Having now graduated and entered the work force, I am extremely grateful for the experience that the STEM Accelerator learning assistant program afforded me. Prior to becoming an LA, I had minimal contact with my professors. I made sure to ask all questions during the lecture, and did not find any reason to bother the professor during office hours. For someone interested in reaping the largest benefits from their school and degree, this turns out to be a detrimental policy. A good rapport with professors is the golden key to research opportunities, unexpected interests in sub-disciplines, opportunities for community participation and a deepened understanding of the field itself. Simply by stepping foot into a position that put me in communication with the department, I started to see this difference. I interfaced with professors more, my misconceptions about chemistry were unveiled during review sessions and while writing home-made quizzes. The experience fine tuned my basic chemical knowledge and required me to produce weekly problem sets from scratch, to understand how to explain single concepts in a myriad of ways to different students, and to stand up in front of a full room and speak authoritatively and correctly.
The experience greatly increased my confidence in my chemistry comprehension, and furthermore, contributed to my desire to continue learning, to take graduate courses while in school, and to pursue graduate education post bachelors. It reminded me that I love to talk about chemistry, and that I want to keep doing so.
Ben Looker was a Learning Assistant for Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 for Dr. Greg Foster’s sections of Chem 211 and 212. He graduated in Spring 2016 and is now working as a Quality Control chemist in Richmond, VA while applying for graduate programs.
The STEM Accelerator was well represented at the Annual International Learning Assistant Conference held on the campus of University of Colorado Boulder, October 22-25, 2016. Dr. Mary Nelson, Dr. Julia Nord, Dr. Rebecca Jones and new graduate student Zach Korzi contributed to the discussions on Learning Assistant Programs and assessment of learning gains. Drs. Nelson and Nord were also involved in work during the conference related to a NSF-IUSE grant that aims to create and support a network of colleges and universities, like Mason, who are using the Learning Assistant Model.
Students are invited to visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing as part of the celebration of National Chemistry Week.
When: Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Time: 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Where: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing
300 14th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20228
Enjoy a presentation by the United States Secret Service about the forensics of counterfeit currency.
Take a tour of BEP currency production areas and facility laboratories featuring live demonstrations!
Seating is limited. To RSVP, send an email with your name, major, and university name to Michael Ramirez, Manager of the Analytical and Method Development Division, at Michael.Ramirez@bep.gov by c.o.b. Friday, October 7, 2016.
With $20,000 in funding received from Battelle Corporation and $1000 from VA Bio, the F.O.C.U.S. camp grew to 100 girls and 22 counselors in 2016.
Founded in 2014, F.O.C.U.S. (Females of Color and those Underrepresented in STEM) is a week-long camp which exposes females to a variety of disciplines within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The camp specifically targets middle school females, an age where studies have shown an interest in STEM begins to significantly decline. The camp is presented in a fun, hands-on, intellectually stimulating format designed to elevate their interests again. The first four days are each centered around a different “letter” of STEM. On day five, the participants have an opportunity to collaborate with their groups and present one of the topics from the week in a poster session with invited faculty, students, and family. There is also a “Leadership and Entrepreneurship” component to F.O.C.U.S. which gives the students an opportunity to meet successful women who currently work for leading organizations and/or own their own businesses.
This year’s camp was organized by Kelly Knight of the George Mason University STEM Accelerator Program and Danielle Blunt, founder of GIRL, Inc. Without the support of sponsors and the amazing counselors and leaders involved, this camp would not have been possible. We have already received wonderful feedback from the parents and participants with some already asking how to sign-up for next year’s F.O.C.U.S. camp.
In July 2016, Dr. Reid Schwebach brought his summer phage research class to the Microbiome Analysis Center (MBAC) to show them the facilities at the Science and Technology campus and to introduce them to concepts in Bioinformatics. They used Mutitag NextGen sequencing approach to interrogate the entire Phageome in soil samples
On March 12, 2016, students and faculty from the STEM Accelerator participated in the STEM Symposium for K-12 students. Hosted by The NySmith School in Herndon, VA, this event welcomed kids, parents, educators, and industry leaders to learn more about STEM. The kids experienced a hands-on approach to learning and got to take home samples of their projects. At our Mason table, it was clear that some children moved from just being interested because their parents brought them, to being totally immersed in the exhibits and wanting to stay well into the afternoon. The symposium really captured their curiosity and the kids were inspired by the science. The STEM Accelerator at Mason is proud to support this terrific annual event and see the impact of STEM on the future generations.
Mason’s STEM Accelerator Program received the “2016 Programs that Work” award from Gov. Terry McAuliffe at the Library of Virginia in Richmond on January 19, 2016. This is the second time the program has been recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia since it has continued to show evidence of its positive impact on student and teacher learning from across the state in both rural and urban areas, and statewide.
This year, the Accelerator was recognized for two of its summer programs which included FOCUS (Females of Color Underrepresented in STEM), designed to engage and pique the interest of middle school girls by offering exciting hands-on STEM activities, and the STEM Bootcamp, a residential pre-intervention summer program that helps incoming freshmen in STEM get prepared for college.
Click here to read the interview with STEM Accelerator director, Dr. Padhu Seshaiyer.
In the first STEM Seminar of 2016, Dr. Jill Nelson (Associate Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering Department) presented about her work with SIMPLE Faculty Development Groups at Mason on Wednesday February 24, 2016. This project has built a network of faculty to support innovations in STEM teaching. To learn more about this project, please go to their website here.