Director’s Message to UMIACS

Our monthly newsletter is an occasion to celebrate the achievements of our colleagues and the impact they are making on our world. Today, however, is not a time for celebration.

I, like you, watch with sadness as our country is torn apart along racial and ideological lines by an escalating cycle of violence and divisive rhetoric. I mourn George Floyd, and the all-too-many-others who have lost their lives due to the color of their skin.

As academics, it is easy to retreat into our ivory towers and to delude ourselves into believing that the pursuit of knowledge transcends the human condition. Scientific discovery and technological progress only have meaning if they advance humanity and improve all of our lives.

Meaningful scientific and societal progress can only occur if everyone's unique identity is respected and all are equally valued and supported. These are values I personally hold dear, and that I try to impart in my research and teaching.

They are also values that I encourage and advocate for in my leadership role at UMIACS.

At this low point in our history, I find support in my incredible colleagues who have embraced technology's power to improve our world. Their research helps to increase fairness in artificial intelligence, combat censorship on the internet, reduce implicit bias in police training, and detect disinformation in social media. My colleagues are also helping to curtail pandemics, improve water security, and provide doctors with new tools that can greatly improve patient care.

Science and technology have the power to radically transform society for the better. For this I am grateful.

But it’s worth noting that while scientists have the ability to develop an artificial heart, it’s the human heart—one that reverberates with love, compassion, and understanding—that truly represents a fair and just society.

Stay safe and continue to care for one another.

Mihai Pop, UMIACS Director