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Dean's Blog: Juntos perseveramos

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm
Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm


An illustration of NASA’s Perseverance rover landing safely on Mars. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land safely on Feb. 18, 2021.
An illustration of NASA’s Perseverance rover landing safely on Mars. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land safely on Feb. 18, 2021. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Last week the world raptly and virtually followed the progress of NASA’s fifth Mars rover named Perseverance as it landed on the red planet to look for signs of ancient life and collect rock samples for further analysis here on Earth.

Like most big news these days, live coverage and landing commentary from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California began that afternoon on NASA’s own public TV channel, on their website and across social media. In fact, among the many firsts of this mission, NASA offered its first Spanish-language show  to depict the planetary landing titled Juntos Perseveramos (Together, We Persevere). Those who watched learned of the Mars mission and the role Hispanic NASA professionals have had in its success. This realization hit home for me, as NASA played an important role earlier in my career as a scientist and allowed me to work towards the advancement of underrepresented students in STEM fields.

This Thursday afternoon, from 1-3pm, during our ScienceConnect research spotlight event, we feature four of our scientists to briefly describe their respective work across the fields of COVID-19 vaccine development, climate change, sustainable ecosystems, and urban science in the hope of inspiring our students and fellow researchers. In addition, we will highlight pathways and support opportunities for students to begin or further their respective research at Mason.

According to Merriam Webster, perseverance is defined as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition, steadfastness.”

This is the essence of what we teach our students, how we encourage our bold thinking and research efforts. In fact, we are known for our many out-of-this-world pursuits. Look no further than the Mason students who recently launched satellites into space or our researchers who discovered elusive giant black hole pairs. Our College of Science faculty and students have a long history of extensive collaboration with NASA looking beyond what we know to either discover what is or what could or should be.

In fact, our science community at Mason actually aspire to efforts beyond perseverance. Amidst the pandemic, our faculty, staff and students are blazing new paths of learning, scientific inquiry, and self-discovery. Although our current virtual situation may make us feel somewhat isolated, we are striving to find ways like the event this week to connect and spark scientific curiosity.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

After spending years in isolation on Walden Pond, American writer, Henry David Thoreau penned this well-known quote found in chapter 18 of his book about the experience.  It strikes me as a very accurate description of many situations surrounding us this month, even this year.

Like NASA has done for the many following its MARS 2020 Perseverance mission progress, we look to inspire current and future Mason scientists on our important path to foster a healthy people, healthy economy, healthy environment and healthy society.

Walden’s quote continues, encapsulating why we diligently encourage each other:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Let us persevere, and strive for such success, together. Juntos.