Beyond Materials Science and Engineering: Students Outside of the Classroom

The University of Maryland and the Washington, D.C. metro area are great places to meet new friends, explore, attend events, and participate in on- and off-campus activities. Here's what some of our undergraduates are doing when they're not busy learning how to be materials scientists and engineers:

Rachel Stein: Engineer, Terrapin and International Athlete

rachel stein
Rachel Stein.

Rachel Stein is one of the starting goalies on the University of Maryland Women's water polo team. She has been competing for over eight years and has traveled abroad while playing with both the Ontario Provincial and Canadian National Junior Women's Teams.

Rachel and the team train 3-4 hours a day, five days a week, which includes weightlifting, tactics and video sessions in addition to pool practices. There are also additional practice sessions for 2 hours on Saturdays. Practice begins at 6:00 AM!  Rachel generally practices for 20 hours a week starting in October to prepare for the season until the final tournaments in May. Games are scheduled during the spring semester and include travelling with the squad across the country.  Rachel was named to the 2010 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Women's Varsity Scholar-Athlete Team (Outstanding Recognition).

Rachel is also involved with the University of Maryland Society of Women Engineers (SWE). She is considering going to graduate school after college to further study medical implants and how the materials they are made of interact with the human body.

Olatunji Godo (B.S. '11): Educator, Tutor, and Mentor

olatunji godoOlatunji Godo shows Maryland Day visitors how to operate one of the SeaPerch robots, which was built by some of the the high school students he mentors.

When he wasn't in class or the lab, Tunji was an enthusiastic educator. He mentored precollege students in a variety of science and engineering topics, including leading a team participating in SeaPerch, a national underwater robotics program for high school students funded by the Office of Naval Research and organized on campus by the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering (CMSE). In Spring 2011 he hosted nanotechnology workshops for middle school students at CMSE's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Expo. He also tutored fellow university students in calculus and chemistry at the Athletics Department's Academic Support & Career Development Unit.

"My aspiration is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers through exciting hands-on activities that will stimulate and engineer their interest," he says. "Tutoring [was] the best part of my day and my own little way of giving back."

Eric Epstein: Engineers Without Borders

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Eric Epstein (right) working on EWB's bioretention facility implementation on campus during winter break 2010.

Eric is a self-described "avid member" of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). EWB sends teams of volunteers to developing countries around the world to complete projects that enable residents obtain safe drinking water, better santation, power, education, and more.

Eric was part of a team that designed a water pump, storage, and filtration system for a medical center in Burkina Faso, Africa. The system is slated for installation in 2011.

EWB members also help with projects in their own countries and communities. During winter break in 2010, Eric collaborated with several students from the University of Maryland EWB chapter to build a bioretention facility near a large campus parking lot, which currently filters water runoff from over 2.5 acres of impervious land coverage on campus.

Zara Simpson, Raj Bajwa, and The Mighty Sound of Maryland

Two MSE undergrads are members of the Mighty Sound of Maryland, a 250+ member group who perform at home football games, as well as travel to at least one away football game each year. Zara Simpson and Raj Bajwa are members of the MSOM’s Drumline. 

zara simpson
Zara Simpson (left) and Raj Bajwa (right) on the field.

On October 11, 2010, the MSOM learned that they had won the CBS Hawaii 5-0 Marching Band Mania contest. Eighteen marching bands from across the country competed in the contest which required the band to perform the Hawaii 5-0 theme music.  Bands were judged on musicianship, band choreography, originality of performance and evaluation of the performance as a whole, as well as a vote by the viewing public. The selection was announced live on the Hawaii 5-0 television show.

The MSOM received $25,000 as the winner of the contest. The MSOM rehearsed the Hawaii 5-0 performance in two intense weeks. Zara said, "We did crazy things for publicity in that contest, including standing in Byrd Stadium at 5:30am in red parkas in the misty gross rain playing live for the morning news." The MSOM like to call themselves the "Best Band in the Land," but after winning the contest by a landslide of public voting, MSOM Director Dr. Sparks calls them the "Most Popular Band in the Land."

The band at large practices 8 hours a week—three marching rehearsals Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and an indoor music rehearsal Tuesday nights. Members of the Drumline practice two extra hours on Thursday Nights, beyond regularly scheduled rehearsals.

Watch MSOM's winning "Hawaii 5-0" performance!

See the MSOM perform Michael Jackson's "Thriller" during the halftime show at the University of Maryland's 2010 Homecoming game!

Hilary Lane (B.S. '09): Dancing, Resident Life, and MatES

hilary lane

In addition to a full course schedule, Hilary was a member of Unbound, the competitive dance team at Maryland. Unbound performs at school events such as homecoming and basketball games as well as competing against competitive dance teams from other local universities. Members of Unbound must audition for the team, with only one or two new students asked to join the group each year. Generally the team rehearses about 6 hours a week, although extra practices are scheduled prior to performances.

Hilary was also a Resident Assistant for Resident Life, available to the residents on her floor to answer questions and help them solve any problems 24/7 during the academic year. She worked 12 hour shifts and organized a program for the residents 1-2 times a month.


Hilary Lane with the Unbound dance team.
Right: Hilary Lane (front row, 2nd from left) with the Unbound dance team.

Hilary also served as the treasurer of the MatES, the Materials Science and Engineering student group, and has been active in outreach activities for the Department. Although Hilary was quite involved in teams and leadership roles during her college career, she thinks that being involved in activities better reinforces one’s organization, time management skills, and reliability. 


Christine Lau (B.S. '10): Martial Arts, Gamer Symphony Orchestra, and Clark School Ambassador

christine lau

Christine Lau was active in Terpwushu, a Chinese martial arts sports club on campus. There are approximately 60 members of the group who practice about 3 times a week. The UM group competes against other universities, usually hosting the East Coast Annual University Wushu Games. They also compete in the national collegiate competition every spring. The group often eats dinner together and presents an annual show in the spring to showcase their group to UM students.

Christine was also a member of the Gamer Symphony Orchestra (GSO), a music group consisting of an orchestra and a chorus that performs video game music. Every piece they perform is arranged by members of the GSO. Both the orchestra and chorus rehearse separately at least once a week throughout the semester and start practicing jointly several weeks before concerts. They hold two concerts a year: one in the fall and one in the spring. Christine serves as the section leader for the sopranos and altos.

Christine served as a Clark School Ambassador for two years. Ambassadors participate in on and off campus activities designed to promote engineering and the Clark School. She was also active in MatES, the Materials Science and Engineering student group.