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