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Ashley Robertson, Graduate Student, Environmental Science and Policy

The spotlight is on Ashley Robertson this week! Ashley is graduate student pursuing a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) . She chose ESP thanks to the amazing faculty and the classes they offer. She always felt supported by the department and was often encouraged to step outside of her comfort zone.

One of her proudest moments at Mason was earning the Boren Fellowship for the 2022-23 academic year to study abroad. Thanks to the fellowship, Ashley is conducting her master’s thesis research at Ewha Woman's University in Seoul, South Korea.

After she graduates in Fall 2023, Ashley hopes to find a job within the federal government to work on energy policy issues.

To conclude this #StudentSpotlight, Ashley offers a shoutout to  Alpha Kappa Chi , Dr. Jennifer Sklarew , Dr. Ted Hsuan Yun Chen , Dr. Karen Akerlof , and Dr. Younsung Kim !

Ashley Robertson

Wren Bell, Environmental and Science Policy

Meet Wren Bell , an Environmental and Science Policy  alum who graduated in December 2022 with a major in environmental science and policy concentrating on ecological science with minors in conservation studies and computer science.

Wren's interest in stream ecology began when she watched a video of a stream scientist standing in waders, chest-deep in a stream, in Dr. Cindy Smith's Biomes and Human Dimension’s class. When she took Dr. Amy Fowler's Aquatic Invertebrate Ecology class, it confirmed for her that she wanted to work with these amazing organisms. In her microbiology class with Dr. Jennifer Salerno, she learned techniques that would benefit her in her current role as a Field Technician for  Prince William Country Watershed Management Division.

In addition to her passion for stream science, Wren has always advocated for people with disabilities, especially those like her who rely on mobility devices. Wren is very visible with her disability because she feels fortunate to have the opportunity to work in these fields and wants others to know that they, too, can be a scientist or ecologist, regardless of physical ability.

Wren Bell

Alex Murphy, alum, Environmental Science and Policy

Meet Alex Murphy, alum,  Environmental Science and Policy. Alex graduated from Mason in May 2022 as an environmental science major with a concentration in ecological science.

His classes, experiences, and research he participated in at Mason prepared him to land a great job right after graduation at the  Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District where he is currently a Conservation Specialist.

In this position, Alex has ample opportunities to do fieldwork and computer work in GIS, soil nitrogen modeling, nutrient management planning, erosion management planning and other conservation strategies.

He also has access to state, local, and federal databases, which allows them to collaborate in a multidimensional way with professionals in the field. Alex routinely networks with natural resource professionals across the Commonwealth and is learning a great deal about state programs, environmental laws and regulations.

The classes he took at Mason prepared him well. Microbiology with Dr. Salerno, for example, showed him how microbes, an essential resource in aquatic food webs, are reliant on water quality. Soil Ecology with Dr. Ahn gave him the knowledge to understand soil characteristics and diversity, which he now uses in conservation planning. And his policy-infused ecology classes with Dr. Smith showed him how they implement conservation practices for important ecological areas.

PWSWCD is dedicated to hiring passionate individuals who strive to improve our environment. If you would like to learn more, you can reach him at

Alex Murphy

Valentina Chirico, BAM student, Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Science

Meet Valentina Chirico a BAM student studying Geology in the Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Earth Science (AOES)  department. She chose AOES because their philosophy and approach to learning stood out to her. The professors and her classmates also cultivated a safe space that enriched her academic experience.

She chose the geology concentration because the classes span over several disciplines within geology, giving her exposure to a broader array of sub-disciplines. This encouraged her to pursue an accelerated master's, since it is a fantastic opportunity for her to slowly begin working on graduate-level classes as well as thinking about her Master's research.

“The program has enabled me to begin my career in research early on, and I've been able to make connections with important professionals.”, says Valentina

During the Fall 2022 semester, Valentina got the opportunity to travel to Lawrence, Kansas, with her graduate advisor, Dr. Geoff Gilleaudeau , where they worked with the Kansas Geological Survey to analyze a core from the Permian Basin.

After graduation, she hopes to work for a few years, possibly with the USGS or a state geological survey, to practice her research skills and better understand where her passion within Earth sciences truly lie. She also plans to pursue a PhD and would love to eventually become a professor to spread the good word of geology!


Brian Smith, Undergraduate, Atmospheric Sciences

Meet Brian Smith, an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Atmospheric Sciences. He chose AOES due to the various opportunities available to pursue internships and conduct research while in the program, which are immensely beneficial to students looking to work in the field of Atmospheric Science.

"One of the things that stood out to me about the department was its diverse faculty and its wide range of expertise in atmospheric science." The department's program boasts smaller class sizes, providing students with more individualized instruction, hands-on learning, and a greater sense of camaraderie with their peers and department faculty. During my time in the program, I have formed a close friend group and have made incredible connections with professors and others in the AOES department."

Brian also serves as the president of @WeatherClubatMason, which he helped reestablish alongside three other Atmospheric Science students in 2022. He encourages fellow weather enthusiasts to attend the club's weekly "Weather and Coffee" hangouts on Mondays at 4 p.m.!

Brian Smith

Kai Huang, PhD Student, Climate Dynamics

Kai Huang, a Doctoral Student in Climate Dynamics, recently won First Place in a Student Poster Presentation at the 11th Symposium on the Madden-Julian Oscillation and Sub-Seasonal Monsoon Variability.

Kai's presentation was on “Captured QBO-MJO Connection in the CESM2 Subseasonal Prediction System with a Stratospheric Nudging.” He has done #MasonNation very proud!


Geovanny Reyes-Matute, Graduate Student, School of Systems Biology

This #StudentSpotlight features Geovanny Reyes-Matute, Graduate Student in the School of Systems Biology (SSB), and EMDP2 alum. Geovanny’s journey at Mason has been unique yet rewarding. He completed his Pre-Med Post-Bac through the EMDP2 program, which allowed him to pursue his Master’s in biology, all while applying to medical school.

Geovanny always had a desire to continue learning and advancing in science, and the MS Biology program was the perfect place to do that. The program not only set him up for success in medical school, but it has led him to a more thorough understanding of many biological processes.

An SSB graduate program will take you to the next level, according to Geovanny. With knowledgeable faculty, access to world-class facilities, and strong relationship building, it’s a program that will open many career opportunities.

Geovanny offers a special shoutout to the faculty members who have helped him the most throughout this journey: Dr. Ancha Baranova, Dr. Donna Fox, and Dr. Vincent Hermoso!

Geovanny Reyes-Matute

Kerianne Richards, PhD Student, School of Systems Biology

Meet Kerianne Richards, Doctoral Student in the School of Systems Biology (SSB) studying Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. After completing her Master’s, she took a break from academia to gain experience in her field before pursuing a doctoral degree. During this break, she realized SSB would be the perfect place to pursue her PhD. In her words, “SSB is a uniquely integrated department that seamlessly pairs STEM with current and pertinent affairs in the research, academic, and clinical world.” This factor, along with faculty members with industry and academic research experience, helped make Kerianne’s decision.

Currently, Kerianne is working as a Bioinformatics Scientist. At some point in the future, she hopes to get into academia and teach in a research-based STEM department.

Kerianne offers a special shoutout to Dr. Ancha Baranova, the SSB Graduate Student Union, and the Black Graduate Student Association! 

Kerianne Richards, SSB, Student Spotlight

Emma Von Hoene, BAM student, Geography and Geoinformation Science

Meet Emma Von Hoene, BAM student, Geography and Geoinformation Science. Geography is a family affair for Emma, with both her parents studying geography, and her dad being a Mason alum, she quickly became fascinated with the topic after taking a few GGS courses her freshman year. After a couple of years of undergraduate studies, Emma decided to enroll in the BAM (Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's) program to get a head start on her graduate courses. The BAM program has provided her with opportunities to develop specialized skills, participate in research, and accelerate her career. After completing her Master’s next year, Emma plans to pursue her PhD in Earth Systems and Geoinformation Sciences. She plans on continuing her research on the improvement of representation of human behaviors in agent-based models of infectious disease spread, alongside Dr. Taylor Anderson.

For anyone considering studying geography at Mason, Emma says to go for it! Geography has many applications in many topics, which makes the professional opportunities endless. In Emma’s own words, “The GGS Department welcomes you into a community that will have an everlasting impact on you. The professors are always there to help you succeed, while the peers are always inclusive. The department does not only help you excel as a student, but it also helps you grow as a person.”

Ema von

Mark Bossinger, BAM Student, Geography and Geoinformation Science

Meet Mark Bossinger, BAM Student, Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science. Mark chose GGS because it covers the technical aspects of nearly any scientific discipline, all while providing a broad range of research topics and opportunities. Slowly but steadily, Mark started to gravitate towards remote sensing and forestry-related monitoring. When he discovered the Geoinformatics and Geospatial Intelligence BAM, it was a perfect fit. The program provides many courses in the areas he’s interested in, so Mark really gets to sink his teeth into the material and its conceptual information. For anyone considering GGS, Mark encourages you to ask around the department and see what interests you- there’s specialists in cartography, urban planning, drone surveying, and more!

Mark gives a special shoutout to some of his favorite professors: Konrad Wessels, Lori Mandable, Ed Oughton, and Christine Rosenfeld!

Mark Bossinger

Oliver Denaburg, Graduate Student, Forensic Science

Meet Oliver Denaburg, graduate student and teaching assistant pursuing his Master’s in Forensic Science, with a concentration in Crime Scene Investigation. After watching shows like CSI: Miami, Denaburg was hooked to forensic science. He chose #MasonScience thanks to our top-notch facilities and equipment like the Crime Scene House and the FARO 3D laser scanners. Some of his fondest memories of being a part of the program include working at the Research and Training Laboratory and working with the individuals from FARO Technologies. In fact, Denaburg has started his research on the comparison of firearm trajectory determinations by using traditional hand measurements and the FARO 3D scanners. Thanks to all the opportunities and training provided by our Forensic faculty and partners, Denaburg will undeniably be a stand-out candidate when applying to crime scene units in the area after graduation.

Oliver Denaburg

Maddie Bowers, Graduate Student, Forensic Science

This #StudentSpotlight features Maddie Bowers, graduate student in the Forensic Science Program. Bowers decided to pursue forensic science due to her love for DNA and genetics. Some of her favorite moments in the program include being in the DNA lab where they got to analyze the DNA profiles they worked on all semester. Bowers encourages anyone who is considering a Forensic Science degree to check out our Mason Forensic Science Program. With so many amazing opportunities, hands-on learning, crime scene investigation, and experienced professors, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. After earning her Bachelor’s in Forensic Science this past spring, and now working to earn her Master’s in Forensic Biology, along with her DNA research internship, she will be well-prepared for her future career in the forensic DNA field.

Maddie Bowers

Sky Ratcliffe, Mathematics PhD Candidate

MasonScience congratulates, Sky Ratcliffe, incoming doctoral student, for being one of four students to earn the 2022 Graduate Inclusion and Access Scholarship. Thanks to this scholarship, Ratcliffe is set to start their Mathematics PhD program this fall. 

Sky Ratcliffe, SS

Melissa Miliam, GeorgeSquared alum

Meet Melissa Miliam, GeorgeSquared alumna. She recently completed the GeorgeSquared Advanced Biomedical Sciences Program in May 2022 and is set to complete her Master’s in Physiology Georgetown University. Why did she choose the G2 program? “It’s the perfect program for students who want to pursue careers in health,” stated Miliam, “and it’s a learning environment established on compassion and support.” Prior to starting the program, she struggled with feelings of doubt and imposter syndrome. After completing the program, she has become an entirely new person. Not only did she learn the study skills needed for medical school, but she became a more confident student.

To any student considering applying to the program, “it could be the best decision they make for themselves,” Miliam says, “The program will give them the confidence they need to succeed in their future endeavors and the skills necessary to do so as well.”

Melissa Miliam, Student spotlight, georgesquared

Maggie Walker, Undergraduate, Biology

Did you know road salt gets rid of ice, snow…and ecosystems? Meet Maggie Walker, a Mason Biology, Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, and Honors College student studying the negative effects of road salt on our environment. Road salt has been touted as a lifesaver when it comes to combatting icy roads. Yet using this snow-melting mineral has a dark side once it enters waterways. Read more here.

Maggie Walker, Student Spotlight, Biology, SM Conservation

Jordan Sims, PhD student, Environmental Science and Policy

Mason Science congratulates Jordan Sims, second year PhD student, Environmental Science and Policy, for earning an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Sims, a student in The Salerno Lab, is studying microbial ecology of coral reef ecosystems to better understand the role that bacteria play in coral reproduction and disease. The fellowship will fund her ongoing project, “Understanding the Bacterial and Environmental Drivers of Stony Coral Settlement.” Read more about this exciting achievement here.

Jordan Sims

Team of CDS Students

Congratulations to the Mason team for winning second place for their presentation on Addressing Hunger with Bits and Bytes, the theme of the 2021 Virtual Virginia Datathon. The team, with Faysal Shaikh, MS student, Computational and Data Sciences, as team leader, also included Bikram Adhikari, PhD student, Computer Science; Amira Al-Khulaidy, PhD student, Computational Social Sciences; Kokou Wilfried Letsou, PhD student, Computational Science and Informatics; and Luke Palmieri, BS student, Computational and Data Sciences. The Mason team analyzed available data, in one scenario taking into account car ownership (or lack thereof) and reasonable access to a grocery store. Presentations were judged on impact, innovation, feasibility, completeness of idea, and presentation. 

CDS Team, Datathon winners, Student spotlight

Carissa Hunter, PhD student, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Carissa Hunter, a Ph.D. Student studying Chemistry and Biochemistry at the #MasonScience, has volunteered with the Committee of Minority Affairs for a year. Composed of chemists from local universities, Hunter joined the American Chemical Society to become more involved and share important skills she learned while working with the Minority Affairs Committee. Hunter said, “I am really excited to see how far the Minority Affairs committee can grow…” Read more about Hunter’s story here.

Watch a glimpse of Hunter's graduate school journey.

Carissa Hunter Spotlight

Samantha Lawrence, Undergraduate, CDS

Congratulations to Samantha Lawrence, Computational and Data Sciences, for being awarded the Stanley Zoltek Memorial Scholarship. The Stanley Zoltek Memorial scholarship is an award established in memory of Dr. Stanley Zoltek, a professor at George Mason from 1980 to 2018. Lawrence said, "Paving my own way as a first-generation college student is difficult. This scholarship was a big deal for me..." Learn more about Lawrence's story. 

Samantha Lawrence, CDS, Student Spotlight

Fall 2021

Amy Rose, BS, Geography and Geoinformation Science

Amy Rose, GGS, Student Spotlight

Happy #GISDay, #MasonNation! #DYK the Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science offers various undergrad and graduate programs here at Mason? Such as urban informatics, geographical information systems, and more! Check out what #MasonScience alumni Amy Rose has to say about her experience in the GGS department. 

Camille Goblet, PhD student, ESP

Camille Goblet, ESP, Student Spotlight

Camille Goblet, a doctoral student co-advised by Cody Edwards, Associate Provost, Institute for a Sustainable Earth, & Executive Director, Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, and Elizabeth W. Freeman, Associate Professor, School of Integrative Studies, is conducting genomic analysis of managed Eastern Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) populations in institutions of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This project will aid in management and conservation of the critically endangered black rhinoceros by performing genetic analyses of individuals within the North American population. Read more on her research.

Volunteers Around the World-Dental (VAWD)

Volunteers Around the World- Dental, Student Spotlight

Mason’s chapter of Volunteers Around the World-Dental (VAWD), a student-led organization that gives volunteers an opportunity to shadow dental professionals abroad. This past summer, a team of eight Mason students helped provide dental services in Cusco, Peru and found that the impact they made in the communities left an everlasting impact amongst themselves. The students helped set up a free dental clinic in a local elementary school to aid the rural community of Ccoyllorpuquio, near the city of Cusco. Biology student Julia Hakeem stated that “We helped them with the health of their teeth and therefore the health of themselves...”. Congratulations to this student organization for going above and beyond to help out communities in need of health services. Read the full story. 

Marcus Chua, PhD student, ESP

Marcus Chua, ESP, Student Spotlight

Marcus Chua, a doctoral student co-advised by HC Lim, Assistant Professor, Biology and Thomas Lovejoy, Professor, Environmental Science & Policy, is investigating the systematics and taxonomy of the living chevrotains- animals also known as mouse-deer. Read more about his research.

Louise Singer, Undergraduate, Biology

Louise Singer, Biology, Student Spotlight

Congratulations to senior Biology major, Louise Singer for being one of the three OSCAR students to be awarded the Summer 2021 Top Presentation. Singer used her OSCAR funding to examine snails from two different lakes in Fairfax, VA. Singer said that it was meaningful to design and execute her own research project. Watch her video presentation “Analyzing the Microbiome of Avian Schistosomiasis Vector Gyraulus Parvus.” 

AmeAmor Blatchford Rodriguez, Undergraduate, CDS

AmeAmor Blatchford Rodriguez, CDS, Student Spotlight

Congratulations to #MasonScience student AmeAmor Blatchford Rodriguez for being awarded the National Leader in Education award as a top 10 scholar of the year for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Rodriguez is majoring in Computational and Data Science and started the data science and computation society here at Mason. Learn more about her achievements

Katheryn Hout, ESP

Katheryn Hout Spotlight

Meet Mason Science student, Katheryn Hout, who is studying Environmental Science with a concentration in human and ecosystem response to climate change. She co-founded a sunrise chapter during the COVID-19 pandemic to enact change and provide other students with a voice. Hout has researched and worked with various climate models simulations to predict the climate for the next 100 years using dynamic models with previously collected data. Learn more about her efforts and research here.

Jenna Cann, PhD student, Physics

Jenna Cann Spotlight

 Meet Mason Science alumni Dr. Jenna Cann, an astrophysicist with a BA in Astronomy and PhD in Physics from the Department of Physics and Astronomy here at George Mason University. Dr. Cann's research focuses on black holes in dwarf galaxies. Dr. Cann found their place in astronomy when she transferred to Mason from Nova Community College. She worked on various projects with blackholeGMU and is most proud of their work with spectrum.gmu, a diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility  advocacy group at Mason. As one of the co-founders, she worked relentlessly to acknowledge the barriers that members of under-represented groups face when pursuing STEM education and careers. Congratulations on your achievements Dr. Cann! Learn more about their story here.