The Virginia Tech media relations office has the following experts available for interviews this week surrounding issues in the news. To schedule an interview, please contact

Jimmy Carter in Hospice Care

Bob Denton, W. Thomas Rice Chair Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Communication at Virginia Tech and Virginia Tech political expert Karen Hult are available for interviews about President Jimmy Carter’s life and legacy. Hult can discuss the Carter presidency and post-presidency. Denton can speak to his demeanor, communication and ability to adapt to his audience. He can also speak about meeting Carter during his visit to Virginia Tech in 1989. The former President was part of a distinguished speaker series and addressed a crowd in Burrus Hall.  

Photos available upon request.

Train Derailment Concerns

Mehdi Ahmadian, the Director for the Center for Vehicle Safety and Systems at Virginia Tech, says there are approximately 14 million train cars that move more than one ton of cargo, mostly bulk commodities, on U.S. railroads. Ahmadian says railroads do everything possible to keep things safe, but accidents do happen, just as they would on the road. “From time to time there are mechanical failures like there was in Ohio that led to derailment.” According to Ahmadian, there are approximately 1,000 derailments in the U.S. The vast majority of them are minor incidents with wheels falling off the rail. “When accounting for the number of railcars or cargo tonnage, the number of derailments and accidents are far fewer than the accidents involving semi-trucks,” says Ahmadian.

Turkey, Syria Earthquakes

Residents of Southern Turkey were again jolted by a new earthquake Monday, this trembler reported by the U.S. Geology Survey (USGS) as 6.3 in magnitude. News reports state that scores of buildings that were damaged in powerful quakes on February 6 have been further damaged or outright collapsed.

Virginia Tech’s Robert Weiss, who studies natural hazards, calls the devastating trio of earthquake “unusual,” but not “impossible.” He added, “The mysteries of the planet are deep … literally.” More here.

Roberto Leon, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, says poor infrastructure in Turkey and Syria is partially to blame for the high number of earthquake casualties. Leon explains “replacement of these buildings is beyond what most economies can sustain and that we will likely continue to see catastrophes like what happened in Turkey and Syria.” In the United States, Leon says that hopefully no disaster of this magnitude will happen but points to cities at risk along the west coast and Mississippi River. More here.

Race for the White House

Republican presidential hopefuls are starting to make their pitch to voters in Iowa. Virginia Tech political expert Karen Hult says this is only just the beginning. President Trump and Nikki Haley are the only two who have officially entered the race for the Republican nomination.  

A.I. Technology and Impact on Our Daily Lives

An arms race is underway to have the most intelligent A.I. models. ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing are both making headlines. Rishi Jaitly, distinguished fellow in the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities, says this type of technology offers both risk and rewards. “Chief among the risks may be the gulf it creates between those literate in harnessing the positive power of this technology - and those not yet fully empowered. It is incumbent upon all of us in education and entrepreneurial ecosystems to ensure all people, and young people in particular, have the skills to make inspired use of these technologies for their own fulfillment and that of their communities,” Jaitly says. More here.

If you are seeking an expert for a specific topic, please email