The University of Virginia Health System’s Dr. William A. Petri Jr. on Thursday was named one of Virginia’s Outstanding Scientists. The awards, recognizing three scientists who have made globally significant contributions to their fields, were announced by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Richard C. Conti, chief wonder officer at the Science Museum of Virginia.
“It’s a wonderful honor and, really, I feel it’s a product of being at Virginia,” Petri said. “I’ve been at the University of Virginia since I was a student. So everything I’ve accomplished is a reflection of the scientific environment at UVA.”
Petri, who earned a Ph.D. from UVA in 1980 and an M.D. in 1982, is the chief of UVA’s Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health. He conducts pioneering research in the field of gastrointestinal infections and their consequences for children in the developing world, paving the way for better interventions and improved vaccine effectiveness. The focuses of his research lab at UVA include molecular parasitology and C. difficile infection, and he works in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan to study infant vaccines and under-nutrition.
Petri’s honor came as part of the announcement of Virginia’s 2017 Outstanding STEM Awards, which celebrate statewide efforts to strengthen the commonwealth’s position as a leader in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In addition to Petri, Virginia Tech’s Marc A. Edwards and Shuhai Xiao also were named Outstanding Scientists.
In addition, the Governor’s Award for Science Innovation went to HemoShear Therapeutics, a biotech company launched in Charlottesville in 2009. The company focuses on discovering much-needed drugs to treat metabolic disorders. HemoShear is collaborating with the UVA Health System to develop advanced models of cancer tumors, among other efforts.
“It is an honor to continue the tradition of celebrating professionals, businesses and citizens who have made significant contributions to cutting-edge STEM disciplines,” McAuliffe said. “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.”
This year’s honorees will receive their awards Feb. 23 at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond.