News at Mason
Memorial scholarship honors physics department founder Eugenie 'Jeannie' V. Mielczarek
January 25, 2018 / by John Hollis
The George Mason University Department of Physics and Astronomy is honoring the pioneering professor who founded the department with a memorial scholarship in her name.
The Eugenie V. Mielczarek Scholarship Endowment will recognize the trailblazer who made lasting contributions as Mason’s first female physicist while playing a pivotal role in paving the way for other women to follow in a field where they are typically underrepresented. More affectionately known as “Jeannie,” Mielczarek spent 35 years at Mason before retiring in 1999.
“This is what Jeannie would have wanted,” said Peggy Agouris, the dean of Mason’s College of Science. “She was a person who was so influential in how women were viewed in fields generally dominated by men at that time—and still are in some cases.”
Mielczarek’s two children, Mary Mielczarek and John Mielczarek, each made significant contributions to help initiate the scholarship, and a number of faculty members from the Physics and Astronomy Department have also contributed.
“The goal is to eventually have the scholarship endowed to at least $75,000,” said department chair Paul So.
Mielczarek died June 26 at the age of 86. Her children said they couldn’t have asked for a better way to see their mother remembered.
“It’s great,” said Mary Mielczarek. “She was a big proponent of helping people—especially women—get into physics. That was her thing. People who had a love for physics, she loved to nurture that.”
Renowned for her work in biological physics, Mielczarek is remembered as a gifted teacher who empowered her students. In addition to her research, she taught physics course, many to nonphysics majors, authored “Iron, Nature’s Universal Element: Why People Need Iron and Animals Make Magnets” and co-edited “Biological Physics.”
Mielczarek’s love for Mason never wavered, and she was named a Professor Emeritus of Physics in 1998.
“Until the last stages of her life, she was here,” Agouris said of Mielczarek. “She was involved. She never lost interest in that.”
Mielczarek remained busy in retirement, writing about a number of issues that she cared about. The Washington Academy of Science honored her in 2009 for her lifetime achievements when it presented her with the Scientific Work of Merit award.
The merit-based Eugenie V. Mielczarek Scholarship will be available starting this fall for those who wish to go into the physics field. Mason students ranging from entering freshmen to juniors are eligible, provided they aspire to become physics majors and maintain at least a B average while attending Mason. Strong preference will be given to female applicants.