Timothy D. Sands is the 16th president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, joining the university in June of 2014. A scientist, educator, and inventor, he has dedicated much of his career to advancing the impact of research and innovation in public education. As president, he has engaged the university community in a visionary plan to advance Virginia Tech’s role as a global land-grant institution, confronting the commonwealth’s, the country’s, and the world’s most challenging problems.
The initiative, called “Beyond Boundaries,” seeks to define Virginia Tech’s role a generation into the future and align the educational experience with the needs and opportunities that will be created by changing world economies and the evolving landscape of higher education.
In collaboration with the provost and academic leadership, he has championed the development of Destination Areas, thematic focus areas that leverage the university’s signature strengths to attract talent and generate creative energy that extends across the disciplines. The development of these areas involves reimagining Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg residential campus, catalyzing the economic development of the Blacksburg-Roanoke region with a growing health science and technology center of excellence and developing the experiential learning and research potential in the National Capital Region. He has prioritized building new and enhancing existing partnerships and collaborations to use resources and expertise in a focused and efficient way across the country and the globe.
He also launched and led InclusiveVT, an initiative to provide leadership, collaboration, guidance, and resources to support and accelerate the implementation of inclusion and diversity goals throughout the university community.
InclusiveVT supports the imperative of inclusion and diversity as key components of a university ecosystem rich in opportunities for experiential learning, cross-disciplinary engagement, and the development of cultural awareness and empathy.
President Sands’ vision for Virginia Tech embraces the university’s heritage of service and community and its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). Virginia Tech students will graduate with disciplinary mastery, technology literacy, cultural competency, resilience, empathy for others, and the passions and strengths needed for a life and career of impactful service to humanity.
Before coming to Virginia Tech, President Sands served as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He was acting president during the summer and fall of 2012, before Mitchell E. Daniels became the 12th president of Purdue.
He earned a bachelor's degree with highest honors in engineering physics and a master's degree and doctorate in materials science from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the Purdue faculty in 2002 as the Basil S. Turner Professor of Engineering in the schools of Materials Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering. Prior to becoming provost, he served as the Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk Director of the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue's Discovery Park.
From 1993 to 2002, President Sands was a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and before that, he performed research and directed research groups at Bell Communications Research (Bellcore) in Red Bank, New Jersey. Throughout his career, he has participated in and led research teams and academic programs that have been characterized by open collaboration across a wide array of disciplines.
He has published more than 250 refereed papers and conference proceedings and has been granted 20 patents in electronic and optoelectronic materials and devices. His recent research efforts have been directed toward the design and development of novel nanocomposite materials for environmentally friendly and cost-effective solid-state lighting, direct conversion of heat to electrical power and thermoelectric refrigeration. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Materials Research Society, and the National Academy of Inventors. He is a member of the Governor's Council on Youth Entrepreneurship.
President Sands is joined at Virginia Tech by his wife, Dr. Laura Sands, a professor of gerontology in the Department of Human Development at Virginia Tech. All four of their children graduated from Purdue and are proud members of the Virginia Tech community. Follow President Sands on Twitter at @VTSandsman.