Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gemstone Academic Affairs Committee: Scholarship Forum with Dr. Duvinage

On April 12, the Gemstone Academic Affairs Committee presented their Scholarship Forum in the Multipurpose Room in La Plata with speaker Dr. Duvinage, who is the director of the National Scholarships Office at the University of Maryland. Dr. Duvinage prepared an entire presentation about what these national scholarships were about, what you could do to apply for these scholarships, and where you can look for more information. With the help of free Rita’s, there was a full crowd in attendance at this event.

Dr. Duvinage started with some basic information that applies for any scholarship, and later talked about some specific internships. There are over 100 different national scholarships that are available to students and even recent graduates, and many of these scholarships will be ones that you will have never heard of. Each scholarship usually has a very specific goal and is looking for students who meet specific requirements. It’s important that you look into what these are. There are so many out there, and if some of them would fit you perfectly but you don’t find out about it in time, you would never have the chance to apply for them. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t think your grades aren’t good enough, as grades are just a small portion of what these scholarships are looking at. There are plenty of students with a 4.0 GPA that cannot find a scholarship that’s a good fit, and there are plenty of students with much lower GPAs that will find scholarships that fit them.

If you want more information, you should check out the National Scholarships Office’s website at www.scholarships.umd.edu.  Here, you can look for scholarships based on year or interests, and you can also request appointments so that you can talk one-on-one with an expert who can help you find exactly what you need.

-Felix Lee: Class of 2016: Team Haptic

Sophomore Team Pespective: Team NAVIGATE

One year in, and the pressure is all ready mounting for Team NAVIGATE, seeking to develop a feasible and cost-effective device that can address the problem of navigation for the blind. 
When the group formed nearly a year ago, everyone was excited to work on their project proposed by mentor Rama Chellappa, Chair of the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering at the University of Maryland. While some members of the team were eager to get their hands on the project’s technical aspects, others were motivated by a strong desire to help in alleviating the difficulties of those living with sight impairments. 
“My grandmother is blind, so this project is close to home,” said team member Yael Osman, Psychology major.
At the beginning of their sophomore year NAVIGATE was off to a great start.  Having both successfully gotten Microsoft Kinect, an integral part of their project, to run on any computer and figured how to run object recognition algorithms on the device, things were looking great for the team’s progress.  However, as the academic year progressed the team ran into many roadblocks with hardware, software, and the IRB (Institutional Review Board).  Their mentor however was optimistic and urged them to get the ball rolling and continue to push forward with the project.
Despite their numerous setbacks, the team remains optimistic.  “I’m excited for the future.  I’m thinking we can actually do some cool things over the summer with this,” said team member Ryan Sawyer, Electrical Engineering major.
Regardless of their issues with the project, Team NAVIGATE has come a long way in terms of team dynamic.  The team of 14 strangers has come to bond over the past year.  “We’re definitely closer now,” said Sawyer.

-Agnes Varghese: Class of 2015: Team NAVIGATE

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thesis Conference: Senior Team Perspective

Solar Campus had a very technical project, so its biggest challenge was conveying to a group of non-experts the basics of concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) energy and the effect that temperature has on a CPV cell. The team realized that three years ago, none of its members knew anything about this topic either. Therefore, the approach the team took was to share the progression of the team’s research and how it eventually reached the topic of CPV cooling. The team also realized that no matter how impactful its results were, if nobody understood the background, nobody would understand the impact. Therefore, half the presentation was dedicated to explaining the complexities of photovoltaic technology and heat transfer in a way that made sense to the non-engineer. The other half explained the methodology and results and reiterated the final impact of the research multiple times to make sure the point was clear.
Before starting on the presentation slides, though, the team scripted out word for word what needed to be said and in what order. This helped put the proper amount of information in the brief time allotted, prevented rambling and repetition, and also made compiling the slides very simple. With a script in hand, all that was needed was what visuals the speaker wanted displayed behind them to help convey the message. This process is the reverse of what many teams do, but was highly successful for Solar Campus.
-Kevin Fries: Class of 2013: Team Solar Campus

Monday, April 22, 2013

Precious Gem: Mary Mirvis

Mary Mirvis: 
Team: Gene Therapy 
Major: Cell Biology and Genetics
Class of 2013
From: North Potomac, MD 

Our Precious Gem, Mary Mirvis, shares some of her thoughts and experiences being a part of the Gemstone program...
Not only was Gemstone a big addition to Mary's experience at the University of Maryland, but it also was one of the major reasons that Mary chose UMD.  As a rising PhD student, Mary was eager to get involved in as much research experience as she could and as such took advantage of both the Gemstone program and her own independent research where she worked in a lab with a graduate student.  

"All PhD students get research experience working in labs during their undergraduate career, but very few of them get the kind of experience I got in Gemstone. Gemstone lets students see all sides of research, not just (in our case) working at a lab bench following an experimental protocol. Doing extensive literature search, designing the project, writing project and grant proposals, and writing a comprehensive thesis and giving a professional presentation are invaluable skills for scientists that most people only learn at the graduate level or later. Having these experiences as an undergraduate firstly confirmed my desire and prepared me to be a biologist, and also made me a great candidate for top graduate schools. Interviewers were extremely impressed not just with the research project itself but also with my experience with the nitty gritty parts of the research process."

Over the course of her time in the Gemstone program, Mary and her teammates had many great experiences.  Of all of her Gems related experiences, winning grants was a standout moment for Mary. She and her teammates also enjoyed reviewing their data and seeing how their project had generated something new and significant that could be used by other scientists to further study and work in the field.  

Lastly, Mary offers her advice to incoming freshman: 
"Try to get a good idea of what it actually takes to accomplish what you want to accomplish. You have a limited time to finish your project and you want to make sure it can be done in that time. Also, doing research with a large group for a long-term project is a unique opportunity, so try to figure out each person's strengths as soon as possible and use them to the team's advantage to complete your project with the limited resources and time."
-Daniel Atlas: Class of 2013: Team Gene Therapy
-Steph Gross: Class of 2015: Team SILVER

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Team Food Deserts: Thoughts on the Thesis Conference...

Four years! It’s been a long haul filled with adventures and obstacles, but here we are: Team Food Deserts with our completed undergraduate thesis. All of us would definitely say it’s been a fruitful experience, not only because of our research, but also because of the relationships we’ve formed with each other. In these final months, we worked with our mentor, Dr. Stephanie Grutzmacher, to ensure that our thesis was coherent and thorough, with an accompanying presentation that was succinct and accessible to a diverse audience.
We wanted to make sure that, given the short presentation time, we could deliver our background, methodology and results to those with varying degrees of familiarity with our project and the larger issues surrounding our research interests. Translating our 100-plus page thesis into a short, visually appealing, and interesting presentation was a welcome challenge. Half of us created the presentation, and the whole team provided feedback upon its completion.
Before the presentation, we considered possible questions and concerns of the audience members and discussants. This way, although only a few team members presented at the conference, each person participated in the Q&A period.
We were very pleased with the reception of our project by our experts and the general audience, and we really appreciated the comments and questions. We were excited to see that the audience could relate their experiences to our project and also offer suggestions for improvements or future directions, because food access and nutrition is ultimately something that affects us all.

Rutvij Pandya : Class of 2013: Team Food Deserts
Rachel White: Class of 2013: Team Food Deserts