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Dean's Blog: Springtime at Mason

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm
Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

This is my first time experiencing the spring semester at Mason. And what a glorious time it is. The sun is usually shining and the cherry blossoms are sprouting across campus, and in our own backyards, signaling a new beginning off a very long COVID-induced isolation.

March Madness for us takes on a new meaning (an aside for basketball fans, we are excited to welcome Kim English, Mason’s new Men’s Basketball coach).  Researchers are busy, with preparations for the Undergraduate Research Colloquium (URC), Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, and various semester research presentations, and thesis defenses are well underway. These activities give me, and all of us, the chance to experience how our students are interpreting their learnings and offer an opportunity to test their problem solving and critical thinking skills. Please consider volunteering to judge our URC or pop in to one or more of these virtual sessions to offer feedback, confirm methods and understanding, and expand your own knowledge of subjects of interest.

With the change of season, comes new opportunities to engage within our Mason Science community. Mark your calendars for the following events. Join us to cheer on ESP graduate students, Fiorella Briceno and Chase LaDue, and Physics graduate student, Ryan Mays in Mason’s annual 3MT® Final Round. These students will compete for cash prizes at the Mason Graduate Interdisciplinary Conference on Friday, April 9th via Zoom.

Where will you be on Wednesday afternoon, April 21 from 1-3pm? Hopefully at the College of Science Undergraduate Research Colloquium. The College and its STEM Accelerator ask you to encourage your researchers to submit their URC abstracts before March 31 with posters due in mid-April. A reminder, all students engaged in undergraduate research at any level in any academic unit within the College of Science are encouraged to participate in this annual event. This virtual conference, open to all Mason students, staff, and faculty, will feature a student poster session and awards, including overall, category, and student’s choice awards. Presentations will be judged in four categories Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Earth Sciences and STEM Learning & Education. 

Mason faculty, research staff, and graduate students are invited to be judges for this event. Judging will occur during the poster session from 1-3pm. More details will be shared with the judges before the event. If you are interested, please email

I was just telling a group of students the other day that the ability to teach and continue my research on an ongoing basis while serving as our college’s dean is so important to me. Through participating in sessions like these in the past, I’ve learned new approaches or ideas from others that have taken my research endeavors in new directions. Perhaps you will find similar inspiration.

Or, fast-forward a month, seeing yourself bursting with pride as you observe your students outside of their comfort zones, submitting their first abstract or confirming their research direction (all because a caring faculty member suggested they give it a try, because they had good ideas that should be explored and shared). Demonstrating this active and engaged research mentorship is so important. Which students will you encourage to participate?

Speaking of you…since the university’s Spring into Well-Being month began this week, I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you each to also take time this spring for yourself. Participate in some of these research and wellness activities to find ways to nurture and restore your scientific soul. As we breathe in that fresh spring air, seasonal allergies notwithstanding, we can find great inspiration, relaxation, and fortification. Spring is here.