Pandemic Expert, Epidemiologist Saskia Popescu Returns to the Schar School as Term Assistant Professor

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Originally published on July 30, 2020

Saskia Popescu, who has served as an epidemiologist and infection preventionist on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic, will return to George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government as a term assistant professor in the Biodefense Graduate Programs. The Biodefense program, which offers a PhD, master’s, or graduate certificate degree in Biodefense, is designed to produce the next generation of professionals and leaders working at the nexus of health, science, and security at the local, national, and international levels. 

Saskia Popescu: ‘Dr. Popescu brings a wealth of experience in epidemiology, infection prevention and control, and pandemic response into the classroom.’—Gregory Koblentz, director of the Schar School’s Biodefense programs. Screenshot by Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

“I’m thrilled to return to the Schar School as a professor to engage not only the next generation of biodefense students, but also develop courses to address what we’re facing now with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Popescu said. “Mason’s Schar School is a center of excellence for biodefense and I’m excited to join their prestigious team. I look forward to joining the Mason faculty.”Popescu, who earned her PhD in Biodefense from the Schar School in 2019, will teach courses on the epidemiology of infectious diseases and how to improve the resilience of healthcare systems. She will also serve as a Schar School ambassador to the public health and healthcare communities. 

Popescu’s arrival this fall will complement the expertise of the other biodefense professors, said Gregory Koblentz, director of the Schar School’s Biodefense programs. 

“Dr. Popescu brings a wealth of experience in epidemiology, infection prevention and control, and pandemic response into the classroom. She also has a strong record of research in the area of health security so she is very well-versed in both the theory and practice of public health emergency preparedness,” said Koblentz. “I know our students will benefit tremendously from her expertise and experience.”

Popescu, who has been working on the front lines of the pandemic crisis as an epidemiologist at an Arizona hospital system, has been a go-to expert on pandemic response this year, providing insights to international media outlets ranging from the New York Times and the Washington Post to the Guardian and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Her ability to explain complex issues in an engaging and jargon-free way has also earned her a wide following on Twitter. Most recently, Popescu co-created a color-coded Covid-19 Risk Index for safely navigating the pandemic. This risk index formed the basis for an op-ed in the New York Times on the precautions that schools should take in order to reopen safely.

In addition to teaching, she will co-direct a summer workshop on Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and Global Health Security as well as continue her research in multiple areas of healthcare, public health, and infection prevention efforts.

Popescu is the former managing editor of The Pandora Report, a national publication that provides news and analysis related to biodefense and global health security issues that is published by the Schar School’s Biodefense program. She is also an alumna of the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Popescu serves on the Federation of American Scientists Coronavirus Task Force and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s Committee on Data Needs to Monitor Evolution of SARS-CoV-2, among others distinguished panels.