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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

VMASC Marks 25 Years of Modeling Excellence

By Jonah Grinkewitz

Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) celebrated its 25th anniversary with an event at the Suffolk facility on Aug. 10.

Staff and local, state and national leaders gathered to reflect on the research center's accomplishments and look toward the future.

Established in 1997 to provide training for the U.S. military, the research center has expanded its use of modeling and simulation technology to include the medical field, transportation, digital shipbuilding, logistics and cybersecurity. As of spring 2022, it had more than $15 million in active projects underway.

Morris Foster, vice president for research at ODU, said VMASC alone contributed more than 20% of the research expenditures and a third of the non-faculty Ph.D. researchers toward the University's earning the prestigious Research 1 Classification from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

"It is very clear to say that without VMASC, we would not have become an R1 institution," he said.

The center is not only at the forefront of higher education. More than 30,000 high school students have gone through VMASC's Digital Shipbuilding program, which has engaged them in engineering, data science, and modeling and simulation to prepare the next generation of Hampton Roads' shipbuilding and repair workforce.

Through VMASC, ODU also graduated the first master's and Ph.D. students in modeling and simulation in the nation in 2000 and 2003, respectively.

"Your impact has been felt across the commonwealth and you've played an integral role in helping prepare the next generation of students in STEM through the Digital Shipbuilding program, which will be so important if the U.S. is to be able to compete with other countries in the 21st century," said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who addressed the audience in a pre-recorded message.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner also offered congratulations in a video message.

"I think about first becoming involved with VMASC in my early years as governor (2002-2006), and I've seen the importance of modeling and simulation grow in the commonwealth and across the country over the past 25 years," he said.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott served as keynote speaker for the event, and he reflected on how VMASC's modeling and simulation capabilities helped the U.S. military pivot to more cost-effective training after the Cold War.

"You don't have to repair; all you have to do is reboot," he said.

David Young, deputy director for NASA Langley Research Center, and David Dean, deputy lab director for Jefferson Lab, talked about the continued importance of their partnership with VMASC.

"Not only do we have great collaboration on the research side, but your production of that next generation, that education to build that capability we have is so important, whether it's for national security or for NASA's mission or for even the economic growth of the area," Young said.

Dean said the synergy of data at Jefferson Lab and VMASC's analytics capabilities is critical to addressing challenges in the real world - "to take the expertise that we have, looking at nuclear physics data at JLab, and applying that with your help to health science and health disparities in the region."

Eric Weisel, executive director of VMASC, concluded the celebration by looking toward the future.

"All these digital technologies that we have at VMASC, we are applying to improve how we live and how we work," he said. "To me, that's what digital transformation is all about, and VMASC is ready for the digital future and the next 25 years."

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