Fralin Institute researcher to speak at Nobel symposium; more . . . – Cardinal News

Cardinal News
Serving Southwest and Southside Virginia
Here’s a round-up of education briefs around Southwest and Southside. There’s no full-time education reporter west of Richmond. You can help change that. Help us fund this position.
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Read Montague of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute to share groundbreaking brain research at Nobel symposium
Read Montague, director of the Center for Human Neuroscience Research, the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory, and the Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, is one of seven world leaders in neuroscience invited to present his findings at an event sponsored and hosted by the Nobel Assembly in Stockholm. His talk, “Decoding human neuromodulatory signaling and its connection to reinforcement learning,” is part of a Nobel Mini-symposium on Sept. 8 and 9 at the Karolinksa Institutet. 
Montague works in computational psychiatry, a new field he has helped develop in the last 15 years. It is now a major funding initiative at the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health. New technology has helped fuel advances.
Montague will share technology developed at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute that makes sub-second measurements of dopamine and serotonin in a living human brain, including in patients with Parkinson’s disease undergoing deep brain stimulation therapy and in children in epilepsy monitoring units having assessment of foci of seizures.
“Dopamine systems are hijacked by every drug of abuse,” said Montague, who is also a professor of physics in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, in a statement. “Those are the neurons that die when you have Parkinson’s disease. It’s a system that at least in part is overactive in psychosis and schizophrenia. It’s involved with regulation of mood and its dysfunction.”
“Montague’s innovations in technology development and neurocomputational analytics have been truly revolutionary in leading a transformation of how the decision-making processes of the human brain work in health and disease,” Michael Friedlander, Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, said in a statement. “By simultaneously measuring the activity of both dopamine and serotonin — whose receptor and uptake sites are primary therapeutic targets for disorders ranging from depression to Parkinson’s disease — in the human brain, his work is opening entirely new windows into how the brain works.” 
Other early researchers to this field who will also address attendees include physiologist Wolfram Schultz of the University of Cambridge and Peter Dayan, director of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and a professor at the University of Tübingen. 
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Virginia Tech leads Team USA to victory in International Soil Judging Contest
Virginia Tech students and faculty of Team USA are international champions. Nine countries participated in the fourth International Soil Judging Contest, sponsored by the International Union of Soil Science near Stirling, Scotland, on July 26-31. 
The contest was made up of two soil pits for individuals, two for the group judging event, and an overall score. Team USA won first place in the overall score, followed by Australia, Spain, South Korea, and Italy. Other teams competing were Hungary, United Kingdom, Mexico, and Germany.
The USA team also won the group judging event, followed by Italy, Australia, Spain, and Korea. In the individual competition, Clare Tallamy, a senior from Leesburg, Virginia, won first, followed by Edwardo Vasquez-Garcia of Spain; Ben Atkins ’22 of Victoria, Virginia; Isaac Nollen of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville; and Woosek Jang of South Korea. Also competing on the USA team were Curtis Murphy of North Carolina State University, who placed sixth, and Kennadi Griffis of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who placed 12th.
“I could not have been prouder of the entire USA team. They practiced hard and learned quickly and worked well together as a team. Each one was our most valuable player,” said USA coach John Galbraith, also a professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences.
The coaches of the top two overall teams were both from Virginia Tech. Jaclyn Fiola, a doctoral candidate studying vineyard soils, entered the contest as a co-coach of the USA team, but after arriving was asked to step in to coach the Australian team, who did not have a coach.
Tallamy came as an alternate for the USA team but was asked to compete as the fourth member of Team Australia.
The international contest, held once every four years, was established to encourage the wider adoption of the discipline of soil judging around the world, to give motivated students an opportunity to assess soil in a different part of the world, to give students an opportunity to develop networks in the soil science community, and to demonstrate the career opportunities that soil science offers.
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Tech professor to teach class on war literature in Roanoke
The National Endowment for the Humanities has funded a semester-long humanities class for veterans and civilians that Virginia Tech professor Jim Dubinsky will teach in Roanoke at the Williamson Road branch library. An online version is also available.
The class will discuss great works of literature, history, philosophy, and art centered around three major conflicts: the Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, and the First World War. The course, “Democracy and Duty: Activating Service,” will explore what drives the call to military service and consider how that passion can be redirected into continuing to serve communities in civilian life.
The cost is free. Those who complete the course demonstrating college-level work will be eligible for 3 college credits from Bard College, New York.
When: Tuesdays & Thursdays: 6:30 to 8:30 / Sept. 13 to Dec. 15.
More information can be found here or email

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