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Atmospheric science

Dean's Blog: Welcome to the Fall 2020 semester, Mason Science faculty and staff

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm
Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

We enter a semester of firsts-- my first fall as dean of our college. Our first hybrid semester in ‘pandemic-mode.’ Maybe your first online lab or first time away from home or your first semester not working on campus.   

We will all certainly remember this historic time in 2020 as we welcome one of our largest incoming fall classes both at Mason and within our college. 

I am greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitment of our students, their families, our faculty, staff and administrators to deliver on our mission.  

My sincere thanks to all our faculty and staff for their ingenuity and tireless efforts to modify our safe, engaging learning environment based on the safety requirements we all must follow. 

Our science community has worked diligently to implement the safety requirements we’ve put in place. 

And I want to thank you for doing your part. Believe me, I know showing up this time around ain’t easy. It takes courage and fortitude to continue your education and research in these uncertain times. Yet, move forward we will.  

There are Mason memories to be made.   

Rather than just pivot to an online only university experience, we are doing our best – regardless of format--in person, hybrid or online,  to deliver on our promise of an engaging, challenging, equitable science education full of opportunity to build scientific skills and confidence to fuel success. But, just as importantly, we will encourage our students to learn what they are truly capable of achieving. 

 I pledge to set the tone and lead by example to create a collegial, transparent, innovative administrative infrastructure committed to communicating opportunities, recognizing successes and furthering scientific confidence and discovery. 

The time to move forward into this new normal is before us. I ask you all to diligently follow the Safe Return to Campus guidelines. Take the daily COVID health assessment. Keep mask wearing and social distancing a priority. The higher education world is watching to see how we handle this opportunity.  

Let’s show them what Mason Science students, faculty and staff can do. 

You may have heard how our Mason scientists have been working on the front lines of the global COVID-19 challenge. From developing a possible vaccine at our Biomedical Research Laboratory, to proving less invasive testing methods with saliva-based methodology, to confirming how the virus spreads in hospitals, buildings, and mass transportation systems, to analyzing the multitudes of data to ensure its integrity and identify trends to help organizations make critical operational and safety decisions, our scientists are working to make Mason impactful all around. Our college is at the heart of Mason’s R-1 research success; over the past year, we generated the largest share of Mason’s research proposals, and received over $32Million for funded research. 

Our science students have discovered black holes, saved species, patented inventions, thwarted gang activity and crime, built successful businesses, and most importantly, found their path forward in science, wherever that may be. Your success has no limits here. 

We will cultivate your scientific curiosity within a culture valuing life-long learning, grounded in wellness and work-life balance. To foster wellness and balance, it will be very important for each of us to stay connected. 

Build connections, take smart risks. 

Making meaningful connections is not impossible in a virtual environment. We pledge to help you make them. For the 75 students participating in the college’s new Virtual Learning Community, the hundreds of students and mentors participating in virtual research presentations and outreach programs, and the 40 plus new faculty and staff who have joined us in 2020, and the thousands across Mason’s science community, we are offering plenty of ways to get and stay connected. 

Whether it’s reading the college’s weekly e-newsletter, following us on social media, or regularly checking our website news and events calendars, please make an effort to stay informed.   

I invite you to mark your calendar for the Fourth Annual ScienceConnecton Wednesday, September 2 from 2 to 6 p.m. Drop in to our virtual open house via Zoom for as long as you can to learn about our College of Science departments and programs, get to know your academic cohort, explore university resources, hear about possible research and professional opportunities, and win fun prizes. Learn and tap the resources, facilities and research infrastructure around you.   

We’re also starting a new tradition – Science Connect District Trivia game from 5 to 6 p.m. Whether you join on your own or build your team of up to 5 people, this trivia game will be a fun way to relax a bit, get to know people across the college, and meet people out of our day to day circle. I hope to ‘see’ you there. 

Bet on yourself and your ideas. Dare to keep chasing your dreams despite the unknowns we face. Fan the fires of your scientific curiosity and intellect to see what you’re truly capable of achieving.   

Make no mistake, this year will be different. And it will be memorable. 

We will measure our success beyond just degree completion and number of graduates. We will consider not just what our students learn but will also draw on some new models of learning to assess how we can best impart knowledge and perform research.  

This is new for all of us. And we do care about what you think. We have created new communications channels to learn what’s working and what might need to be improved. We will be offering many ways to share your feedback; monthly town halls, quick polls and surveys, and ask-me-anything events to share your thoughts and ideas.   

When we look back, we will add up all of your feedback, successes and our countless MasonMoments and know we have made the most of this time.    

Let’s stay safe, stay connected and start making your Mason memories. And remember… 

We’ve got your back, 



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