Thematic Groups

VBRN Thematic Groups are comprised of Vermont researchers interested in collaborating with other scientists from network institutions, including VBRN baccalaureate partners (BPIs), University of Vermont (UVM), regional governments, and state agencies.

What are the potential benefits of group membership for BPI faculty?

Provide a supportive group of local experts who can advise on:

  • Publication/manuscript preparation: including (1) Initial outline and/or storyboard; (2) selection of appropriate journal; (3) review of drafts to assess readiness for publication; (4) addressing rejection, reviewer comments, and resubmission
  • Grant application preparation: including (1) what is the best agency and panel; (2) program officer and scientific review officer selection; (3) review of specific aims; (4) help faculty get feedback on drafts; (4) addressing rejection, reviewer comments, and resubmission
  • Career mentorship advice on: (1) balancing competing demands of teaching, research, and service; (2) understanding institutional tenure expectations; (3) time management skills; (4) initiating and managing collaborations.

Your thematic interest group and its UVM advisor can also help:

  • Identify new statewide funding opportunities, such as the Institute for Rural Partnerships, which will soon be a new resource for pilot grants to faculty across Vermont
  • Identify collaborative partnership opportunities including with the Northern New England Center for Translational Research (NNE-CTR) and UVM’s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) teams
  • Navigate the process of invention and intellectual property, which is an emerging priority for Federal agencies
  • Identify collaborative opportunities with other regional NIH IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) programs in NH, ME, RI, and DE
  • Identify and organize seminar invitations from outside experts
  • Identify training/workshop opportunities for both BPI faculty and their undergraduate trainees

VBRN is helping support faculty with shared research interests through seed funding for meetings, symposia, speakers, and workshops associated with these collaborative thematic research groups.

If you would like to join one of our thematic groups below, please reach out to the group contact. If you have collaborators and are interested in becoming a new VBRN thematic group, contact us at and we will send you information about the short application process. Not ready to join an existing thematic group or form a new one? Would you like to find other scientists also seeking collaborators with shared research interests?  Consider joining our Collaboration Directory.

Disease Ecology Working Group

The Disease Ecology Working Group links researchers from academic and non-academic institutions studying various aspects of wildlife disease, disease ecology and immunogenetics throughout the state of Vermont. The group includes faculty from multiple VBRN baccalaureate partner institutions (BPIs) and provides collaborative scientific support to its members which might otherwise be scarce at primarily undergraduate institutions.

On July 24, 2023, the Vermont Disease Ecology Research Group met for their annual summer research symposium in-person at Saint Michael’s College. This year nine faculty, eight undergraduates, one graduate student, one postdoc and three research scientists from seven institutions (Norwich University, Middlebury College, Saint Michael’s College, Vermont State University, University of Vermont, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, and National Institutes of Health) presented progress on their research in the areas of trematode parasites, ranaviruses in amphibians, arenaviruses in mice, SARS-CoV-2 infections in wildlife and humans, and the ecology of Lyme disease. Research presentation titles of all presenters is available here.

DEWG Contact:

Dr. Allison Neal, Associate Professor of Biology
Norwich University
(802) 485-2343

Vermont Initiative for Biological and Environmental Surveillance (VIBES)

VIBES is a multidisciplinary group of scientists, engineers, faculty, staff, students, wastewater treatment professionals, and state officials from various Vermont institutions that are partnering in a collaborative effort to conduct wastewater surveillance for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and develop wastewater-based risk assessment tools for COVID-19 and other environmental health hazards in Vermont.

VIBES Position Statement [Download]

Bioorganic Chemistry Thematic Group

The Bioorganic Thematic Group has several goals. We hope to provide an alternative community of chemists that is beyond the structure of everyone’s home institution. All the members come from small departments and our Thematic Group provides a group of like-minded scientists to trouble-shoot problems, get feedback about grants and research, and develop ways in which we can work together. We hope that eventually we will be more than the sum of our parts by working together.

The Bioorganic Chemistry Thematic Group currently has six members and has met five times since Summer 2022. In each of the three fall meetings we had a series of “get to know you” presentations from two members each meeting. Each member spoke for 20 minutes about their current research project and future directions. This was followed by 10 minutes of questions. So, each of these fall meetings was 1 hour in length.

Bioorganic Contact:

Dr. Rob Hondal, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Vermont
(802) 656-8282

Cellular Neuroscience Working Group

This working group connects researchers from institutions around Vermont studying the breadth of cellular neuroscience. This group’s mission is to connect faculty for collaboration, provide feedback on grants and publications, invite seminar speakers, and provide additional support for career success at all levels.

The group aims to meet each semester, and several faculty recently connected at the VBRN grant writing workshop. Our next opportunity to meet and discuss Neuroscience will be at the Neuroscience Behavior and Health Forum at the University of Vermont Saturday February 4th in the Grand maple Ballroom. For registration information please follow this link. (

CNWG Contact:

Dr. Alicia Ebert, Associate Professor of Biology
University of Vermont
(802) 656-0458

Data Science Thematic Group

The Data Science Thematic Interest Group (TIG) aims to provide opportunities for researchers across Vermont to collaborate on Data Science research related to human health, provide access data science trainings for researchers interested incorporating Data Science techniques in their work, and connect with a community of Data Science researchers in the TIG with a wide variety of specialties. In the TIG we strive to provide an alternative community of data scientists that expands the structure of researchers’ home institutions. All the members of the TIG come from small departments and are a group of like-minded scientists eager to troubleshoot problems, give feedback about grants and research, and develop ways in which we can work together. We hope that eventually we will be more than the sum of our parts by working together. 

DSTG Contact:
Dr. Greg Petrics, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Data Science
Vermont State University, Johnson

Health & Movement Sciences Thematic Group

The Health & Movement Science Thematic Interest Group aims to bring together researchers and clinicians from VBRN’s five BPI campuses. The Health & Movement Science TIG is intentionally multidisciplinary, recognizing the limitations of discipline silos and the value of collaborations across health disciplines. Our members have unique training, interests, and skillsets for their campuses; therefore, one of the primary goals of this working group is to expand our members’ professional network, increasing opportunities for mentorship, equipment sharing, and collaboration. Established in July 2023, the current priorities of the Health & Movement Science TIG are to recruit members, build community, and gather information about members’ research initiatives, skillsets and equipment with the long-term goal of fostering future collaborations among TIG members.

HMSTG Contact:
Dr. Nora Beltz, Assistant Professor, Department of Health & Exercise Sciences
Vermont State University, Johnson

Dr. Amy Welch, Professor & Chair, Department of Health & Human Performance
Norwich University