Virginia Tech is renaming a data research center at its new campus in Northern Virginia for alumni Mehul and Hema Sanghani after the couple donated $10 million to the university.
The Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics will be headquartered in the first academic building at Tech’s Innovation Campus in Alexandria. Most of the gift — $7.4 million — will go toward recruitment, research and fellowships at the center, which has operated since 2011 with space in Blacksburg and Northern Virginia. A Sanghani Center scholars program will also fund scholarships for underrepresented minority students to pursue graduate degrees with a focus on artificial intelligence, the university said.
Tech President Tim Sands is set to announce the news at his State of the University address Wednesday afternoon.
“This gift fuels growing momentum as we expand the university’s footprint in the greater D.C. area and explore the human-computing frontier,” Sands said in a statement. “The Sanghanis’ investments in data analytics and artificial intelligence will advance Virginia Tech as a catalyst for discovery, growth, and opportunity.”
The $1 billion campus in Northern Virginia aims to boost the university’s profile as a leader in computer science and engineering. State officials have cited Tech’s Innovation Campus as a key reason why Amazon chose Virginia for its second headquarters. In an agreement with the state, Tech has committed to produce more than 16,000 computer science graduates by 2040, including 750 master’s degree students at the new campus by decade’s end.
“As the Innovation Campus launches, the Sanghanis’ gift will enable us to be more ambitious in our research and education objectives,” Naren Ramakrishnan, director of the Sanghani Center and a professor of engineering at Tech, said in a statement. “These funds will be used to create endowments to support the recruitment of top-notch academic and research faculty, launch new educational programs, pursue high-risk seed projects, and recruit promising Ph.D. students.”
Construction on the Sanghani Center is set to begin this year, with the building expected to open in August 2024. The 11-story building, designed by the architecture firm SmithGroup, has a largely glass facade of soaring, angled sides.
Mehul Sanghani, a 1998 alumnus and a member of Tech’s Board of Visitors, is the founder of Octo Consulting, a Reston-based company that provides technology services to the federal government. Hema Sanghani, a 1999 alumna, is a manager at CGI Federal, Inc., which provides IT services to federal agencies.
“With Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus coming online, we were presented with the unique opportunity to be part of growing our university’s standing as a world class institution that uses innovation — specifically artificial intelligence and data analytics — to transform our society for the greater good,” Mehul Sanghani said in a statement.
The university said $1.5 million of the couple’s gift is earmarked for a new student food pantry that Tech announced in September. The remaining contribution will support Virginia Tech Athletics and a Global Business and Analytics Complex that will be constructed on the Blacksburg campus.