Wednesday, December 3, 2014

22 Feelings Every Gemstone Student Knows

1. Being loaded down with tons of work and just wishing you could be back at Gems Camp

2. When you have a case of the Monday blues, but then you remember that Mondays mean GEMSTONE JAVA!

Plus it’s a great chance to talk to the Gems staff

3. When you literally cannot wait for Gems Formal

You can buy tickets at the ticket office in stamp or online at

4. And you get there and it’s like:

Can’t wait to eat some Chick-fil-a and pizza before dancing with my friends!

5. When you’re a freshman in Gemstone: hearing about all the teams got you like

Friday, November 21, 2014

Junior Colloquia: A Freshman Perspective

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Team BRAIN BLAST, November 20
It was Wednesday, November 19th, at 6:30pm, and the lecture hall in Biosciences Research Building was filled with the sounds of GSC gift water bottles clinking on the floor and chatter among an animated audience of GEMS100 students. These students were not the only one who were excited, as the teams were also presenting to the Gemstone staff and many mentors who came to support their teams. I spoke with Dr. Coale before the presentations; he said he was most looking forward to see “the incredible progress” the teams have made since they last presented to him.

Each evening of Junior Colloquia had six teams presenting for fifteen minutes each, with another five minutes of questions. Questions came from everyone from freshmen to team mentors, and this variety made for challenging and thought-provoking questions. All of the teams were ready for the questions, and for the presentations at large. I asked Team Haptic’s presenters about how they prepared, and they said they did many dry runs with feedback from their mentor and teammates.

Each team included a section on advice for freshmen at the end of their presentation. It was clear that each team learned something different from their experience, but some popular tips included “communicating with your team”, “picking a project you love”, and “knowing your project will change”. As a freshman, I found the most helpful part not to be the tips, but simply seeing the projects. We talk a lot about our potential projects in GEMS100, but seeing everything these teams have accomplished is an inspiring experience. The juniors I talked to understood this sentiment. I asked Team Forget It members Charlie Urrutia and Ashwin Reddi what the best part of Junior Colloquia was. Emphatically, they said, “getting our presentation done. We’ve been working a year and a half on [our research], and it’s great to get it out to an audience."

Congratulations to all the junior teams!

21 November 2014 - Elliot Frank

Friday, November 14, 2014

Precious Gems: Katie Krejcik

This week's Precious Gem spotlight is Katie Krejcik, a freshman Materials Science and Engineering major from Baltimore, MD. Although Katie hasn't been at UMD for long, she seems to be adjusting to college very well. She is on top of her school work even in CHEM135, which she calls her hardest class this semester. Katie spoke very fondly of GEMS100 and her history class on the life of people in the American Revolution, which are her two favorite classes.

Outside of class, Katie has had no issue in finding ways to fill her free time. She played soccer from age 3 to high school and plays for the club soccer team here. The season recently ended but that doesn’t stop Katie from heading over to La Plata beach to enjoy the game when she can. In addition to her interest in athletics, Katie played the alto sax throughout high school and taught herself a bit of piano as well. She also finds time to give back to the community as she is the VP of Greensquad in RHA for Ellicott Hall.

Katie hasn’t had your typical freshman year so far. Recently, she attended GE's Female Diversity Leadership Recruitment Summit. There were 5 colleges represented at the conference and Katie was the only representative from the UMD. Her days consisted of getting to hear the stories of executives in the engineering field and touring GE’s aviation facility. Also, the summit gave the attendees a chance to interview for an internship working with ceramics for GE next semester. Katie knocked the interview out of the park and received an offer for the internship.

It may be Katie’s freshman year, but that hasn’t stopped her from doing big things. Whether she’s making plays on the soccer pitch or casually getting a huge internship in her first semester, she’s making a huge splash. Be on the lookout for this precious gem around campus, Katie is going to do big things.

14 November 2014 - Nate Nenortas

Friday, November 7, 2014

November Events

We've got lots of stuff for y'all this month! Be on the lookout for Facebook events or contact your friendly neighborhood GSC member for more information!

Saturday, 11/8 (2pm - 5pm): Video Game Tournament!
We're having a Super Smash Bros Tournament down in the Gemstone Suite! Do you have what it takes to be the champion?

Thursday, 11/13 (2pm - 6pm): Strike a Pose - Professional Photos
Need a professional photo for your LinkedIn profile? Want a new team photo to go along with your website? Want to just dress up for fun and look awesome? Come by the Math Building fountain to get your picture taken (by reservations only!) Sign up here by 11/9!

Saturday, 11/22 (2-5:30pm): Touchdown for Turkeys - Flag Football Tournament
Come play flag football with GSC! Sign ups will be going out soon! [Location TBD]

Saturday, 11/22 (6pm - 8pm): Gemsgiving - Thanksgiving Potluck
After you've worked up an appetite from flag football, be sure to come by the La Plata Multipurpose Room for our 2nd annual Gemsgiving Potluck dinner!

Make sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep up-to-date on everything GSC-related! 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Precious Gem: Gregory Mathews

Don’t try to fence Gregory Mathews in. This junior on Team SAVIOR is a scholar, outdoorsman, and is this week’s Precious Gem. Greg hails from Frostburg, Maryland and Bishop Walsh high school. His high school graduating class had 49 students, so you might be tempted to think it was hard for him coming to a school of 26,538 undergraduates. However, from talking to Greg it’s clear he’s easily carved a niche out for himself at UMD.

Greg is on Team SAVIOR, which he enjoys immensely. Team SAVIOR is investigating the spread of the invasive species the northern snakehead (a fish) throughout the Potomac River ecosystem. This summer Greg spent a lot of his time driving around Southern Maryland to do surveying with his team. His team no doubt appreciated his efforts, and in turn Greg says that getting to know his team has been the best part of his Gemstone experience.

He was originally attracted to the project because it relates well to his major, environmental science. He was inspired to study this field because some of his uncles are wildlife biologists, and it’s clear his whole family has a connection to the outdoors. Greg told me stories about hunting, fishing, and camping back home with his relatives, and it’s clear he has a passion for nature.

Greg is also an incredibly involved student on campus, and had been an ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, a section leader for GEMS104, and a volunteer with the Catholic Student Center. He has volunteered with Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, and is looking for internships and jobs to put his studies to good use.

You may see Greg around campus with his Plant Science 253 class, learning about the local trees. Or, you might see him relaxing at Lake Artemsia, which he says is his favorite spot to get away from the business of campus. In any case, be on the lookout for Gregory Mathews- environmental scientist, nature lover, and Precious Gem.

31 October 2014 - Elliot Frank

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall Food Olympics

On October 17th, the GSC held their annual Fall Food Olympics on Ellicott Hall’s front lawn!

The first event in this year’s lineup was dizzybat. One partner spun around in a circle ten times while looking at the ground with their forehead on the butt of the bat and had to try and toss foam light bulbs into a bowl which their partner was holding. Teams then had to run to the second table where they were both blindfolded and one competitor had to try to spoonfeed chocolate pudding to his/her partner. It is needless to say that the partner feeding did not always meet the mouth of the partner eating with the pudding and messiness ensued. The last table featured a challenge that had students try to work an oreo into their mouth from their forehead without using their hands. The other partner had to work through a plate of whipped cream to find a candy corn hidden inside. After they were finished with their challenges, the partners had to team up for a three-legged-race to a light post while holding a spoon with a candy corn in it.

At the end of the day, over 30 students participated but there could only be one team that won; the team of Lara Fu and Carolyn Lane took home the day’s best time.

27 October 2014 - Nate Nenortas

Check out pictures from the event!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Meet the Cohort Reps!

Our Cohort Representatives for the Gemstone Student Council aim to be links between their respective cohorts and the GSC. If you haven't met them yet, here they are!

24 October 2014 - Elliot Frank

Friday, October 17, 2014

Precious Gem: Zack Siegel

Zack is a senior mathematics, physics, and computer science triple major on team QUANTUM SEA. Zack hails from Rockville, MD and attended high school at Wootton High. An active member of his Gemstone team, Zack used MATLAB to write the modeling program that his team now uses. In fact, QUANTUM SEA’s mentor has pitched the idea of getting his program formally published.

Outside of his team, Zack conducts physics research at the Joint Quantum Institute, is a vice president of the National Mathematics Honors Society, Pi Mu Epsilon, and is on the sponsorship team for BitCamp 2, a college hacking marathon. He enjoys spending time not devoted to his vast array of academic activities doing outdoor activities such as hiking and playing sports. For the past few summers he has interned at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, and worked at Oculus VR. He was even able to spend some summertime on the beaches of southern CA.

Zack spoke very fondly of his experience at CERN. He spent his summer with a diverse group of 300 students from all over the world. His days were comprised of lectures in the mornings from famous physicists and he spent his afternoons on a software development team working on simulations for the large hadron collider. Zack also made sure to keep busy in his down time by traveling and enjoying the beautiful scenery that Switzerland and France has to offer. During his travels, Zack also climbed halfway up the Matterhorn, which is one of the highest peaks in the Alps (4,478 m). As if his experience was not packed enough, Zack also received an email during his time abroad about a memorial scholarship from Oculus VR, which sought applicants interested in computer science and nature. Zack decided to write his essay that day while drawing inspiration from a mountain which he could view from his window. He won the scholarship.

While at BitCamp during last school year, Zack spoke to a recruiter from Oculus VR, who ensured that Zack got an internship with the company. That small foot-in-the-door was all he needed to get an internship with Oculus that summer. He worked on software for the second iteration of the Oculus Rift, the premier virtual reality device developed by Oculus VR. His individual project focused very heavily on the optics of the Oculus Rift. In addition to the large quantity of free stuff, he enjoyed the passionate working environment that Oculus VR offered.

Zack is very personable and is more than willing to bring the discussion of complex computer science, physics, and mathematics down to a level that anyone could understand. He has a resume that is filled with valuable and interesting experiences. It was certainly a pleasure getting to know this Precious Gem!

17 October 2014 - Nate Nenortas

Friday, October 10, 2014

Team Gemstone 2014: Tied Up in Team Dynamics

On Saturday, Sept. 27, and Sunday, Sept. 28, our sophomore teams built camaraderie and team spirit for two hours at Team Gemstone. This team building exercise is a requirement for all new teams and is an integral part of the Gemstone experience. This year the Team Gemstone activity line-up for the teams in one Sunday session (MTB, STRIDE, VESSEL, and MAGLEV) featured an involved game of rock-paper-scissors, team building activities, and time on the ropes course.

This game of ro-sham-bo included a clever take on evolution in which students changed from an egg to a chicken to a dinosaur to a superhero. While undergoing their transformation, students had to move and makes noises which were unique to their stage of evolution. If someone won a game, they would advance in their evolution and if they lost, they would go down a level of evolution. While I’m sure this does not follow the classic Darwinian model, the game was an interesting way to break the ice.
Photo by Lara Fu

The team building activities the teams did varied, but they all seemed to start with the seemingly simple task of placing a hula-hoop on the ground. The only catch: everyone had to have their index fingers on it holding the hoop up. While this may sound simple, coordinating everyone to do this proved difficult and took a few minutes to master. All the different activities seemed to be founded on the idea of fostering communication between teammates.

The ropes course was definitely the highlight of the Team Gemstone experience, and it seemed to be the favorite of many others as well. Students had just under 10 minutes to make their way up their route of choice up the tower. There was something for everyone, as all students had a choice between a fairly straightforward way up and a more challenging route. The challenging routes were very difficult, as more than one student attempted to take on the challenge, only to decide to take the straightforward option instead. The course offered the teams a chance to bond by cheering each other on as their teammates scaled the tower. Also, while the teams in some groups did not belay each other as teammates climbed, other teams had the chance to, which was a tremendous trust exercise.
Photo by Grace Chun

At the end of the day, every team seemed to have a great time and bond together. Experiences like Team Gemstone give everyone a chance to come together and build that team dynamic which is so vital to the Gemstone process. Some entered the day uncertain of what it would hold and some thought that this two hours of team building would be a waste of time. It seemed that no one had that feeling by the end of the day.

“It was definitely a day of firsts. A day on which individual and team strengths were tested and celebrated.”
-Glory Mgboji (Team VESSEL)

10 October 2014 - Nate Nenortas

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gems Camp 2014

Hey Gemstone Class of 2018!  
Here's some helpful information regarding Gems Camp 2014.  Please read the flyer attached and watch our Gems Camp 2014 video.  We hope this answers and questions or concerns you may have about Gems Camp and gets you as excited as we are!

Still have questions?  Email 
Excited and ready to register?  Follow this link !

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Freshman Precious Gem: Alex Boukhvalova

Freshman Alex Boukhvalova reflects on her experience at the NYC Wakeup Tour and Uncubed Event.  Alex was sent by the University of Maryland Computer Science department to the two day Wakefield Media sponsored event.

Overall it was a really awesome and unique experience! The first day was a huge convention called Uncubed where over 80 startup companies and entrepreneurs that founded some of those startups came to give skills talks about how they founded their companies as well as talk about positions they are hiring for. I learned a lot about the nature of what it takes to get a start-up running, the mindset needed, as well as the technical versus business side for a lot of the companies. I got to talk to and visit the booths of companies like GrubHub, Buzzfeed, Gilt, and Birchbox and talk to their representatives about potential internships for next winter and summer. The convention center itself has a really cool layout with game centers to relax at, and picnic areas indoors and all of the companies were giving out free things and food as well as BarkBox who even brought dogs to play with. 

The second day was the Wakeup Tour, where all of the attendees of the convention from the first day chose one of four tracks where they would visit a set of four startup companies throughout the day and then everyone would reconvene at a reception at the end of the day. I have to say that this experience was beyond cool and really helpful. I cannot say that I had a completely solid idea of the inner workings of startup tech companies and after Friday, I was definitely a lot more informed. I got to visit Shapeways Factory, a 3D printing manufacturing company, in Long Island City where they showed us the factory set up as well as all of their various machines for 3D printing. After that we saw Amplify, a company that makes e-learning tablets for a wide range of schools across the U.S. I began to realize after Amplify that a lot of these companies are already really well established startups considering their body of work and clientele. Also, I realized that startup during this trip was a very loose term from a company that just started this year to one that has been well established for the past 7 years. At the Amplify facilities we saw how their workspace was set up, learned about their work environment and mindset in relation to product development, and got to go through a demo of their tablet product. After that, we visited Gilt which is a huge fashion flash-sale e-commerce site. I absolutely loved this one from the fashion aspect of  course, but also because I really saw at this company that every company needs a prominent tech group for just about all of the behind the scenes work. When thinking fashion, I don't immediately think tech but Gilt started out specifically as a tech company and they have a very strong computer science foundation. After Gilt, we visited Shutterstock offices (on the 20th and 21st floors of the Empire state building!). This company definitely reminded me of the Google tech stereotypes in terms of their offices. We saw their hidden conference rooms, massage rooms since they have masseuses come every Friday, multiple arcade rooms, hanging benches in the open hangout spaces, and more. At all of these companies after touring their facilities we got to have Q&A sessions with groups of representatives and talk about what they do specifically and what they think is necessary to become successful in the tech world. Finally, we ended up at the WeWorks company for the reception. I thought WeWorks was one of the coolest places I saw on the trip, aside from Shutterstock and Gilt,  because it was a tech incubator which I have never saw before. This trip taught me a lot about the startup tech world and gave me a chance to look into a lot of companies and make connections with the ones that I would possibly want to have job opportunities in the future.

-Alex Boukhvalova: Team SCOPE : Class of 2017

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gems Camp: A Junior Perspective

Junior Eileen Ser shares her Gems Camp experience both as a camper and Camp Leader:

I still have the letter that Gemstone sent me on May 21, 2011, welcoming me to the program and inviting me to Gems Camp. I did not know much about Gemstone– I chose it based on its research focus, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a colorful brochure advertising a Las Vegas themed Gems Camp. Intrigued, I convinced my parents to let me go (moving in early was a great selling point).
Attending Gems Camp was a fantastic experience – it quickly became clear that Gemstone focused on areas outside of pure academics. All of the Camp Leaders were incredibly friendly, fun, and welcoming. I left completely exhausted, but came home with so many friends. Gems Camp was definitely the first step to making a big school smaller.
I was fortunate to be selected as a Camp Leader the following year. As a sophomore, I loved getting to know the freshman. The theme that year was Survivor, and the competition was a great element. I looked forward to the next year as soon as it was over, and sure enough, when Gems Camp 2013 came around, it was just as fun. Plus, the theme of Turning Back Time made it even more meaningful.
I can easily say that Gems Camp is my favorite Gemstone experience. The lighthearted atmosphere is a great way to kick off the school year. I still keep in touch with many of the people I met at camp as a freshman and my campers from the past two summers. My fellow Camp Leaders are some of the funniest people I have ever met, and spending nearly a week with them is quite the adventure – we spend a lot of the time perfecting our dance and eating a lot of cheeseballs. 

So, to you, Gemstone student, I highly encourage you to apply to be a Camp Leader – I’m in denial this summer is the last chance I have to be a Camp Leaders because I have truly had an unforgettable experience!

-Eileen Ser: Team PANCREAS : Class of 2015

If you wish to apply to become a Gems Camp CL please follow this link here and fill out the application.  
The application closes midnight March 25th!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mixing Gemstone with the Blarney Stone: A Student Perspective to Studying Abroad

Sophomore Eric McCaffrey shares her experience studying abroad in Ireland: 

This semester I set off for the Emerald Isles to study abroad at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. I think the biggest draw to studying abroad is, of course, the opportunity to experience a new culture. However, since arriving in Ireland two months ago I have found that studying abroad enhances nearly every facet of the college experience… Gemstone included! From an academic standpoint studying abroad has afforded me the opportunity to continue with my coursework for my microbiology major while also diving into the Irish culture. It has become a ‘normal’ day for me to go from speaking Gaelic and listening to Irish traditional music in the morning to learning about Immunology and Medical Microbiology in the afternoon! Additionally, participating in a public health internship is giving me the chance to gain a new perspective on health and medicine.

I am of course still a member of my Gemstone team—Team ATTENT—while abroad. While it may seem difficult or a burden to maintain work on a Gemstone team while abroad, it has actually been a very easy transition. My team, mentor, and the Gemstone staff have been incredibly accommodating. One of my favorite parts of the week is being able to Skype into team meetings and see some familiar faces from back at home! I still feel that even while abroad, I am able to contribute towards all the work the team has been doing on our thesis proposal and grant applications this semester. While in Ireland I have gotten the opportunity to converse with professors and medical professionals about the research Team ATTENT will be doing. Hearing their input and perspective is definitely enriching the research process and allowing me to look at our research problem in new ways.

If the academic opportunities and Gemstone experience are not enough of a reason to study abroad as a Gemstone student then the cultural opportunities should seal the deal. To be able to experience the Irish culture, along with other European countries, makes every day an exciting adventure! For all that it has offered me already, studying abroad is the best decision I have made while at UMD… besides joining Gemstone of course!

-Erin McCaffrey: Team ATTENT: Class of 2016

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Startup Straight from the Minds of Some of the Gemstone Program's Precious Gems: Mindforge Design

After the first week of the fall semester, Aerospace Engineering student Brett Potter decided to have some fun. After buying a kit for a 3-D printer off the internet for $300, he spent an entire Saturday putting it together. Now a semester later, the sophomore from Team TESLA is working on a startup with a few friends, with the printer at the center.

Potter first gained experience with the up-and coming technology in high school, and thought it would be cool to get his own desktop model. Roommate and fellow Gemstone student Ben Tunick (Bioengineering, Team BASIC) soon took an interest in Potter’s creation, followed closely by their across-the-hall neighbor Sam Thomas (Criminology and Criminal Justice major). After Thomas mentioned the possibility of turning the printer into a business venture, the three sophomores realized it could be a great idea.

Once they embraced the opportunity, the trio soon began spreading the word and preparing to open for business. It wasn’t long before they branched out. Their startup, christened “Mindforge Design,” has an Xbox Kinect to scan objects and people into their computers, and can print bobble heads and small copies of said object from the scanned model. In addition to offering a line of small Maryland-themed products, Mindforge offers printing of custom designs, regardless of whether the client can make a model in CAD.

Since then, Mindforge Design opened for business and even turned a few heads. Late in the semester, the three entrepreneurs were accepted into the Startup Shell, an on-campus club aimed at guiding new startups and helping them succeed through collaboration and support. In addition, the group has been contacted by Route 1 Apparel. The two parties are currently negotiating the sale of a few 3D printed Maryland items through the popular retailer.

Keep a lookout for these guys going forward! Their website is

-Ben Tunick: Team BASIC: Class of 2016