Gemstone Honors Program
students presenting project proposal

Gemstone Curriculum

The Gemstone Honors Program is a four-year, interdisciplinary, team research program. The course curriculum is designed to facilitate a successful team experience. Some courses required for Gemstone fulfill General Education requirements.

Additionally, over the course of the four-year program, there are designated milestones that the team is expected to participate in. For more information, visit the Team Milestones page.

Four Years At-A-Glance

Four Years At-A-Glance offers a curricular overview, showing the courses Gemstone students should take each semester, as well as other academic activities for each semester of their four years in Gemstone.

GEMS100 - Freshman Honors Colloquium: Introduction to Gemstone

Syllabus (1 credit)

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 - Research Topic Exploration

Syllabus (1 credit)

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 exploring research ideas, examining and critiquing Gemstone projects, and brainstorming research problems and ideas for their projects. The Gemstone Associate Director solicits researchers on campus to suggest general research problems and project ideas to students.
  • Step 2: Students work with classmates to produce “project sheets,” where they submit their ideas for team research projects. 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 staff and course Section Leaders 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 of three votes. Students review the commercials submitted with 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 final 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.

GEMS104 - Topics in Science, Technology and Society

Syllabus (3 credits)*
*Can count toward general education requirements. Check Testudo for details.

GEMS 104 is a three-credit course for first-year Gemstone students designed to examination of how cultural, economic, political and social forces shape scientific and technological systems and, conversely, how scientific and technological systems have affected the culture, economies, organization and politics of societies. Students in the course will form small teams to carry out semester-long research on socio/technical topics related to the course themes chosen for the specific semester. Advanced Gemstone students serve as Section Leaders (SLs) who manage and facilitate learning in the discussion sections.

The objective of GEMS 104 is to expose first-year Gemstone students to the opportunities and challenges associated with the team research experience that is the cornerstone of the Gemstone Honors Program.  Working as teams and focusing on an array of contemporary issues in science, technology and society, students will gain valuable experience in the consumption and evaluation of published literature, creating and defending research-defensible position statements, and presenting team research results in written, oral and visual presentation formats.

GEMS202 - Team Dynamics and Research Methodology

Syllabus (2 Credits)*
*Can count toward general education requirements. Check Testudo for details.

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.

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.

GEMS 208 (variable credits) - Special Topics in Leadership and Team Development

The format of these courses varies by the leadership topic. Students may repeat these courses as they serve in multiple roles, such as serving as a course TA or as a member of the Gems Camp Planning Committee. In Fall 2020, a new course was added to the GEMS208 series. GEMS208R: Equity-Centered Dialogue Facilitation is an experiential course where students learn and practice dialogue facilitation skills. Throughout the course, students also facilitate important conversations for their peers in Gemstone on topics related to equity. Examples include a facilitated dialogue following Dr. Mona Hann-Atisha's Presidential Symposium, a conversation on environmental racism, and a discussion on racism in engineering and computer science.