George Mason University

News at Mason

SciTech campus celebrates 20 years of research, community partnerships

September 20, 2017   /   by John Hollis

Attendees at the Science and Technology Campus 20th Anniversary Celebration included (right to left) Delegate Rich Anderson, 51st House District, Virginia General Assembly; Temple Douglas, Virginia Tech doctoral candidate (2009 & ‘10 ASSIP Program); Ross Dunlap, CEO, Ceres-Nanosciences; Tara Fitzpatrick-Navarro '01 BS, Health, Fitness, and Recreation Resources, executive director, United States Tennis Association Mid-Atlantic Section; Mary Ellen O’Toole, director, Forensic Science Program; and Nashiha Pervin '15 BS Applied Information Technology, blogger and self-published author. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

Former state delegate David Brickley had his own vision about for a George Mason University campus in Prince William County when he first helped get the ball rolling on the idea.

But never did he foresee the thriving scientific community that is now Mason’s Science and Technology Campus.

“Probably not in my wildest dreams,” Brickley said during Wednesday’s festivities to mark the 20th anniversary of the SciTech campus in Manassas. “We knew what we wanted to see happening, but, if you had asked me if I ever saw these endless possibilities … It was beyond my imagination at the time.”

Brickley and late state senator Charles Colgan were instrumental in SciTech’s  origins after first convincing officials, including then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, about the need for a Mason presence in a fast-growing Prince William County. When tight budgets threatened state funding, it was the tireless efforts of Brickley and Colgan that led to the joint private-public venture that eventually gave birth to the SciTech campus in 1997.

Mason President Ángel Cabrera lauded that collaborative effort for the many SciTech achievements of the past 20 years, as well as the many more expected in the future.

“It’s a profound lesson in many ways,” Cabrera said of the successful partnership. “No one can do it alone.”

Wednesday’s festivities included a luncheon for current and past SciTech supporters, as well as a ceremony that included a unanimous resolution from the General Assembly expressing the “respect, appreciation and enduring love” the Commonwealth of Virginia holds for Mason’s SciTech campus.

The measure was delivered by Delegate Rich Anderson (R-51st), the chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology. Anderson was among a slew of local business and political leaders on hand, along with numerous university officials, including Cabrera and Provost S. David Wu, to celebrate the “smart, mutually beneficial development” between Mason, Prince William County and the city of Manassas.

They didn’t need to venture far to behold their biggest collective achievements in the form of the Freedom Aquatic & Fitness Center (1999) and the Hylton Performing Arts Center (2010), both of which not only serve Mason, but the at-large community as well.

“It shows that the possibilities are endless when you put great minds together to work for a common purpose,” Brickley said.

Featured speakers in the public program included Temple Douglas and Mary Ellen O’Toole. Now at Virginia Tech working on a PhD after getting her bachelor’s degree in physics from Princeton, Douglas was still a high school student in the Aspiring Scientist Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) on the SciTech Campus when she first devised an early detection test for Lyme disease.

O’Toole is a renowned former senior FBI profiler and director of the Mason Forensic Science Program.

"This is a place where dreams come true, " O’Toole said. “I used to think I had my dream job as an FBI agent and FBI profiler for 28 years. But I didn't. I have my dream job now."

The SciTech Campus will continue to grow as plans are underway to expand STEM instruction and research.

Deb Crawford, Mason’s Vice President for Research, called the campus a “huge boon for economic development in the region."

Another 2,500 students and close to 100 new faculty members are expected on the campus within the next decade, with many of them coming for STEM-intensive programs that will continue the real-world impact of Mason research.

Other plans for the SciTech Campus neighborhood include a research center, a brewery and a 350-unit apartment complex that will house graduate students, faculty and staff.

 “We’ve taken the torch,” Cabrera said, “but there’s still a lot of work to do. We need to turn this place into the thriving place it can be.”

The Sen. Charles J. Colgan statue on the Science and Technology Campus 20th Anniversary Celebration. Photo by Evan Cantwell.