Jeremy Beach received his PhD in Chemistry from the College of Science at Virginia Tech.  Beach is the Institute’s Advanced Materials Scientist.

“I’m very excited to utilize all the tools I have available here at the Institute and the ties I developed at Virginia Tech to grow the Southern Virginia economy through industrial support and materials research,” said Beach.

Beach’s dissertation was entitled, Preparation and Electrochemical Testing of Flexible Carbon Nanofiber Electrodes from Electrospinning.  

“For my dissertation research, I utilized and refined a process call electrospinning to prepare carbon nanofibers that were 500 times smaller than a human hair.  By precisely controlling the process variables, I was able to prepare a nanostructured, free standing and flexible carbon electrode that required no binder to hold it together.  I used the carbon nanofibers as a high performance anode for lithium ion batteries but it also has applications in fuel cells, supercapacitors, water purification, chemical sensors, and air filtration,” said Beach.  Beach, in coordination with Virginia Tech, is seeking a patent for this process. 

“IALR is proud to see Dr. Jeremy Beach receive this personal and professional accomplishment. Having a PhD scientist on staff in the Advanced Materials area of our research department will allow us to do a better job servicing our region and fulfilling our mission of economic development,” said Executive Director Mark Gignac.  

Photo: Jeremy Beach, PhD utilizing a 22-ton injection molding machine and decoupled II process to prepare plastic test specimens of precise dimensions for analytical testing.

Written by: Leslie Dobbins, Conference Services Manager

The Institute’s Conference Center was one of ten locations in the Commonwealth to hold a special coding experience for 100 middle school girls. This special one-day program taught students how to create their own mobile applications. The event was presented by the Virginia Secretary of Technology and Capital One.

The day-long event was supported by 35 volunteers who came to our area from Northern Virginia, Richmond, and as far away as Michigan. The volunteers spent two nights in local hotels and dined in area restaurants; a fine example of economic development. 

In preparation for the event, our catering provider, Sodexo, provided a healthy breakfast and boxed lunch. 

Following the event, the team leader from Capital One said, “Words cannot express enough how incredibly grateful I am for making the Coders Experience in Danville such a wonderful, life changing experience for the middle school girls who participated in this event. Thank you for hosting us at your incredible facility. Between the logistical and technical support that you provided before and during the event, to offering nutritious meals and refreshments for participants and volunteers, and especially your amazing hospitality – we were so very fortunate to partner with your team and are so very impressed by what you’re doing to support the workforce of today and of tomorrow.”

The Conference Services Team really enjoyed working with the planners from Capital One and the George P. Johnson marketing agency. Weekly conference calls over a three-month period gave the team greater insight into the program logistics. This kind of event contributes to our region’s economic development - people staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, and experiencing Southern Virginia in a positive and meaningful way while advancing the learning and growing opportunities for the youth of our future.

Comments and paraphrased statements from volunteers: 

“Amazing facility! If only Capital One had a place like this for conferences.“

“The conference staff was awesome, they assisted with every detail; from menu planning and catering along with caring for our every need during set-up and registration. 

“The food and service were wonderful!

The Board of Trustees at the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research (IALR) has named Mark Gignac as the new Executive Director following a three-month nationwide search.

“Mark has been serving as our interim director for the past three months and has done an excellent job,” said Don Merricks, chairman of the Board of Trustees at IALR. “As executive director, he will bring his entrepreneurial spirit, his distinct management style with an ability to run efficient organizations and his collaborative nature to IALR to keep us moving in a positive direction as we grow our economic, research, career and educational development resources within our footprint and beyond.”

Gignac lives in Danville and has founded, owned and operated businesses within the region over the past 30 years. These include Engineering Design & Sales, Inc., Chartwell Homes LLC, Dan River Plants LLC and mostly recently he served as the director of research at IALR.

He is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and is an active member of the community having previously served on Danville City Council and the Danville Development Council. He has also served on the boards of the Dan River Business Development Center, Southside Rising Venture Capital and the Southern Piedmont Technology Council.

“I am humbled to be chosen to lead the Institute during this exciting period of southern Virginia’s history,” said Mark Gignac. “Many exciting projects are underway in the community and the Institute is poised to continue our leadership role. I look forward to working with our team and our partners in moving the Institute to the next level to better serve the community and accomplish our core mission of economic development.” 

Gignac will begin his new role on November 1.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Mark’s caliber ready to step in and lead right here in southern Virginia,” continued Merricks. “Mark is the kind of leader that offers the opportunity for all within the organization to lead and to grow in their respective fields while working collaboratively with our partners to make sure that the Institute is fulfilling our mission.”

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) serves as a regional catalyst for economic transformation. Their core focus areas include research that provides a clear path to commercialization, advanced learning opportunities where education meets experience, and economic development through conferencing and a partnership with the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.

The IALR footprint served includes the counties of Patrick, Franklin, Henry, Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg along with the cities of Martinsville and Danville.




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