Sunday, February 24, 2013

Academic Affairs Committee: Study Abroad Forum

The Academic Affairs Committee is one of the Gemstone Program's student-run committees that offer help to Gemstone students in many different aspects of their academic carriers.

The committee held a "Study-Abroad forum" in which Gemstone students offered their own personal experiences with studying abroad...

We would like to express our thanks to everyone who came to the Gemstone Academic Affair Committee's Study-Abroad forum!  Our hosts: Kelly Shih, Kevin Fries, and Christy Tsui each discussed their experiences overseas.  Kelly, a peer mentor at the study abroad office, shared some of her adventures from her time spent in Chile.  Christy, an active member of Maryland's alternative breaks program, discussed some of the differences within the program.  Kevin shared with the forum some of the life-changing experiences he encountered through Engineers Without Borders.
Alexa Cohen: Class of 2016 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Busting Gems Myths!

1.) Gemstone students are not involved in other organizations on campus.
BUSTED! On the contrary, Gemstone students are some of the most actively involved students on campus! Many students participate in Greek life, intramural sports, musical and artistic groups, and service organizations. Some popular groups among Gemstone students are Marching Band, Engineers without Borders, and Omicron Delta Kappa (a co-ed honors fraternity).  
2.) Gemstone students cannot study abroad.
BUSTED! Not true! Gemstone students are allowed to study abroad during the spring semester of their sophomore year, or either semester of junior year. Additionally, students can opt to study abroad during any winter/summer term.
3.) Gemstone requirements will not allow me to double major or graduate in three years.
          BUSTED! Gemstone students frequently double major or add minors to their coursework!  Additionally, students are allowed to graduate early as long as they make an agreement with their team to help finish the project after they graduate.
4.) Gemstone is only for engineers.
BUSTED! Absolutely not!  Gemstone is INTERDISCIPLINARY, and is open to any and all students who are accepted into the Honors College.  There are many Gemstone projects that focus on topics relating to the humanities.  

For example, Team POLITIC is researching the relationship between literature and foreign policy:
5.) Four-year programs have fewer benefits than two-year programs.
BUSTED! While both types of programs have plenty of benefits, the fact that the Gemstone Program is a four-year program actually enables students to complete entire projects and gain experience in all aspects of research since thorough research requires long periods of time. Gemstone students are able to have hands on experience from literature review and grant writing to thesis defense and, in some cases, publication and attending conferences across the country.
6.) Gemstone students cannot participate in any other research on campus.
BUSTED! Also not true! Gemstone students can work on other research projects with teaching assistants and professors. Students have held research positions during winter and summer positions.  Many Gemstone students are also recipients of research grants and achieve departmental honors awards for their individual research.  

-Christy Tsui: Team EPIDEMICS: Class of 2015
-Daniel Atlas: Team Gene Therapy: Class of 2013

A Student's Account of "Spring Into Action: Internships 101"

On February 7, I attended the Gemstone Academic Affairs Committee’s first event of their Spring Into Action series, Internships 101. Spring Into Action consists of multiple workshops throughout the semester that will help you with a wide variety of things, whether it’s academics or extracurriculars. Internships 101 covered just about everything you need to know about getting an internship and how to be successful at it.

There were two main parts to Internships 101. The first part consisted of six juniors and seniors discussing internship positions that they’ve held in the past. These ranged from research done for professors on campus to positions with companies across the country. They talked about many things that most people would not know of immediately. For example, there are plenty of places you can get an internship position. One option is to apply to numerous amounts of positions online and pick from the ones that accept you. Another is to look up the research that professors are doing on campus, and see if there are any that interest you. A good place to start is googling “UMD undergraduate research.” Professors are very willing to take students because we’re practically a free source of helping hands around their lab.

In the second half of the workshop, we broke into groups depending on our majors. Here, we mostly talked about how to get our resume to look its best. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my resume to the event, but for those who did, they were able to get quality feedback. You may think that your own resume is good as it is, but I looked over at those who were getting their resumes critiqued, and there were so many little details throughout the entire document that you would never expect would be important. If you weren’t at the event, then the good news is that you can still get resume help from the Career Center at the university.

Be on the lookout for Gemstone Academic Affair’s next event, where there will be food from around the world and information about studying abroad.
Felix Lee: Class of 2016

Monday, February 18, 2013

Precious Gem: Ramita Dewan

Throughout her time at UMD, Ramita was a typical Gemstone student involved in a variety of extracurricular activities and commitments.  A neurobiology and physiology major, Ramita worked in neurobiology research for 3 years, founded the spiritual discussion group Chinmaya Yuvakendra, and even competed 3 times at the National Collegiate Table Tennis Competition as a member of UMD Club Table Tennis.  Ramita Dewan has the typical concerns of a senior in the Gemstone program – editing Team SWAMP’s thesis, preparing for the thesis conference this spring, and balancing her busy schedule involving work and having a social life.  But instead of having a 16 credit semester, Ramita has a 40 hour work week. 
Having graduated in May 2012, Ramita is currently working at NIH at the surgical neurology branch at the national institute of neurological disorders and stroke (NINDS).  Her research involves investigating the progression and treatment options for a genetic CNS tumor predisposition syndrome called Neurofibromatosis 2.  A student passionate about research, Ramita made the decision to continue with the Gemstone program and see it through until completion.  “I felt like a part of the team and didn't want to just give up on it since I was graduating,” said Ramita.  From applying to medical school, completing Gemstone, teaching at her spiritual center on the weekends, and just going to the gym or trying out new recipes in the kitchen, it’s definitely a challenge to balance everything together, Ramita says.  But the key to managing for her is to just enjoy everything she is a part of.  Fulfilling her commitments can be difficult, but being passionate about them definitely helps and is what sets Ramita apart from so many.
            “The most fulfilling aspect of Gemstone was getting to know my team better and going through this journey with them, whether it was working through our challenges or enjoying our time together.”  As Ramita continues to work toward the next chapter of her life – she hopes to attend medical school in 2014 – she is definitely satisfied with her choice to stay with the program.  As a fellow teammate, I can say that we’re so glad she did!

Raevathi Ramadorai :Team SWAMP: Class of 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Four Years in the Making: A Senior Perspective

Looking back on her four years at UMD, GSC president, Jaishri Shankar, shares her thoughts on her time in the Gemstone Program...

           As freshmen, we all listened to our GEMS100 section leaders and the program staff talk about the end – the end of our Gemstone careers, when we would present our projects and theses to a panel of experts as well as a public audience. Of course, as freshmen in August 2009, that day was pretty far off and unfathomable – we were all more concerned with how we would wake up for our 8am classes or manage to finish our homework AND watch all of Harry Potter weekend on ABC Family. But four years seems to have sped past us, and here we are, less than one month from that fateful day when we will hand our thesis drafts over to our discussants. March 1, 2013.
            I don’t think anyone could have ever estimated how much work and detail goes into creating a thesis, let alone an undergraduate interdisciplinary team research thesis in addition to our full-time schedules/classes and extra-curriculars! So, here’s a quick summary. For the last few months, my team has been writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, crying, frantically emailing, writing, re-writing, looking up sources, crying because some of our sources don’t exist anymore, looking up more sources, compiling sources, writing, editing, re-writing…are you getting the picture? And if you think I’m exaggerating, I’m really not. I’m sure you got the general theme of writing, editing, researching, and procuring sources. But that’s JUST for the first three chapters – the Introduction, the Literature Review, and the Methodology. And those three chapters are not even the bulk of the thesis! Here’s what the other half of that process looks like: data analysis, data re-analysis, data analysis synthesis, graphs, charts, tables, looking up sources for results discussion, data analysis, data re-analysis…do I need to keep going?
                In short, I’m here to tell you that this is no easy task. Not that we were expecting it to be a walk in the park, but I don’t think I quite anticipated the Everest that this thesis would present. March 1 is fast-approaching, and I know my fellow Gemstone seniors and I are hard at work compiling our theses and preparing them for our discussants, friends, and family. Now that you know how hard we’ve been working (and if you didn’t read the first half of this post, here’s a summary: we’ve been working pretty darn hard!), I hope you’ll consider attending the thesis conference on April 5 & 6, 2013 and cheering us on! Check out for more details, and in the meantime, send some positive vibes and maybe a few Starbucks gift cards our way – we have long nights ahead of us!

-Jaishri Shankar, Team SWAMP, Class of 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

On Choosing Gemstone: A Freshman Perspective

Congratulations! You've been accepted to the Honors College at the University of Maryland....
                                             ... Now what?

Ever wonder what makes students choose the Gemstone Program out of all the programs offered through the Honors College?  
Freshman Class Representative, Amelia Bateman, has shared with us some of her thoughts and motivations in choosing the Gemstone Program upon receiving her acceptance to the Honors College.

On Choosing Gemstone: 

        When I received my acceptance letter from the Honors College, I was not yet sure whether I would attend UMD, but was thrilled nonetheless.  I then realized, with only weeks to decide my own fate for my next four years at Maryland, I knew nothing about the different programs. I had my criteria set: I wanted to be in a four year program and I wanted something applicable to my fields of study, math and computer science. While researching the various programs, I immediately knew that I wished to be in either Gemstone or University Honors.
         The question then became whether I wanted to tackle a more rigid course structure packed with a high workload through which I would see the tangible result of my own research project, or if I wanted a more hands-off approach to the Honors College through University Honors. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t nervous about the prospect of 18 credits worth of work; I had heard horror stories about sleepless nights prepping for project proposals and theses. My nerves dissipated however when I found these were more rumors than the actual Gemstone way of life.  I made sure to talk to the few students I knew in the program, all of whom made me feel much better about the prospect of a three-year research project through addressing many of my questions and concerns.
         My final decision to go with the Gemstone Program was made in part by the program’s ability to guide me in achieving my own personal academic goals.  The Gemstone program serves to mentor students as they conduct research, learn about the scientific process, and hopefully use their findings in a practical, meaningful way.  I have always wanted to give back to the community with my knowledge and Gemstone gives me a way that I can hope to ultimately achieve this.  
       I now write a message to the students newly accepted into the Honors College faced with the same decision I had to make not so long ago and I urge them to take the following advice: think about what you hope to accomplish and which niche of the Honors College is best suited to help you actualize those goals.  Do thorough research, understand each program’s required coursework and time commitment, and most importantly reach out to current students.  Gemstone students are one of the best source of information about the Gemstone experience and are more than happy to help you make your choice. Good luck!
-Amelia Bateman: Class of 2015

Friday, February 1, 2013

Precious Gems

Though the Gemstone Program is filled with some of UMD's most extraordinary students, we like to identify those that we believe really shine.  These are some of those students, and that is why they are ... Precious Gems!

            Anna Pham is a senior Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics major on Team Gene Therapy researching low-density lipoprotein receptors in rabbits. After graduation, Anna will be attending Maryland Medical School in Baltimore and hopes to specialize in dermatology or urology/gynecology.  Anna is also an Asian-American studies minor, which has made her become interested in women’s health and stigmas about sexuality with Asian-American women.  For two summers, Anna interned at the National Institute of Health.  One summer she worked in a neurobiology lab, and the other she worked on collagen disorders using infrared spectroscopy.  Her work with collagen disorders led her to be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.  Additionally, Anna has worked in an on-campus lab researching West Nile Virus for three years.
            On top of all her academic accomplishments, Anna’s love for both leadership and starting new things has led her to be actively involved in community service and outreach.  In the University of Maryland community, Anna is the Founding President of the Honors Student Programming Council (Honors SPC). In this role, Anna helped establish new traditions such as Honors Olympics and Spring Grill and Chill. Her work and dedication to Honors SPC has allowed them to plan fun events to bring Honors students together and prove themselves as a staple of the Maryland Honors Community.  In 2009, Anna founded the non-profit organization Eyes Closed, Hearts Open, Inc (E.C.H.O.).  The organization has two goals: 1) make art and original productions and 2) use art as community service.  Recently, E.C.H.O. brought an a cappella group to a nursing home and held art workshops for children to encourage the community to participate in the arts as a means of self-expression.
            After all of her academic and community service activities, Anna still finds some time to enjoy napping, McDonald’s, and event planning. Her favorite guilty pleasures are watching BravoTV, the E! Network, as well as Timeflies on Youtube.  Finally, you may be able to spot her breaking it down at Cornerstone on the weekend. Anna Pham is a natural born leader who uses her academic and organizational talents to better the world in any way she can.  She is the penultimate example of the caliber of students that Gemstone students are and strive to be.
-Maureen Bowers: Team ONLINE: Class of 2013
Matthew Carr:

          When deciding which Honors program to choose at the University of Maryland, one of the most common concerns that students have about choosing Gemstone is the workload involved. However, junior Neurobiology and Psychology double major Matthew Carr is a prime example of a student who knows how to balance social life and academics, as well as being on a Gemstone team. As president of Lambda Chi Alpha, a social fraternity at the University of Maryland, Matt has certainly succeeded in being a leader in Greek life as well as being in the Gemstone program.
           Serving as president of a large social organization isn’t as easy as it seems. Besides running chapter and executive committee meetings, Matt is responsible for taking care of unexpected duties or resolving any issues that may occur in addition to attending social events and having fun. So the question is, how do you balance your time between having a social life, being involved in Gemstone, AND tackling a full course load? As a student at Maryland, you’ll learn to discover what activities you’re really passionate about. “Greek life is one of those activities where you get out what you put in. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to it, you don’t really have to. This definitely helps with prioritizing.” In addition to being involved in Greek life and Gemstone, Matt also serves as a research assistant at the Center for Addictions, Personality, and Emotion Research as well as a member of the Greek honor society, Order of Omega.
        After graduation, Matt hopes to attend medical school. However, his Gemstone team, team POLITIC, is comparing how the reception of Russian literature in the US correlates with US foreign policy towards Russia from 1890s to 1920s. This specific project most interested Matt because of the fact that it is completely different from his majors. “College is probably the last time I’ll be able to research something just because I find the subject intriguing. Gemstone students shouldn’t be afraid of branching away from their majors in their projects.” Even within the Gemstone program, you can be involved with interests that are outside of your major.
        Regardless of what you’re involved with on campus, there is definitely a way to incorporate all of your extracurricular activities with your academics. “It’s definitely not too much to be in Gemstone and be involved as a leader on campus. Gaining leadership is a great experience, and definitely makes your four years of college more enjoyable.”
-Jessica Lee: Team RITALIN: Class of 2014