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GEMS100 (1 credit) - Freshman Honors Colloquium: Introduction to Gemstone


This one-credit course, taught by upper-class student section leaders in the fall semester of the first year, seeks to orient new students to the Gemstone Program as well as to the University of Maryland. GEMS100 is instructed in a small group format with the following units encompassing the heart of the course:

  • Introduction to Gemstone - Learning about many of the facets of the Gemstone Program is a theme present throughout the course. Section Leaders devote one class early in the semester to discussions of the responsibilities of Gemstone students. This class may include a visit by a Gemstone staff member. A follow up class includes a mock topic selection process designed to introduce the students to the processes used in GEMS102, the next course taken in the GEMS sequence, where they will choose the research topic on which they will work for three years. Additionally, attendance at Gemstone Junior Colloquia provides new students a perspective on what Gemstone teams actually do.
  • Service Learning & Research- Students will learn about the connection between research and service as they explore types of research as well as feasibility issues. In addition, students explore the connection between service-learning and research and the connection between social issues and possible research topics. As they explore the intersection of service-learning and research, all Gems 100 students will complete ten hours at a service site of their choice in the local community. The service-learning happens concurrently with the development of the Gems 100 Project Sheet, the mock activity designed to ultimately prepare them for Gems 102.
  • Interdisciplinary Research – Students will explore the intersections of interdisciplinary research and the Gemstone program (in terms of research topics, team formation, application of research, etc.). Students will also identify benefits and potential drawbacks of interdisciplinary research teams and methods to help such teams succeed.
  • Diversity - The richness of the diversity at the University of Maryland enables students to learn about and appreciate differences, yet some students fail to take advantage of the opportunities for cross-cultural learning that the University and the metropolitan area offer. The goal of this class session is to encourage students to engage in a cultural and identity-based activity that is new to them. A discussion of how diversity relates to the team process also takes place.
  • Creativity & The Research Process - This experiential unit will focus on the importance of the creativity process in society and the relationship between creativity and science and technology.
  • Academic Planning/Academic Integrity - The Gemstone Program requires students to complete a set curriculum, which requires significant academic planning in order to fit GEMS courses with other University requirements. This unit assists students in creating their four-year academic plan. One area where academic integrity and university expectations often become unclear is group work, which necessitates a discussion of academic integrity as it relates to Gemstone research teams.

GEMS102 (1 credit) - Research Topic Exploration


This is a one-credit course designed to help Gemstone freshmen generate and select research topics. The goal of the course is for students to form teams around topics of mutual interest and prepare to begin team research in their sophomore year. Research topic ideas are explored in small group discussions led by upper-class Gemstone student section leaders. The general process is described below, but each year we make small changes to optimize the process.

  • Step 1: Students spend the first few weeks of class learning what research is, examining and critiquing past Gemstone projects, and brainstorming research problems and ideas for their projects. The Gemstone Director solicits researchers on campus to suggest general research problems and project ideas to students.
  • Step 2: Project sheets are due in February for all proposed topics in order to be considered in the first vote. Project sheet authors may meet individually with the Gemstone Director and Associate Director for feedback and guidance BEFORE submitting a project sheet. After the submission deadline for the project sheets, new topics may not be added. The Gemstone staff and Section Leaders review all project sheets for academic rigor, worth, and feasibility. Authors of project sheets that do not meet the minimum criteria for acceptance are given the opportunity to revise and resubmit their sheets.
  • Step 3: The project sheets that are accepted by the committee are eligible for the first vote. Students review the commercials submitted for each project sheet and have the opportunity to ask questions of project sheet authors before the first vote. Students vote online for their top five choices.
  • Step 4: The Gemstone staff and the Section Leaders review the voting results and decide how many projects will advance to the second vote. All projects must be vetted by an expert before the second vote. Project sheet authors once again have an opportunity to answer questions regarding their vetted projects in class. Students vote online a second time for their top five preferences.
  • Step 5: The Gemstone staff and the Section Leaders review the voting results and decide how many projects will advance to the final vote. Students vote in class for their top three choices on team formation night.
  • Step 6: The Gemstone staff and Section Leaders assign students to teams.
  • Step 7: Students meet in their new team during the last several weeks of the semester to start the team development process. A section leader leads these meetings.

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GEMS104 *(3 credits, CORE IE) -Topics in Science, Technology and Society.
*Also 3 I-series credits under the new general education requirements.

Syllabus for Spring 2013

This course is designed and oriented around special themes for the Gemstone Program, such as:

  • "Technology and the City in History"
  • "Transportation and Society in the 19th and 20th Century"
  • "Technology and the Environment"
  • "Ethics in Science, Technology and Medicine"

The theme will vary from year to year. The format of the course includes one lecture and several discussion sections. The discussion sections serve two functions: the first is to review the readings and make meaning of the lecture in the context of current events and the second is to provide time for working on each small group’s intensive research project. The group research topics are specific aspects of the theme chosen for the course for that semester and give Gemstone freshmen a one-semester research project similar to what they will experience in their Gemstone teams beginning in the sophomore year.  Upon completion, this course fulfills 3 General Education I-Series credits.

GEMS202 *(2 Credits) - Team Dynamics and Research Methodology
*For students under the new general education requirements, GEMS202 and GEMS296 together satisfy 3 Distributive Studies credits in the Scholarship in Practice category.

Syllabus for Fall 2011

This experiential course is designed to foster an understanding of the dynamics of group behavior and basic research methodology. It teaches skills applicable to Gemstone team research and the writing of a team thesis. Upper-class students serve as section leaders, acting as peer mentors to the new teams and serving as an additional resource for them. The objectives of the course are to:

  • Learn about the research process including: identifying a research problem and developing a justification for your team's study; writing a research question; gathering data to answer the research question; choosing quantitative or qualitative methodologies and methods; employing data analysis techniques; and understanding the Institutional Review Board's (IRB) and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) submission procedures.
  • Learn more about your team's research problem by conducting a thorough literature review and identify ways for your team to create new knowledge on your topic.
  • Explore possibilities of grant funding, writing for publication, and attending an academic conference related to your team's topic.
  • Become familiar with the Graduate School's formatting requirements for research documents, as well as the appropriate research style for your field.
  • Gain experience collaborating as a team on written projects and develop a draft of your team's research proposal to be submitted and presented to your committee in the spring semester.
  • Develop a set of team norms, which will guide all operations and decisions of your team. Learn methods for team organization and how to be a productive team member.

Together with GEMS296, this satisfies 3 credits for the General Education Distributive Studies in the Scholarship in Practice category.

GEMS296 *(1 credit), GEMS 297, 396, 397, 496, 497 (2 credits each) - Team Project Seminars.

The format of these courses is the weekly meeting between the team and its mentor in which the team's research topic is focused, the research question is formulated, the literature is reviewed, the progress of the research is discussed, the synthesis of the various elements of the research is implemented and the final draft is completed and defended.  Upon completion of GEMS497, students satisfy 6 additional credits for the General Education Distributive Studies in the Scholarship in Practice category.

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