Virginia Tech has named Donald Leo associate vice president for research in the National Capital Region. The announcement was made by Jim Bohland, vice president and executive director of National Capital Region Operations. Leo will be located at the new Virginia Tech Research Center – Arlington and will be responsible for developing and implementing a strategic direction for research throughout the National Capital Region by integrating the university and its community of researchers in the Ballston facility with government agencies as well as private firms in the region.

“Don’s experience and success in developing a research and development ecology with Rolls Royce and other partners through the founding of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing demonstrates his skills in creating new and exciting collaborations across multiple sectors,” Bohland said.

Leo is a professor of mechanical engineering who has been at Virginia Tech since 1998, serving as the associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering from 2007 to 2011. From 2005 to 2007 he was a program manager in the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.

During his time as associate dean, Leo oversaw several initiatives in research and graduate studies for the College of Engineering. He was the lead at Virginia Tech for creation of the Commonwealth Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems and the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing as part of a five-year, $14.6 million investment by the state. These funds will be used to support students, faculty, faculty hiring, and the development of new laboratories dedicated to aerospace and manufacturing research.

As associate dean, Leo also instituted several mentoring programs for junior faculty for early career awards, and worked with the departments to develop the first fall recruiting event in the college for prospective graduate students. Research expenditures grew from $107 million to $134 million over the four year period that he was associate dean in the College of Engineering.

His research expertise is the synthesis, modeling, and control of active material systems, with particular interest in the field of electroactive polymers. In 2007 he authored the textbook “Engineering Analysis of Smart Material Systems,” published by John Wiley and Sons. He is also the author of more than 200 papers, 80 of which have been published in archival publications.

Leo earned a bachelor of science in aeronautics and astronautics engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and both a master of science degree and a doctor of philosophy in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Buffalo.

Virginia Tech has fostered a growing partnership with the greater metropolitan Washington, D.C. community since 1969. Today, the university’s presence in the National Capital Region includes graduate programs and research centers in Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Leesburg, Manassas, and Middleburg. In addition to supporting the university’s teaching and research mission, Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region has established collaborations with local and federal agencies, businesses, and other institutions of higher education.