NEWT GEMS : Girls EMpowerment in STEM

NEWT GEMs mentors were provided some “gems” in the way of testimonials by their mentees on how awesome their STEM learning summer went at the campus of Rice University. The GEMS program provides girls from middle school/high school age an opportunity to meet one Friday a month during the summer to learn more about careers in STEM. Each session starts with breakfast with mentors, professional and diversity and inclusion training, and guest faculty speakers to offer some insight about NEWT and other science engineering paths. 

Girls discovered more of the campus via tours inside a civil and environmental engineering laboratory, the NEWT testbed showing various clean water purification technologies, a trip to NEST360, medical lab focused on infant mortality in Africa, and and a trip around Rice Fondren Library. This included lunch and an ice cream social with graduate students currently working as university researchers. 

We hope to see them return after their next four years of high school and fulfill their careers in science, technology, engineering and math. 

Evaluation and testing of new industrial water treatment technologies
Dr. Ibrahim Abdallah presenting revolutionary clean water technologies
GEMS learn more about the process with Naomi Fuentes, Research Assistant
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This program was a lovely experience and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Out of all the amazing activities, my favorite would definitely be the lab tours where we were able to explore equipment, processes, and gain understanding of how the researcher worked. It was really educational and put a lot of potential STEM careers in perspective for me. My favorite memories were discussing various topics, colleges, and future life over lunch (at the servery) and the team building activities, which allowed me to collaborate and interact with my peers. I had a lot of fun and gained a lot of insight from this program. I would definitely recommend it to others, especially underclassman (9th and 10th graders)! I would love to keep in contact with these mentors and my fellow peers; I’m sure I still have a lot to learn from them!

Naomi Fuentes, NEWT Testbed Researcher, is explaining how corrosion works, testing different coatings on stainless steel under varying conditions.

The NEWT GEMS Mentoring Program involved many lab tours, creative/ academic discussions, and most importantly, amazing people and mentors. My favorite memory from the NEWT GEMS program was working together as a team to communicate our thoughts and perspectives. In the NEWT GEMS program, I really felt connected with my peers and my mentor, Ms. Shababa, and Durnian made me feel welcomed all the time! I really grew as a person from this program, and I feel more confident in pursuing STEM in the future. Thank you everyone.

Dr. Pedro Alvarez Lab
Civil and Environmental Engineering Lab

I really enjoyed the lab tours because it gave me insight about the daily life of different jobs in STEM. Another activity from this program that I loved was the Lego communication activity because it was very fun and demonstrated the importance of communication. I am thankful for the opportunity to join the program because it gave me some valuable information about STEM jobs and now I have a better idea of what I want to do for a job in the future. 🙂

Aaron Bayles, Jordin Metz, and Sara Dennison with students

I had many favorite memories in the program. Some of them include the ice-cream social because we got to meet many new scientists and a professor/ researcher which was very interesting. I also loved being able to meet special guests and going to the labs because we were able to learn so many new things thought going to the different labs and getting to know these different fields in STEM.

Pratiksha Dongare sharing stories
Inside the NEST360

My favorite part was going to Rice360 and seeing the prototypes. My favorite memory has to be at lunch and all of us are just talking about random things. I feel like this was a really good intro to Rice and STEM at Rice. I loved how nice and welcoming everyone is. I would recommend this program to anyone that has a chance.

Showing prototypes and final products
What a university lab looks like
Durnian Parulski-Seager

Creating and developing NEWT GEMS was an amazing, but at times a challenging, opportunity to do something that would help students on their STEM journey. I felt motivated to start such a program because I received, and still receive, great mentorship from Dr. Scott Williams; I would not have grown as much as I have without his support and guidance. I want to provide that same type of support and guidance to students as they set out to achieve their goals. My main hope for the girls was that they would finish this program with a better understanding of the different STEM career paths available and a clearer idea of what path(s) might be the best fit for them based on their passions and values. I also hoped to provide them with tools that they could use throughout their career paths such as the fishbone activity and SMART goals. In addition, I really wanted them to feel that they have a supportive space, a community of people who have similar interests and may experience the same struggles.

GEM Mentors: Sara Denison, Cianna Leschied, Durnian Parulski-Seager, Shababa Matin

However, I wouldn’t have been able to start this program without the help of the NEWT GEMS committee members and mentors!

Sara Denison and Shababa Matin put in so much time and effort making this a great program, from developing and running activities to serving as mentors. Cianna Leschied was also an amazing mentor who provided valuable insight about how to teach students which she gained as a high school teacher. I truly appreciate all their dedication and effort!!! I also want to thank
Christina Alston for acting as a sounding board as well as providing advice and guidance as we developed NEWT GEMS.

GEMS is looking for mentors for next summer as well as NEWT GEM committee members! If you’re interested in participating in the program, even if it is not as a mentor or committee member, please reach out to Durnian Parulski-Seager.