Acknowledgements: A key role in Retreat planning and delivery was played by MRSEC staff Sarah Boehm, Kristin Dreyer, and Denise Patton. These efforts were supported by NSF cooperative agreement DMR-2011839 via the Penn State MRSEC Center for Nanoscale Science.
What Has Been Achieved: A highly interactive all-day Retreat strengthened scientific connections across the MRSEC and was also highly inclusive of MRSEC members who are at higher risk for COVID complications due to chemotherapy or other medical conditions. Although not all members opted to wear a mask at the event, the use of HEPA filtration and ventilation meant that the room itself was effectively “wearing a mask”.
Importance of the Achievement: The continuing success of NSF Centers depends on sustaining a strong sense of scientific community and interaction. The pandemic period has been a challenge in this regard, while also heightening awareness that some members of the STEM community have personal or family circumstances that raise risk in close indoor settings. Through an integrated plan of mitigations including HEPA filtration, enhanced ventilation, patio heaters to support outdoor activities, and on-site availability of masks and rapid tests, this community-building MRSEC event was more fully inclusive of all members of the MRSEC.
Unique Feature(s) of the MRSEC/PREM that Enabled this Achievement: An integrated Center-wide research and outreach mission with a strong orientation towards research excellence with diversity, equity and inclusion.