Gemstone Honors Program

Class of 2001 Teams

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics, once heralded as miracle drugs, have become increasingly ineffective in treating bacterial infections because of the emergence of antibiotic resistance over the past forty years. The evolution of resistance is a result of antibacterial use and misuse in three areas: medicine, agriculture, and consumer products. The medical problem is largely propagated by doctors' over prescription of antibiotics and patients' non-compliance when taking antibiotics. A poignant example of a disease that has had a dramatic resurgence because of the evolution of resistance is tuberculosis. The evolution of antibiotic resistance due to agricultural usage results from sub therapeutic use of antibiotics. Resistance can also evolve in the home through overuse of products containing antibacterial agents, most notably triclosan. In order to assess public knowledge of antibiotic resistance, we developed a survey and polled over 500 people about their antibiotic usage behaviors. Analysis of the results shows a lack of public knowledge about behaviors that lead to antibiotic resistance. To address this problem, we developed a curriculum module for use with elementary school children. The problem of antibiotic resistance is immense, and our research has determined that aside from a need for new antibiotics, there is a need for public education about proper usage of current antibiotics.

Corrections Reform

The Corrections Reform Team has worked over the past three years developing new approaches to addressing the supervision, treatment, and control of sex offenders in the community. After visiting and speaking with inmates at the Maryland Correctional Institute at Jessup and the Maryland Transition Center, the team conducted research into rehabilitative programs currently in use across the country. These efforts exposed the group to the Relapse Prevention (RP) model, and its effectiveness in preventing repeat offenses by sex offenders. Combined with research into technological trends at the American Correctional Association conference, the group developed an original design for the prevention of juvenile sex offender relapse by combining RP with a Global Positioning System tracking program. The Corrections Reform Team’s initiative received widespread attention for its innovative combination of existing programming and technology to create an entirely new system. The team was given the distinction as the first undergraduate research group invited to present at the American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting in San Francisco. Additionally, the team has established a partnership with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice, which has committed itself to the implementation of the program, as well as providing funding to the University to continue its research. The team’s work has already helped shaped the future of Maryland’s correctional policy, and will continue to do so in the coming years.

Genetics and Managed Care

Genetics and managed health care have been popular topics of debate in recent years. Genetics has been widely publicized since the completion of the Human Genome Project, for it is touted to revolutionize the health industry. With the ability to predict the onset of disease, genetics could emerge as a leading diagnostic tool. Despite the obvious advantages of genetic testing, many are still wary of the misuse of genetic information. Many fear a positive test result would lead to discrimination by their managed care organization (MCO), while others doubt their MCO will pay for such an expensive test. This is a serious problem because managed care is the primary form of health insurance in the United States. Our team has worked to develop a system under which genetic testing can be effectively incorporated into a managed care setting. By comparing the cost of treating a disease and preventing a disease, we have identified two diseases which are suitable candidates for our model.


What started out as a broad investigation of globalization and its effects has been refined into a study of technology transfer to developing nations. Specifically, the group has focused on the field of health care technology transfer from providers in the developed global North to the developing receivers in the global South. Employing the methodology of case studies in investigating the transfer of family planning technology and medical waste management technology has allowed the team to examine the transfer process and study the main factors affecting success. What has emerged is the importance of the role expectations play on the local, national, and international level during transfer.

Housing Into Community

The Housing into Community team began our project by exploring low income housing internationally. We looked at European, Asian, African, and South American housing; from our research we expected to propose alternative strategies for low income housing in America. We narrowed our project to local low income housing when we encountered an abundance of information and housing in need of rehabilitation. We explored specific housing developments in Baltimore and Washington, and then we decided that quality housing involves more than the physical structure. The residents of housing are equally important. We now believe that the community itself makes the housing. With that understanding, each member chose a specific facet of community - from crime prevention to health care to building design - and researched that topic in depth. Our final product is a presentation of some of the issues that affect housing as we look at it from a community standpoint.

Innovative Energy Systems

The focus of our research has been to conduct a feasibility study of a system using the methane generated from biomass at a municipal wastewater treatment plant to generate methanol, which is then used to fuel a small private fleet of fuel cell vehicles. In essence, this system is the merger of two promising areas of alternative-energy research, each of which has merit in its own right but neither of which has yet been attempted in combination. In the course of our own research, several renewable energy systems were investigated to assess the feasibility of incorporation into American automotive infrastructure; the combination of systems here was selected as one promising way to address some of the United States’ pressing environmental and energy-related concerns.

Learn USA

A combination of the globalization of the world’s economy and a majority of American students failing standardized tests has lead to a new educational reform movement in the United States. The current reform movement, like those that have come before, does not include the voice of students, the true consumers of education,. In an effort to give students a voice in the education reform movement, the Learn USA team conducted case studies in schools in Montgomery County. After conducting these case studies, the team realized that the information gathered could only bring about change if the people who could affect change were presented with this information. As a result, the Learn USA team held a conference on October 14, 2000 so that teachers, students, administrators, and politicians could participate in an open dialogue about their vision of the school of the future. A culmination of the results that were gathered during the case studies and at the conference showed us that adults and students have a similar vision for the school of the future.

Neural-Electrical Communications and Control

The Neural-Electrical Communication and Control team has conducted a broad study of the possible interface between biological structures and electronic devices, as well as the newly realized implications of such hybrid technology. The team discussed relevant topics regarding the nervous system, sensory and motory prosthetic technology, and the effect of current biological knowledge on future computing devices. After probing several issues to determine the feasibility of researching them, we settled on the efferent prosthetic technology known as the cochlear implant. We conducted studies in several arenas concerning the implant, such as the medical and computational technologies, domestic and worldwide availibility of both trained surgeons and the implant itself, and the social reaction to this availibility. Our research included an informative survey conducted at Gallaudet University. We have reached some conclusions in all facets of our study, and hope to offer a coherent presentation to professionals who may have knowledge in only some of these issues.

Nuclear Waste Disposal

Over three years, the Nuclear Waste Disposal Team completed studies touching on a verity of issues, including: proposed spent nuclear fuel disposal methods, site characterization of Yucca Mountain, media influence on public perception; public perception's effects on policy, the role of transportation in Yucca Mountain's success, proposed transportation methods and routes, and public education regarding spent fuel transportation. This research has coalesced into a recommendation of public education strategies that could help to alleviate public concerns regarding spent fuel transportation. We feel that public education is key to acceptance of a solution to the current waste problem, and that transportation is one of the most important targets for outreach efforts. The team has presented its research at American Chemical Society meetings in New Orleans; Washington, D.C.; and most recently in San Diego. In Washington, its presentation "Nuclear Waste Transportation: Prudent Move or Mobile Chernobyl?" received an award for Best New Member Paper. In addition, the team presented at the November, 2000 American Nuclear Society Conference; the 2000 McNair Scholars National Conference; and Maryland Day 2000. The team was selected to showcase its work as representative of the Gemstone Program to the University of Maryland Board of Regents.

Suburban/Urban Growth Management

The Suburban/Urban Growth Management Team has participated in several research projects pertaining to growth management in and around cities. In our first year, we exploited our mentors, Jacqueline Rogers and Susanne Slater, for exposure to growth issues in Maryland, and, in particular, Baltimore. We carried out a case study on a neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C., Edgewood Terrace, which was designed in the 1970s as a mixed-income community. We documented the reasons for its subsequent sharp decline and demonstrated hope for revitalization through current community empowerment efforts. We presented the case study at the 1999 meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management as the first-ever undergraduates to present at the conference. The following year we organized a seminar series consisting of lectures by experts in growth policy. Several members of our team also traveled to London, England for an intensive two-week course on that city's growth maintenance strategies. We then decided to focus our research on an evaluation of the effectiveness of Maryland local growth policies, looking specifically at the 1997 Smart Growth legislation. We have evaluated three counties in Maryland, chosen for their proximity to cities: Prince Georges, Montgomery, and Baltimore. Our research discusses education, transportation, planning, zoning, and water/sewer decisions made by these Counties since 1997, exploring the extent to which these jurisdictions have adhered to the principles of managed growth.

The Organ Deficit

The Gemstone Organ Deficit team, also known as the MODA (Maryland Organ Donation Awareness) project, has worked over the past three years to institute organ and tissue donation awareness measures at the University of Maryland, College Park campus. As a growing national problem, the need for organs has increased by 30% over the past three years, despite a modest 10% increase in the number of organs donated. The three-fold goal of the project was: a) to survey student attitudes towards the issue; b) to assess levels of change through an educational intervention program; and c) to create a prototype for future intervention programs to be used by student groups at UMCP and other large universities. Last summer, MODA participated in the College Donor Awareness Project (CDAP) conference hosted by the American College Health Association (ACHA), the Division of Transplantation (DoT) of the U.S. DHHS, and the University of Rhode Island. The group also attended the 2000 Organ and Tissue Donation Seminar hosted by the Transplant Resource Center of Maryland (TRC). In February, the Mid-Atlantic Coalition on Donation honored the group by hosting their monthly meeting at UMCP and featuring a presentation by MODA on current research and future goals of the project.