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Deans Blog: Early career ASSIP research experiences set a success trajectory

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

At Mason Science, research opportunities are available early and often.

As you may know, George Mason University is a globally ranked R-1 research university, with five expanding learning locations in northern Virginia and one campus in South Korea. Science research is at the core of Mason’s past and growing research success.

Recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released reports of its scientific research funding, noting that Mason has the highest research growth in the past 10 years among Virginia institutions and is No. 10 in research growth among U.S. public universities.

Entrepreneurs, researchers, technologists, business leaders, and various federal and national organizations work alongside Mason Science faculty and innovators in partnerships that expand opportunities for the broader community. These collaborations have resulted in our college’s formation of over a dozen interdisciplinary centers, institutes, offering programs that are often completely unique or the first of their kind.

Consider our highly regarded, in-demand Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program (ASSIP). Mason’s ASSIP provides high school juniors, seniors, and college undergraduates who are interested in exploring research opportunities in science, technology and other fields, working alongside a diverse group of the university’s faculty researchers. Participants spend eight 40-hour weeks at Mason’s Science and Technology and Fairfax campuses working on real-world science projects related to global challenges, such as cancer, HIV, biodefense, climate change and many others. 

After more than a decade of Mason Science offering ASSIP to emerging scientists both locally and across the United States, we have provided multi-disciplinary research opportunities to explore their scientific questions in laboratories and field-based projects. Coupled with training, communication, and mentoring opportunities, these budding scientists receive hands-on experiences that showcase a multitude of pathways for successful STEM career trajectories. Some even come away with patents and, just as importantly a clear sense of where they could focus their scientific creativity and inquiry, equipped with honed scientific and collaboration skills to get started early in their college experience.

Consider the opinion of Angela Rojas Rivera, recent ASSIP researcher, who is now an undergraduate in Mason’s medical laboratory sciences program. Rojas Rivera explains how Mason’s ASSIP program provided a sense of belonging, purpose, support, and mentorship, which prepared her for a bright future in breast cancer research.

The ASSIP program application cycle is winding down and selections will be made in the coming month; thus, allowing another cohort of promising scientists the ability to learn from Mason leaders in their fields.  Moreover, we are collaborating with various community partners to encourage young scientists through our Mason FOCUS camps, and even a new Mason space camp this summer as well.  

Like Mason, world-class research universities attract exceptional talent. We produce scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs who drive innovation and produce new insights. These novel scientific discoveries can help address pressing global problems, resulting in improved human life experiences. Accordingly, faculty, students, and alumni of Mason Science regularly receive recognition for their work through awards, grants, and fellowships.

“Understand, Innovate, Succeed,” isn’t just our motto. We work intentionally to create an atmosphere that encourages taking risks and freely sharing ideas that will spark cutting-edge exploration and research. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Mason No. 1 in Virginia and No. 9 nationally among public institutions for innovation. We are open to new ideas, both in research and partnership, that can inspire the next generation of scientific leaders. I offer my deepest gratitude to our faculty mentors who encourage our community to explore scientific research with us.

Getting an early start in scientific investigation can make a world of difference; we will continue to actively engage in and encourage it. Best of luck to our incoming ASSIP cohort.


Visit the dean's blog for more insights from Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm.