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Fall candids mark the annual turning of the magnificent leaves on campus. View of Holtzman clock tower.

Virginia Tech honors outstanding young alumni

Each year, the Virginia Tech Alumni Association recognizes recent alumni as Outstanding Recent Alumnus or Alumna from each college. Each department is invited to recommend both an undergraduate and a graduate alumnus/alumna to receive the honor. Recipients must be graduates of the past 10 years, and should have distinguished him or herself professionally in his/her career and/or in rendering service to the university since graduation.

The 2020 honorees from the College of Science are:

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Ryan Fortenberry.
Grant leans on tall table and smiles at camera, wearing turtleneck.
Erica Grant.

Ryan Fortenberry, doctoral degree, chemistry, 2012.

Now an assistant professor of chemistry & biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, Fortenberry heads the Computational Astrochemistry Group (Fortenberry Lab) where he uses computational techniques to explore the structure and detectable spectra for novel molecular species in the interstellar medium (ISM), planetary atmospheres, and proto-planetary disks.

According to his nomination packet, he has published 109 peer-reviewed research articles in fields ranging across the chemical subdisciplines but also extending into astrophysics, education, and communication, including six cover articles and 88 as an independent researcher since 2014.

Additionally, Fortenberry is highly interested in science reporting in journalism, public relations, and storytelling, and authored the book Complete Science Communication: A Guide to Connecting with Scientists, Journalists and the Public, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Erica Grant, bachelor’s, physics, 2016. 

After leaving Virginia Tech having majored in physics, with minors in mathematics and neuroscience, Grant earned a spot as a graduate student at the Bredesen Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee.

Her goal: Earn a Ph.D. in energy science and engineering with a thesis in quantum information technologies and quantum computation. She is also an entrepreneur. She is founder and CEO of the startup company Quantum Lock, dedicated to increasing hotel key security by combining the use of a smart lock, smartphone, and quantum computing to open doors though a more secure process.

In March 2019, Grant won the top prize in the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s "What's the Big Idea?" pitch competition. Security and safety of women has been a focal point of Grant’s. During her undergraduate tenure, she served as president of the Virginia Tech chapter of Help Save the Next Girl, an organization dedicated to safety and awareness education.