U.S. Rep. Beyer Talks Science, Technology, Policy in Class—and Makes a Surprising Admission

A man in blue suit stands in front of a Schar School banner while talking with students.
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) takes questions from the Schar School’s Science and Technology Policy in the 21st Century students. Photo by Muhammad Salar Khan/Schar School of Policy and Government

Fresh from a landslide reelection victory, U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) visited with the students in the Schar School’s Science and Technology Policy in the 21st Century class on Monday, November 14, at George Mason University’s Mason Square. Beyer, now in his fourth term in Congress, chairs the Space Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science Space and Technology.

Beyer represents Virginia’s 8th District, home of Mason Square. He was introduced to the 20 students by instructor Muhammad Salar Khan, a 2022 Schar School PhD graduate and a postdoctoral fellow in science and technology policy.

“I especially liked this invitation because I am a science nerd,” Beyer told the class during his 90-minute appearance. “I can talk about science and science and tech policy for hours and hours.”

True to his word, the congressman discussed a range of emerging technologies and their policy challenges, including fusion, carbon capture, semiconductors, electric vehicles, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI). Climate change, space exploration, and the use of big data were also in the wide-ranging conversation.

He emphasized why this is the right time to study science and technology policy—and how Mason is the place for it.

“We need people like you and Dr. Khan to come and empower members of Congress on science, technology, and innovation,” he said, adding that only “a handful of members of Congress have PhDs or advanced professional degrees in science and tech…Consider working for the House and strengthening science and tech capacity of the House.”

Beyer dropped a small bombshell on the class: He is also a Mason student.

Following a visit to the state-of-the-art, cutting-edge AI lab in Mason Square’s Vernon Smith Hall, a wowed Beyer “asked if I could take sessions there. The lab instructor said I would need to take about seven more [required] classes before sitting in the lab. So, I registered for classes at Mason.”

He wasn’t kidding. A part-time student, Beyer is studying graduate level science and math courses, including one involving a “multivariable calculus exam,” he said before departing.