January 2021 Message From the Chair


March 16, 2021

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Dear Colleagues-

I hope this message finds you safe and healthy as we ramp up for another semester of learning and research. If you are like me, however, you are more than a bit shaken by the events of this week- right here in our city, yet sadly, indicative of more widely held beliefs. Unchecked white supremacy and privilege have again reared their ugly heads in a way I never thought possible. These thugs are not patriots and do not reflect my beliefs, and I certainly hope each of us joins me in condemning these acts. To borrow a phrase from my Elliott School colleague, our community measures patriotism in years and decades of service and commitment, not in hours of vandalism.

Many of us are also struggling to reconcile the differences in law enforcement responses as compared to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020. And while I hope investigations will eventually shed some light in this regard, such does little for reassurance at present, especially for our community members already feeling marginalized.

As Chair, I’d like to remind folks that I am here for you as a resource/confidante/ear, whatever you need. Note that I have virtual office hours via Webex on Wednesdays from 12-1 PM, but can always find a moment as needed. These are truly foul times to be sure, yet hopefully we can find some solace in knowing that the Chemistry Department, as well as the broader GW community, will not tolerate this behavior. Perhaps equally as important, however, is that I hope each of us will take a moment to check on each other’s well-being. Between COVID, what was likely a tough holiday season for many of us, and now this, people are rattled- and rightly so. We could use a bit of grace and understanding in our engagements with one another, now more than ever.

And for those of us in leadership or ‘authority’ positions- and that’s quite a few of us- faculty, TAs, staff, senior group members, mentors and the like, please recognize your potential for contributions. Reflect on the examples you set. Sometimes one’s humility a can keep one from recognizing their impact on others- acknowledge that and keep in mind our commitments to, and influence on others, whether or not it’s part of our job description.

Let me end with a bit of a ‘keep the faith’ sentiment. We are all scientists or in some way support the generation of new knowledge and research.  In one way or another, either aspiring or established, pre-med or PhD, support staff or PI, we are each committed to the scientific process and the rational search for the truth. We are not afraid to call BS in the lab, so let’s not be afraid to do so elsewhere. 

Hang in there everyone. 

Chris Cahill
Chemistry Department Chair

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