The brand new Potomac Science Center, an environmental research and education complex, is now officially open, and research is already being done inside the 50,000-square-foot building on the Occoquan River at Belmont Bay.
The waterfront center, George Mason University's newest facility, is home to the Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center, or PEREC, which will occupy much of the building. There are wet labs for teaching and research, lecture rooms, offices, a spatial analysis laboratory and a library resource center. And, of course, there is the Occoquan River.
Peggy Agouris, the dean of College of Science at George Mason University, spoke at a recent dedication ceremony, and said that the scientists at the center would be working to develop a "greater understanding of the ecological conditions of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed."
Scientists working at the center will focus on restoration of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, global climate change, suburban sustainability and management of natural ecosystems, according to a university press release.
The center will also welcome high school students from across the region who are interested in science, said George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera. He went on to say that the scientists at the center would be immersed in their research at the same time they would be involved in the community. "This is not just scientists working in isolation. They are totally connected to the environment around them and to the communities around them. We are going to inspire new generations of scientists. You're going to see great stuff happen in this incredible facility."
Prince William Board of County Supervisors' Chairman Corey Stewart also spoke at the dedication and said the science center couldn't have happened without collaboration all around. "The science center here truly is a testament to the great cooperation on many levels of government, the state government, the federal government and the local, community here in Prince William County, the local Board of Supervisors… This is also a public-private partnership, and an academic partnership, as well, with George Mason University. We want to thank you for bringing this to Prince William County."
Prince William Supervisor Frank Principi said the science center would further science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs in Prince William County. "We also see this center as an investment in the STEM education curriculum in the area. The award-winning K through 12 program that are already being offered by George Mason will continue to spark our children's interest in science."
Jeff Kaczmarek, the director of the Prince William County Department of Economic Development, said the center is a boon to the county. "The Potomac Science Center is a tremendous asset to not only Prince William County, but the entire Greater Washington Metropolitan region. The center is viewed as a key building block in growing technology business clusters, STEM activities, workforce development and more. And we looking forward to supporting its full potential."
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said he believed the center would have a wide-ranging impact. "I am so honored to be here with you today on this very special occasion, this dedication of a wonderful facility that really is going to not only bring us into a much brighter future, but leave a lasting legacy here in Prince William County, but really across the commonwealth and I believe, ultimately, throughout the country."