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Doctoral IGEP in BioBuild

BioBuild tours Red Suns Farms.

A group explores the grounds of Red Suns Farms.

Invite interdisciplinary collaboration with design, construction, engineering, and biological science for groundbreaking bio-inspired design research.

The Doctoral IGEP (Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program) in BioBuild at Virginia Tech is a specialized, interdisciplinary research and education program that brings together students and faculty from various disciplines to explore the connections between biology and the built environment. The program aims to develop innovative, sustainable solutions for the construction industry by integrating principles of biological systems into the design, construction, and operation of buildings and infrastructure. Through this unique approach, the BioBuild program fosters collaboration, creativity, and transformative research in the field of bio-inspired design.


Required credit hours for core courses and research credits


Affiliated colleges within Virginia Tech


Affiliated faculty from across the university

For more information on the application process for Virginia Tech's graduate school please visit:

The Program

  • Join a cohort of students who desire to impact both local and global challenges
  • Participate in an interdisciplinary graduate education program and experience
  • Take part in cross-disciplinary research rotations
  • Benefit from co-advisors in the fields of design, engineering and science
  • Further your professional development through curricular and co-curricular experiences

Fellow Support

  • Financial support for tuition and fees
  • Stipends up to $24,000 annually
  • Initial appointments of 12 to 24 months
  • Financial support for travel to conferences and professional events
  • Prospective students seeking a Ph.D. degree in an interdisciplinary program
  • Prospective students with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in architecture, biology, engineering, or closely related fields

Applications are accepted throughout the year

You may contact us at We would be happy to discuss any questions you may have.

Applying to Virginia Tech and the BioBuild program

Students interested in becoming part of the BioBuild doctoral program must apply to become a graduate student at Virginia Tech.

  • Please visit the Virginia Tech Graduate School website for general information on the graduate school program.
  • The application to the Graduate School at Virginia Tech is accessed from the Admissions Page, where you will find instructions for applying online or via mail-in forms.

When selecting a program of study in your graduate school application, you can choose to apply directly to the BioBuild program (Bio-inspired Buildings) or to a participating department/program.  

  • If you apply directly to the BioBuild program, you are officially applying to the BioBuild IGEP; your application will be considered automatically for IGEP support.
  • If you apply directly to the BioBuild program, be sure to indicate your desired home department.
  • If you apply directly to a department, be sure to contact us at, so that we are aware of your interest.
  • NOTE: whether you apply directly to the BioBuild program or a department, your Statement of Purpose must indicate why you are interested in this program and which faculty members in the program have research interests that align with your own.

Our graduate programs hold accreditation with the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) Code 52.2001. However, it is important to note that this CIP code is not currently recognized as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) STEM Designated Degree Program. As a result, international students who graduate from our program may experience limitations or restrictions on their visa status, particularly regarding Optional Practical Training (OPT) extensions for STEM programs. Please consult with an immigration advisor or contact Virginia Tech's Cranwell International Center to understand the implications for your specific situation.

About our Program

In the classroom, Akanmu (far right) teaches the fundamentals of digitally mapping job sites for futuristic worker training and assessing hazardous conditions in a safe setting. Chiravi Patel for Virginia Tech.

A group poses for a photo with smiles at Red Suns Farm.

Unlike any other program, BioBuild at Virginia Tech distinguishes itself by taking an innovative, hands-on approach to environmental sustainability and education. With interdisciplinary at its core as a Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP), BioBuild answers the pressing societal need for professionals with the interdisciplinary expertise necessary to create buildings and communities that are in fact bioinspired.

Graduates will have an immediate impact in university and industrial settings, and they will change the relationship between the built environment and our planet.  This requires a radical shift in how we understand buildings by bringing together faculty from departments and centers across Virginia Tech. Through the BioBuild program, explore building systems and biological systems synergistically to discover innovative connections between these two fields.

Students in the Bio-inspired Buildings (BioBuild) program earn their doctoral degree from one of the degree-granting programs in which their BioBuild-affiliated advisor is located.  Find the list of current participating programs below and visit specific programs of interest in the Graduate Catalog to review the requirements for those degree programs. 

We recommend that you identify specific BioBuild faculty aligned with your research interests and contact them directly to discuss the possibility of enrollment in their home program as a BioBuild student. You may also contact other faculty with relevant research interests who are not listed as current BioBuild affiliate faculty. Please mention the BioBuild program as a possible funding source and encourage these faculty to contact Dr. Annie Pearce ( regarding requirements for BioBuild affiliation. 

BioBuild Fellows can receive one year or more of financial support from the program while working toward a degree in one of the current participating programs listed above, or from a doctoral program associated with any BioBuild-affiliated faculty.

To receive full consideration for financial support in the following academic year, applications should be submitted by January 15 for fall entry or September 15 for spring entry.

For more information, contact BioBuild Program Director Annie Pearce or send a general request for information to

Core Benefits of Our Degree Program

A Biobuild group tours Healing Strides Farms.

Students take photos of a horse at Healing Strides Farms.

Interdisciplinary Expertise and Pioneering Research

The BioBuild program is spearheaded by a team of faculty members who are at the forefront of their respective fields - from biology to engineering, and from construction to environmental science. Our faculty provide mentorship and work alongside students on innovative research projects, such as the development of phytoremediative greenwalls and household anaerobic digesters, making strides in environmental conservation and waste management. This multifaceted approach to research not only enriches the learning experience but also pushes the boundaries of knowledge in sustainability and bio-inspired construction.

Biological systems are often characterized by their robustness, resiliency, and parsimony.

Our research program recognizes three chief mechanisms that are relevant to both biological systems and building systems that promote these characteristics:

  • Regulation – which is fundamental to all organisms and allows them to maintain stability through change via active adjustment to both predictable and unpredictable events.
  • Adaptation – through natural selection results in changes in form and function of the organism to be better suited to its environment.
  • Integration – which occurs at multiple levels and includes how regulatory systems work together (for example regulating body temperature and blood pH) but also extends to the population and community levels to understand how different individuals and species interact.

If these features were inherent – to the extent possible – in buildings and building systems, they would respond more naturally to shifting conditions or expectations and co-exist with living systems more effectively.

BioBuild recognizes that understanding the ways that biological systems interact with the built environment may be necessary for the successful implementation of these features in built systems.

Our program also recognizes striking similarities between built and biological systems as depicted in the figure. 

By focusing our research on the: (1) principles of regulation, adaptation, and integration and (2) analogous relationships of building systems/organ systems, buildings/organisms, and neighborhoods/populations, BioBuild will transform the built environment by incorporating the capacity of biological systems for self-sufficiency and co-existence within our building design and community development paradigm. Consequently, buildings will perform more effectively and be better situated in their natural communities, which will mitigate and deter further environmental degradation.

Two graduate students smile for a photo during a commencement ceremony while wearing their ceremonial cap and gown.

High Demand for Our Graduates

BioBuild graduates bring a unique set of skills and experiences to the workforce or academia, making them sought-after candidates in a variety of fields. Thanks to hands-on learning experiences, mentorship from expert faculty, and a strong network of peers, our students are equipped to drive innovation and change in sustainability, biology, engineering, and beyond. The program's commitment to real-world problem-solving, as evidenced by student-led projects and patent disclosures, ensures our graduates are ready to take on complex challenges and make a substantial impact on the world.

Students watch as a professor is in river.

Students watch as a professor is in river.

Engagement in a Multidisciplinary Approach to Sustainability

The BioBuild program encourages students to immerse themselves in the multi-faceted world of environmental sustainability, blending science, technology, arts, and community outreach. From participating in interdisciplinary research projects to public engagements, students experience a breadth of opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills. Furthermore, they learn to communicate scientific concepts effectively to diverse audiences, advocate for sustainable practices, and inspire change in their communities.

Embarking on the BioBuild program offers a transformative opportunity to become an innovator in the converging fields of biology, sustainability, construction, and engineering.

By becoming a part of the BioBuild family, you are not just choosing an academic degree, but a life-altering experience that prepares you to be a leader in shaping a sustainable, healthier, and eco-conscious future. Join us on this exciting journey to redefine the boundaries of bio-inspired construction and environmental design, as we continue to make strides in this dynamic and evolving field.

Our Faculty

  • Bio Item
    Staff headshot of Annie Pearce
    Annie Pearce , bio

    Associate Professor, Building Construction; Director, BioBuild Interdisciplinary Graduate Program; Head, Sustainable Facilities and Infrastructure Laboratory

  • Bio Item
    Frederick Paige
    Frederick Paige , bio

    Assistant Professor

  • Bio Item
    Staff headshot of Georg Reichard
    Georg Reichard , bio

    Associate Director for Operations, Myers-Lawson School of Construction; Professor and Head, Building Construction; Director, Building Enclosure & System Technologies Lab

  • Bio Item
    Staff headshot of Michael J. Garvin
    Michael J. Garvin , bio

    Vecellio CEM Program Coordinator, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Bio Item
    Rolf Mueller
    Rolf Müller , bio

    Raymond E. and Shirley B. Lynn Professor

  • Bio Item
    Steve Hankey
    Steve Hankey , bio

    Associate Professor, Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) | Office: Architecture Annex, Room 208, Blacksburg | Email: | Phone: (540)-231-7508

  • Bio Item
    Staff headshot of Tripp Shealy
    Tripp Shealy , bio

    Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Bio Item
    Walid Thabet headshot
    Walid Thabet , bio

    William E. Jamerson Professor, Building Construction; Director, Virtual Facilities Research Laboratory

A Symphony of Sustainability

In a stunning union of arts and sciences, BioBuild faculty Dr. Dwight Bigler crafted a 75-minute composition performed by a choir and orchestra representing diverse majors at Virginia Tech. This musical celebration of nature aimed to use the arts to convey scientific knowledge and encourage sustainable living. It stands as a powerful testament to our program's interdisciplinary spirit, propelling conversations on sustainability into new, harmonious heights.

An orchestra performs on stage


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Graduate Advising and Resources

Find information on policies, coursework, expectations, advisor contact information, forms, and more on our Graduate Advising and Resources page.

Construction site