Director's Message to UMIACS

I would like to follow up on my message from last month, where I expressed shock and dismay at the divisive rhetoric and racial inequality that continue to plague our society.

On June 12, UMIACS held a virtual town hall attended by almost 70 participants from across the institute. Faculty, students and staff came together to identify problems, express differing viewpoints, and develop ideas for advancing equality and inclusion—both within our own community and beyond the University of Maryland campus.

I stated in our meeting, and will reemphasize here, that circumstances dictate we address racial inequality on the same level as the COVID-19 pandemic. If left unchecked, both systemic racism and the coronavirus crisis have the capacity to destroy nations.

As scientists and educators, we have an obligation to use our skills and resources to find solutions. One idea we discussed was a seminar series that brings diverse stakeholders to campus, either virtually or in person, to highlight areas where technology can be used to advance equality and social justice.

I gave the example of inviting someone from the judiciary, perhaps a retired judge, who could provide insight on how sentencing guidelines can be improved using computational tools that are colorblind.

We’ve formed a committee to work on the format and logistics for these seminars, which are expected to start this fall and continue into next year.

A second new committee has been tasked with developing a code of conduct for the institute that promotes equality and inclusion on all levels. Once established, these guidelines will be published on our website and given in hardcopy to every new member who joins UMIACS.

I am encouraged by the strong commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity from our new university president, and am excited at the opportunity of working with our many stakeholders and with campus leadership to enact the vision contained in President Pines' message.

In closing, I would like to share a document created by two of our graduate students, Yuelin Liu and Nidhi Shah, that outlines concrete actions that each of us can take individually. I also encourage you to read the open letter at and express your support by signing its call for action.

It’s time we act. Science—and society—demand it.

Mihai Pop, UMIACS Director