Research scientist Dr. Sherri “Sam” Mason, who is sustainability coordinator at Penn State Behrend, will present “The Perils of Plastic Pollution” on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m. at Hope College in the classroom of the Hope Academy of Senior Professionals (HASP) on the main floor of the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Mason, who is recognized as one of the foremost experts in the field of freshwater plastic pollution, will provide an overview of what plastic is, its proliferation in society and its emergence as one of the most prominent environmental pollutants. She will be speaking through Hope’s Gentile Interdisciplinary Lectureship in the natural and applied sciences.

While on campus through the lectureship, she will also deliver the address “Plastic Paradox” on Friday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. in Schaap Auditorium on the ground level of the Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center.  She will discuss how plastic’s versatility and durability, which allow it to be used in place of many natural materials, also make it an environmental bane. The Friday event is for Hope students, faculty and staff only.

Mason has been with Penn State Behrend since 2019. While she was a professor of chemistry at SUNY Fredonia, her research group was among the first to study the prevalence and impact of plastic pollution within freshwater ecosystems. Her team’s work started within the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world: the Laurentian Great Lakes of North America, and evolved into numerous other related studies. Her work captured international attention with studies showing the pervasiveness of microplastics within basic human consumables such as tap water, beer, sea salt and bottled water.

She has been featured within hundreds of mass media articles including the BBC, The Guardian, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Studio A1. Her work formed the basis for the Microbeads-Free Water Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in December 2015. Similar legislation has been approved or is being considered at various locations internationally. Among her accolades, Mason was named EPA Environmental Champion in 2016; honored for Excellence in Environmental Research by the Earth Month Network in 2017; and received the Heinz Award in Public Policy in 2018

Mason earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin.  She completed her doctorate in chemistry at the University of Montana as a NASA Earth System Science scholar. 

The Gentile Interdisciplinary Lectureship at Hope was established in 2005 by faculty colleagues, former students, and friends of Dr. James Gentile. Gentile joined the Hope faculty in 1976 and served as dean for the Natural and Applied Sciences Division from 1988 to 2005, when he became president of Research Corporation, a private foundation in Tucson, Arizona, that supports basic research in the physical sciences. After retiring from Research Corporation, he returned to Hope to serve a two-year appointment as dean from July 2013 through June 2015.

Mason’s visit is made possible by a gift to the Gentile Lectureship from the Kavli Foundation of Oxnard, California. The Kavli Foundation is dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity, promoting public understanding of scientific research, and supporting scientists and their work.

Audience members who need assistance to fully enjoy any event at Hope are encouraged to contact the college’s Events and Conferences Office by emailing or calling 616-395-7222 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Updates related to events are posted when available in the individual listings at

The Anderson-Werkman Financial Center is located at 100 E. 8th St., adjacent to the Knickerbocker Theatre between College and Columbia avenues.  The Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center is located at 115 E. 12th St., at the center of the Hope campus between College and Columbia avenues along the former 12th Street.

Due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, Hope is currently requiring that masks be worn by all individuals while indoors on campus unless in their living space or alone in their work space.