The art decorating the office of new Science, Engineering, Math and Health Dean Ia Gomez is as colorful as she is.
The paintings and models of the DNA double-helix were done by her former students at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Manassas Campus where she was the associate dean of science and applied technologies until accepting the deanship at LFCC in April.
She is taking the position left vacant when previous dean, Karen Kellison, was promoted to vice president of academic and student affairs.
Gomez spent 11 years at NOVA, and her previous positions there included biotechnology program head and assistant dean of science. She also taught biology and biotechnology.
“The dean position at LFCC sounded like a really good fit for me,” Gomez says.
Having had various positions at NOVA, been a member of staff and a faculty member, and having had full-time and part-time roles, she brings a lot of perspective to her new job.
“I have always wanted to do more and think outside the box, and I think I will be able to do so as dean of science, engineering, math and health,” Gomez says. “I think this was a natural next step for me.”
Kellison also saw Gomez’s professional depth as an asset.
“Dr. Gomez is an expert in her field and brings to her role the perspectives she gained while a faculty member and an administrator,” she says. “Her leadership will help the college maintain current programs while also adding in-demand programs to our array of offerings. Dr. Gomez’s focus on providing a high-quality educational experience to all Lord Fairfax students makes her the perfect fit for our administrative team.”
A new resident in Warrenton, she sees the growth coming to both the Fauquier Campus and the Middletown Campus. She is especially excited about the new Hazel Hall, an academic building that will have science, health and engineering classrooms when it’s completed on the Fauquier Campus.
“That was one of the main reasons I was so excited – that new building is going to come with new opportunities,” Gomez says. “I’m very passionate about expanding the STEM areas and growing programs. I would like to get involved with different initiatives.”
At NOVA, Gomez would organize – with her students’ help – special celebrations of National DNA Day each April. The day commemorates the discovery of the double helix in 1953 and the completion of the Human Genome Project 50 years later.
“I like to get engaged with students outside the classroom because I believe extracurricular activities can enhance student success and get them motivated about what they’re studying,” Gomez says.
The National DNA Day celebrations would often include art contests – which is how she came by the artworks decorating her office. Other activities during the all-day events included experiments, face painting, singing, DNA-themed jewelry making and guest speakers. A few years ago, a man who served 21 years in prison, but was later exonerated due to DNA evidence, was brought in to speak.
Gomez also led various STEM initiatives in her prior role, such as STEM academies for high schoolers, IT and cyber security promotions and a community STEM Fest.
At LFCC, Gomez will prioritize enhancing and growing programs, as well as developing and enhancing collaborations with other institutions of higher learning, area school districts, industry and local government.
“I also want to collaborate with other departments to promote and enhance student success,” she says. “My whole passion for my job is kind of like a mix of my father and my mother.”
Her father is a professor emeritus in the department of animal production at the University of Cordoba, in the Andalusia region of Spain where Gomez grew up. Her mother is an artist.
It was at the University of Cordoba where Gomez attained her Ph.D. in biochemistry with a concentration in molecular biology. As an undergrad at the University of Cordoba, an ERASMUS scholarship took her to the University of Ghent in Belgium where she completed a master’s degree in food science.
Part of Gomez’s Ph.D. research was conducted at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. and at the University of Liege in Belgium. She completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
Gomez and her husband, James Ross, a police officer at the Pentagon, have a 13-year-old son, Jaymes.