Program News

June 2019 – GMU Welcomes New Faculty Member – Dr. Ashley Grant
We’re excited to announce that Dr. Ashley Grant, a lead biotechnologist at the MITRE Corporation, is joining the Biodefense Program as an Adjunct Professor to teach BIOD 620: Global Health Security Policy. Dr. Grant was previously the Senior Biological Scientist at the Government Accountability Office where she led government-wide technical performance audits focused on biosafety and biosecurity issues. Dr. Grant was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Fellow in the Chemical and Biological Defense Program Office in the Department of Defense and also worked at the National Academies of Science on the Committee on International Security and Arms Control. Her work focused on international security, nonproliferation, and medical countermeasures against chemical and biological threats. She completed the Field Epidemiology Course at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) in Lima, Peru and was a Visiting Graduate Researcher at the Instituto Nacional de Enfermedades Virales Humanas J. Maitegui (INEVH) in Pergamino, Argentina. Dr. Grant received her PhD in experimental pathology and a MPH in epidemiology from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Her graduate work focused on investigating pathogenesis and potential countermeasures for viral hemorrhagic fevers under biological safety level (BSL)-4 conditions. In addition, she received a MA in National Security Studies from the Naval War College and a BS in Chemistry and a BS in Business Economics and Management from the California Institute of Technology.

GMU Biodefense Students Awarded Prestigious ELBI Fellowship
The GMU Schar School Biodefense program has been represented since 2016 through Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity (ELBI) Fellowship. “The Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity (ELBI) Fellowship inspires and connects the next generation of leaders and innovators in the biosecurity community. This highly-competitive, part-time program is an opportunity for talented career professionals to deepen their expertise, expand their network, and build their leadership skills through a series of sponsored events coordinated by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. This fellowship boasts more than 100 alumni who represent government, defense, private industry, science, law, public health, medicine, global health, journalism, the social sciences, and academia.”

2019 – Justin Hurt, Biodefense PhD

2018 – Yong-Bee Lim, Biodefense PhD

2017 – Saskia Popescu, Biodefense PhD

2016 – Francisco Cruz (Biodefense MS) and Siddha Hover (Biodefense PhD)

May 2019 – Schar School Master’s in Biodefense Scholar Asks, “Does Twitter Spread Anti-Vaccination Attitudes?”
“Are the effects of anti-vaccination attitudes perpetuated by social media platforms? Annette Prieto, a Master’s in Biodefense student at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, set out to find out. Prieto was the first in her family to be born in the United States after her family immigrated from Cuba in 1989. Her passion for biosecurity led her to the path of public service. “I have always had an interest in the spread and containment of infectious diseases,” she said. “For my capstone project, I am taking a look at the viral spread of anti-vaccination attitudes on social media—specifically Twitter,” said Prieto. “I’m trying to see if [posters’] speech increases fear of vaccines.” Prieto is collecting original tweets and analyzing the reactions in Twitter replies. She is using social media tracking software to create a data set of tweets and organizing the data based on whether or not the tweet author views vaccines in a positive or negative light. Read more here

Biodefense Alumnus Shapes the Debate and Influences National Security Policy
“Brian Mazanec’s résumé reads like something out of a Tom Clancy or Ian Fleming thriller. He is an Assistant Director for the Defense Capabilities and Management team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) where he leads a portfolio of small teams that review various issues, largely at the request of Congress. Some past teams he has led included evaluations of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Technology Center; the Air Force’s strategic planning process; and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities in Afghanistan. Some of his current teams are analyzing Department of Defense assessments of the U.S. strategic nuclear triad and some enterprise issues in the Intelligence Community.” Read more…

April 2016- GMU Biodefense Alum Awarded Mirzayan Science & Technology Fellowship
Congrats to GMU Biodefense alum, Dr. David Bolduc, on being named a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow! David graduated from GMU with a PhD in Biodefense in 2011 with a focus on the threats and mechanisms of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents and CBRN proliferation issues such as treaties, histories and the managing of related mass casualty incidences. David is currently a Principal Investigator at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute. The Mirzayan Fellowship is a very prestigious award – as a program of the National Academies, it is designed to provide mentorship and professional development opportunities to early-career leaders in the field of science and technology policymaking.

April 2016- Update: Two Biodefense Students Earn Prestigious Fellowship
Two students from George Mason University’s Biodefense program have been named Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity (ELBI) for 2016 by the UPMC Center for Health Security, the leading think tank in the United States in the fields of biodefense and global health security. Francisco Cruz, a 2015 graduate of the master’s program in Biodefense, and Siddha Hover, a current PhD student in Biodefense, have earned this highly competitive fellowship. Check out their comments regarding the EBLI Fellowship and experiences within GMU’s Biodefense graduate programs. “For two George Mason Biodefense students to be selected for this prestigious fellowship is a great recognition of the contribution that our students and alums are already making to biodefense and global health security and the potential they have to play even stronger roles in the future,” said Associate Professor Gregory D. Koblentz, director of the Biodefense program in Mason’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs.

February 2016 – GMU Biodefense Students Selected as UPMC Emerging LeadersBiosecurity Leaders
We’re happy to congratulate two GMU Biodefense students on their selection as Fellows for the UPMC Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI)! Congrats to biodefense MS alum, Francisco Cruz, and PhD candidate Siddha Hover! The ELBI program is a “commitment to fostering future leaders in the field of biosecurity, UPMC has selected 28 US and international emerging leaders in biosecurity from a wide array of backgrounds, including biological science, medicine, policy, the military, law, public health and the private sector.” The ELBI program is highly competitive and works to further individuals within the biosecurity field. Siddha Hover is an embedded contractor with the Department of Homeland Security, where she serves as DHS’s sole treaty analyst. In her role, she is responsible for reviewing all relevant DHS-sponsored research and activites for compliance with applicable arms control agreements. Siddha is currently pursuing her PhD in Biodefense. She holds an MSc in Biodefense from George Mason University and an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics.  Francisco is a Biologist in the Field Operations Branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Consequence Management Advisory Division (CBRN CMAD). As CBRN CMAD’s Biologist, Francisco provides operational guidance to federal, state, and local responders in the areas of decontamination and emergency response related to biological incidents. Additionally, Francisco collaborates with EPA researchers on novel decontamination approaches, focusing methods that can be best implemented in the field using commercially available products. Prior to his position with CBRN CMAD, Francisco was a Federal On-Scene Coordinator for EPA’s Philadelphia regional office, leading federal responses to releases of hazardous substances and oil spills. Francisco holds a B.A. in Biological Sciences from the University of Delaware. During his time at GMU, Francisco earned a Graduate Certificate in Critical Analysis and Strategic Responses to Terrorism, and earned his M.S. in Biodefense in December 2015.

November 2015- Combining Science and Policy
PhD candidate, Craig Wiener, discusses his journey from master’s student to biodefense PhD candidate. Taking the road less travelled, Craig discusses how he juggled work at the Department of Energy, school, and all the craziness in between. Craig talks about his desire for a new career challenge and how GMU was a perfect blend of what interested him. “Mason has provided me the depth and breadth of knowledge that I needed to converse with senior policymakers, technologists, and scientists,” he says. “It bridged the gap between science and policy so I could be respected in both worlds because I knew what I was talking about.”Celebration-of-scholarship

SPGIA is spotlighting the work of Kathleen Danskin, GMU Biodefense alum! Kathleen
is currently working with GAP Solutions, which works with HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) showcases her talents and education. “I wanted a program that was going to give me the specific topical knowledge and connections that would help me to get a job,” said Danskin, who was accepted into several graduate programs. “I deliberately chose George Mason because of the structure of the program, which would
allow me to gain work experience while earning my degree, and because of the prospect of interacting with other students who were currently working in the biosecurity field.” Kathleen is a wonderful example of the diverse backgrounds and post-graduate paths that we see in GMU’s Biodefense program.

October 2015 – Saluting Biodefense Alum
GMU Biodefense adjunct professor and alum, Dr. Brian Mazanec’s The Evolution of Cyber War: International Norms for Emerging-Technology Weapons was recently published! In his book, Dr. Mazanec discusses the crippling realities of cyber terrorism and uses case studies in Estonia, Georgia, and Iran to highlight the growing threat. He notes that, “And yet cyber warfare is still in its infancy, with innumerable possibilities and contingencies for how such conflicts may play out in the coming decades.” Dr. Mazanec expands on these evolving threats and how we can work to address them.

2015 SPGIA Alumni Association AwardsDSC_3586
Dr. Daniel M. Gerstein, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award this year, celebrating his accomplishments in the field of biodefense. Dr. Gerstein received his PhD in Biodefense from GMU in 2009. Daniel M. Gerstein served at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as Under Secretary (Acting) and Deputy Under Secretary in the Science & Technology Directorate. He has extensive experience in security and defense while serving as a Senior Executive Service (SES) government civilian, in uniform, and in industry. He is also an Adjunct Professor at American University in Washington, D.C. He has been awarded numerous foreign, military and civilian awards, including the U.S. Army Soldiers Medal for heroism. He has published numerous books and articles on national security, communications and information technology, and biological warfare. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Gerstein graduated from West Point and has masters degrees from Georgia Tech, National Defense University and Army Command & General Staff College, and a Ph.D. from George Mason University.