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STEM Gems: 2013-2014 Mentors

Asia Ingram

asiaSenior, Biomedical Engineering
Activities: Senator, National Society of Black Engineers; member, Black Student Union, Minority Student Advisory Board, College Diversity Roundtable.

"Lots of students come here, especially from low-income areas, believing they have to do things on their own because they've always had to. We're teaching them 'that's not how it works anymore; now you need to learn how to work with others.'  Engineering has to be a group effort. Problem sets shouldn't be done alone. They should be done with your friends, figuring out things together, because you'll be more successful that way."

1. "Study is a daily task." Don't wait until four days before a final exam to read the book or go over problems.
2. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Make yourself known to faculty, ask questions in class -- and take advantage of office hours.

Gregory Pennamon

gregorySenior, Chemical Engineering
Activities: Vice president, National Society of Black Engineers, member, Black Student Union.

Gregory, a member of the UR Varsity Basketball team during his freshman and sophomore years, found out firsthand how tough it can be to balance sports and academics at the same time. "I was trying to figure out everything on my own, and struggling to find some resources to guide me." The Kearns Center helped him with tutoring, and he worked with ChemE classmates who were taking some of the same classes.

1. Take advantage of help offered by TAs and professors.
2. Work with groups of students. "As an engineer, it is very hard to work as a single person on problem sets and different projects."

Marquis Turner

marquis turnerSenior, Chemical Engineering (minor in Studio Arts)
Activities: President, National Society of Black Engineers; member, Black Student Union, Varsity Track Team.

It's easy for incoming students to feel intimidated by peers majoring in engineering and sciences, Marquis notes. They're obviously good at math and science, which can be daunting. But don't let that stop you from establishing networks with your classmates. "You don't realize how valuable that is until you reach upper classman status, as you become a junior or senior. Without a support group in STEM, it can be extremely difficult, not just academically but emotionally."

1. "Everything you need is on campus. If you think there is no way anyone on campus can help you with something, you're almost always wrong, whether it's something financial or academic." Just be diligent in finding out who to go to.
2. Take advantage of STEM-Gem study halls. Mentors, peers who are in the same boat – and yes, even food – will be available. "STEM-Gems doesn't just offer a place to study. It's an environment."

Elias Flowers

elias flowersJunior, Chemical Engineering
Activities: Pre-collegiate Initiative Chair, National Society of Black Engineers; member, American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Elias felt badly that he failed his first exam in calculus –but so did just about everyone else in the class, and the teacher eventually realized he had made the class too difficult. "Sometimes it's not just you; sometimes it actually might be the professor." Like a lot of incoming engineering students, Elias also struggled with physics, but got the tutoring he needed to pass the class.

1. "Don't get discouraged, no matter how far behind you feel you are, or how badly you think you may be doing. Keep trying; eventually all that hard work will pay off, either all at once or maybe gradually.""
2. Do your homework!

Adalberto 'Berto' Perez

adalberto perezJunior, Mechanical Engineering
Activities: Vice president, American Society of Mechanical Engineers; vice president, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers; member, Baja SAE team.

Berto came to the UR with an interest in mechanical engineering, but "wasn't entirely sold on it." As a freshman he joined the UR Baja SAE Team, which each year builds an off-road vehicle and competes against other universities – and things started falling into place. "Since we do a lot of mechanical engineering on the team, that's what really sparked my interest in actually becoming a mechanical engineer."

UR classwork has been "much harder" than what he encountered in high school, Berto noted, so his main adjustment was  "getting into the college mindset, and the work ethic of college."

1. Join extracurricular activities such as Baja, Solar Splash, or the Biodiesel club since that is one of the ways to get hands-on experience with engineering right at the start.

“Sound design is one of the coolest things I have ever learned about,” said Stephanie Roman, who, with classmate Renjin Zhao, created a spooky Halloween Haunted House sound bite for AME193. They created all the sounds from scratch – flapping a keyboard cover really fast, for example, to create the sound of bats flying through the air.

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