Up to date information regarding Fall 2020 FIRE Semester 3


Updated: June 15, 2020 at 10:00pm


Hello FIRE Students,


I hope that you are doing well and having an enjoyable summer and are looking forward to the fall semester.  I am writing to you today because you recently received an announcement from The University of Maryland regarding Fall 2020 instruction and campus availability.  We know that you likely have a wide range of questions with some of them related to your FIRE experience.


FIRE Semester 3 will require our shared ability to engage in a complex and evolving situation.  Let’s explore why:


  • Student empowerment - All UMD students will have the option to select online or in-person (if available) instruction this Fall semester.  As such, for streams that will be able to make research environments available, FIRE is ready to offer both online and in-person versions of FIRE Semester 3.   Students will have the option and right to complete FIRE Semester 3 fully online if they choose to do so.

  • Faculty empowerment - All UMD faculty will have the option to choose whether they are available for in-person instruction this Fall semester.  Faculty ownership of this choice may result in some FIRE streams having FIRE Semester 3 experiences that are exclusively online.

  • Facilities certifications - For FIRE streams in which we are able to do in-person engagements and the FIRE faculty member is available for this type of engagement, there is a complex process by which we will make our facilities available to FIRE students for safe, socially distant interactions.  This process is in motion at this time and completion (on a FIRE stream by stream basis) is TBA.


For these reasons, we are limited at this time in being able to explicitly describe how, when, and to what extent you will be able to do research in your FIRE stream’s dedicated research environment at this time.  We will be able to do so well before the start of the Fall semester but we are not able to do so now.


What can we say definitively?


With respect to weekly class sessions, FIRE Semester 3 (FIRE298) will be an online-only engagement.  We will not be hosting in-person class sessions in The Atlantic Building for any FIRE course this coming semester.


We are confident in this decision and hope you will be, as well.  This decision was made based on a number of factors - most of them balancing your FIRE experience with your safety and well-being:


  • Safety - FIRE’s instructional facilities are not built for effective and safe social distancing.  

  • Delivering excellence - We investigated both the use of other facilities and alternative uses of our facilities and continually came back to a core truth - we strongly know that we can develop and deliver a stellar online version of FIRE Semester 3 if we singularly focus on that as the goal (as compared to delivering an in-person course for some of you and online engagement for others).  


FIRE Semester 3 is all about working with you to help you achieve a final summative research product with FIRE.  We know how this course has worked in-person and we know how to translate these goals into this new setting.


We can do this, together.  Here’s how:


  • Learning from our experience - We made a transition to remote instruction and mentorship this past Spring and have learned from our successes, challenges, and interactions with current FIRE students.

  • Fulfilling the goals of FIRE Semester 3 - We will do this in a way that fully provides you the ability to achieve a summative product, work with peers, and receive mentorship from our faculty.

  • Using resources that work - We are acquiring resources and engaging training for all FIRE faculty members to be ready to excel at this mode of working with you.

  • Building a course designed for this - We are hard at work refining FIRE Semester 3 for instruction in this way.  You will not be experiencing an old version of FIRE Semester 3 slightly modified for online instruction - you will be a part of an entirely new version built for online instruction.

  • Seeking deeper meaning for the research engaged - New times call for all of us to look for ways to make a difference.  With this in mind, we are designing your FIRE Semester 3 to potentially have the option to be part of a larger research initiative called FIRE PERSIST.  We are still developing how this initiative will work but we can tell you that it will allow your FIRE Semester 3 research efforts to contribute new knowledge and insights regarding the broad social, technological, and biological characterization of COVID-19 and its effects.  

  • Building community safely - We are putting a lot of thought into how we recreate the forms of community you would have had with FIRE and an in-person third-semester FIRE course.  We take this part of the FIRE experience seriously and will work hard to deliver.  We know that some of you will be on our campus, some of you will not.  While our instruction for the course component of FIRE Semester 3 will be online, we will look for every opportunity to safely connect third-semester FIRE students with each other and our faculty.

I am looking forward to being a part of the FIRE community with you this Fall and ask that you continue to do everything you can to protect your emotional and physical health and well-being during this challenging time.  Please reach out to me at any time if I can address any questions or concerns.






Patrick Killion

Director of Discovery-Based Learning​

Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost

University of Maryland


Will my FIRE stream have our scheduled class session in person or online?

Exclusively online.

Will my FIRE stream's research environment be open?



We are working hard on the process by which we study the potential availability of FIRE research environments on a FIRE stream-by-stream basis. 


This process is complex and not completely under our control due to the necessity for there to be oversight to ensure the development of safe research environments for UMD faculty, staff, and students.

Here is the most up to date information for each FIRE stream:

  • Addiction Science

  • Animal & Human Relationships

  • Autonomous Unmanned Systems

  • Bacterial Pathogenesis

  • Capital One Machine Learning

  • Cloud Computing

  • Engineering Biosensors

  • Found In Translation

  • Global Development & Design

  • Host-Pathogen Interactions

  • Risk Communication & Resilience

  • Simulating Particle Detection

  • Sustainability Analytics

  • Transcriptomics of Disease

  • Transgenerational Brain Initiative

Will I still be able to do the research I designed in FIRE Semester 2?

Yes, with potential modifications.


The research may be modified due to restrictions regarding the availability of the FIRE research environment for your stream.  Our goal is to allow all third-semester FIRE students to pursue either the core of the projects you developed and described in FIRE Semester 2 or research that is highly related. 


Your FIRE stream faculty member will be in touch with you in the weeks to come to describe both research environment availability and the research agenda to come for your FIRE stream.  Please remember that the research environment certifications must come first and that this process will take time.

Will I be required to participate in the PERSIST initiative and/or contribute to COVID-19 research?

No.  We are working with FIRE faculty members to make this an option that may be available in specific FIRE streams.  Not all FIRE streams will participate due to their readiness to fully engage in research initiatives designed during FIRE Semester 2.  This is simply an option we are developing to allow some proportion of FIRE Semester 3 students to shift gears in the event that a shift will help make the work more interesting, relevant, and engaging.

University of Maryland

Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost

The First-Year Innovation & Research Experience

Dr. Patrick Killion

Director of Discovery-Based Learning

Email: pkillion@umd.edu

Tel: 301-405-0057