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.
morning, Mason’s Johnson Center buzzed with the excitement of over 400 students from 48 schools. The Department of Mathematics and the College of Science Accelerator program helped to sponsor the event. More than
20 faculty, graduate students and undergraduate lerning assistants helped to judge the written part of the contest. The winners of this regional competition will now go on to compete at the state level.
Submitted by Dr. Mary Nelson
This year, George Mason University had the pleasure of hosting the 19th annual Chesapeake Bay Bowl on Saturday February 6, 2016. The Chesapeake Bay Bowl is an ocean sciences competition for high school students from the states of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Northern Virginia every year to compete for the title of Chesapeake Bay Bowl champion. The winner of the regional competition will go on to compete in the National Ocean Science Bowl Finals in Morehead, North Carolina. The champion team is granted the title of Ocean Bowl Champions and the students get a chance to participate in their own research project across the country or overseas. This year, our winner was Montgomery Blair High School with Thomas Jefferson High School in close second. It was an exciting event that required the cooperation of several non-profit organizations, the STEM Accelerator Program, and volunteers. Mason continues to collaborate with the University of Delaware to make this competition happen every year. For more information on the Chesapeake Bay Bowl, check out the website at www.chesapeakebaybowl.org or go to www.nosb.org for information on National Ocean Science Bowl.
Submitted by Athena Kalyvas
In 2015, Dr. Reid Schwebach was awarded a collaborative 4-VA grant to investigate phage ecology as a three week research experience for both Mason undergraduates and high school students at George Mason University. The major component of the institute was to investigate bacteriophage, specifically how their genome changes in response to climate change. With the help of his two learning assistants, Lindsey Cundra and Caroline Benzel, Dr. Schwebach taught the course in July of 2015—an endeavor that focused on providing an environment fostering close mentorships between students, teachers, mentors, learning assistants and future collaborators.
At the beginning of the course, the students collected numerous soil samples that would later be used for phage isolation and extraction. Using the USDA’s online soil type data base called Wed Soil Survey, Melissa Fuerst, one of the GMU student mentors, pinpointed the GPS locations of 6 different soil types at Environmental Studies on the Piedmont, a field station non-profit in Warrenton, VA. The students came to the field station to learn about soil sample collection and to gather their own soil samples for bacteriophage testing. As a team, they braved the high heats of July and gathered three samples from each of the six sites, totaling 18 samples in all! The sampling sites can be viewed on the course’s own blog. The daily blog, which includes an inventory of the samples, sampling locations, experimental procedures and written discussions by classmates, was created and maintained by phage student Jennifer Jones.
After collecting the samples, ArcGIS, a form of geographic information system (GIS), was presented as a way for the team to better organize and display the sampling sites and data. On having to learn GIS for the first time, one of the phage students Brianna Nielsen commented, “It was very simple and easy to use, having no previous knowledge. We were able to create maps and import data collected from our research.” ArcGIS allowed the research team to compare climate factors (soil type, precipitation, and elevation) to the collected phage data. This step allowed the team to speculate the dynamics of how climate affected the types of phage that were discovered.
Upon summation of the course, the team recognized how valuable bioinformatics would be in identifying the phage. Consequently, phage students Brianna and Jennifer initiated their own research endeavor and will be working closely with Dr. Patrick Gillevet at George Mason University’s Science and Technology Campus in Prince William. The impacts of the course encompass not only future endeavors but the personal impressions of all those involved. Upon consideration of her experience, Jennifer reflected,
“The Phage Ecology Research Program not only provided me with valuable laboratory and research skills, but also encouraged me to further explore many of the vast fields that Biology encompasses.”
Mason professors are learning to take best teaching practices off the pages of research papers and into their classrooms as part of NSF grant.
The Business Women’s Giving Circle (BWGC) of the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia has just completed its inaugural grant cycle, awarding $40,000 to organizations providing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and Entrepreneurship programs to girls in Northern Virginia. The winning organizations included the STEM Accelerator Program’s FOCUS (Females of Color Underrepresented in STEM) Camp that will receive $20,000 to run the program in Summer 2015.
By helping undergraduates succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses, George Mason University’s STEM Accelerator is being named one of Virginia’s “2015 Programs that Work” by the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition.
View the summary poster, of all our activities, that was presented at the VA State Assembly on January 20, 2015, when the program received the 2015 Program that works award.
Shocked by the national failure rate of college calculus courses, Mason professor questions the status quo and finds new way to teach students the reasoning behind the equations.
This week, 52 incoming freshmen are getting an early chance at academic and career success as part of “crash course” in calculus, cell biology, general chemistry or physics.
A new camp gives girls of color a jump start on success in STEM fields.