc., a company in Richmond and Israel that makes high-tech products such as the antimicrobial socks given to the 33 miners who were trapped in a collapsed mine in Chile in 2010.

“On behalf of the governor, I am pleased to present Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist Awards and the Governor’s Award for Science Innovation again this year,” Bolling said.

“These recipients have exhibited unparalleled ingenuity and creativity to advance discoveries benefiting not only Virginians but citizens around the word. Their scientific research is further proof that Virginia’s science sector and research universities are continuing to thrive and grow and will help drive Virginia’s economy into the future.”

Richard Conti, the “chief wonder officer” at the Science Museum, added: “Once again, we have a chance to recognize globally significant scientific research taking place across Virginia. These individuals are improving our quality of life through their stellar accomplishments.”

The awards program described Dove’s accomplishments this way:

“Her interdisciplinary work, at the interface of earth and life, is also providing insights into how fossil skeletons record changes in environmental conditions over geologic time. Her new work is directed at understanding the consequences of rising carbon dioxide levels, and thus increasingly acid oceans, for the tiny photosynthetic organisms that create much of our planet’s oxygen.

“Research from her group also has important economic applications through collaborations with Civil Engineering to develop bio-inspired approaches to more sustainable industrial processes.”

Dove has received the U.S. Department of Energy’s Best University Research Award twice. Last year, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Dove is excited as the spring semester gets under way at Virginia Tech.

“I am teaching a new course on oceanography … It’s going to be very exciting, I’ve never taught it before. It’s just a big year; it’s going to be an amazing time. It’s such an honor to be here.”

Virginia Tech Professor Patricia Dove.

Virginia Tech Professor Patricia Dove.