Faculty members at William & Mary are exceptionally committed to their work as teachers and scholars. With a student-faculty ratio of 11 to 1 (remarkably good for a public university), our professors know their students by name and are deeply invested in their success. This is as true for our undergraduates as it is for our graduate and professional students. It is rare at a research university of William & Mary's caliber to have tenured and tenure-track professors so committed to undergraduates.
These words from a longtime member of the faculty capture the reality of undergraduate education at William & Mary: Our students are "taught by professors, taught in small classes, graded by professors, guided by professors and known by professors during college and in later life." A colleague of more recent vintage at the College describes W&M as having "the heart of a college and the brains of a research university." And, to quote an undergraduate: "Professors are better than I could have imagined. They are the best teachers I have ever had. They are passionate about what they teach."
Our faculty conducts cutting-edge research. For example, professors from the university's Virginia Institute of Marine Science and from several departments in Arts & Sciences are embarked on a project called ChAP - the Chesapeake Algae Project. In collaboration with other corporate and academic partners, ChAP addresses two of the world's most pressing problems: environmental degradation and the energy crisis. ChAP seeks to produce biofuel from wild algae in a way that makes commercial sense. If ChAP proves itself, cultivation of the algae will filter out the excess nutrients that lead to "dead zones" and other environmental problems in the Chesapeake Bay. Then, the mature, oil-rich algae will be harvested for conversion into biofuel. As one of our scientists puts it, "We want to take pollution and convert it to fuel. And do so on a large, profitable scale." ChAP differs from other algal biofuel initiatives by using wild strains of algae, whereas the usual project is based on a monoculture-cultivation of a single algal species.
The university's Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations has built the world's most comprehensive and accessible database on foreign aid through its PLAID (Project-Level Aid) project. PLAID is giving representatives of governments and foreign-aid agencies a sort of "Consumer's Report" on foreign aid. A group of our economists is pursuing the crucial question of what makes otherwise rational people choose high-risk financial instruments when they say they want to invest conservatively.
Though William & Mary has no medical school, we do research that advances the understanding of disease and how to cure, treat or prevent it. For instance, we are studying how blood vessels supply oxygen to the brain. We sometimes think of stroke as a brain disease, but it's actually a vascular disease. This work also has implications for Alzheimer's and hardening of the arteries. Our neuroscientists are probing some of the automatic functions of the brain. In Applied Science, we are working on the neural genesis of rhythmic respiration, important to clinical applications from sleep apnea to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Each year the Commonwealth of Virginia presents Outstanding Faculty Awards (OFA's), the top honor for faculty in the Commonwealth. OFA's go to only twelve people from colleges and universities across the state, public and private. Two William & Mary professors received OFA's last year. Since the state began these awards in 1987, 33 William & Mary faculty members have received them, more than from any other college or university in the Commonwealth.