Advanced Math/Science Research Update

by Dr. April Burch, Director of the AMSR program

January 15, 2013

Since our last update, Berkshire School hosted student researchers from Belmont Hill, and all-boys prep school outside of Boston, for a 1-day mini-symposium on Student Biomedical Research. The goal was to foster collaboration, communication and community outreach with our students.  AMSR students Liza Bernstein '13, Sissi Wang '13, Lars Robinson '13, Elsie Guevara '13, Ernest Yue '13, and Nate MacKenzie '14, gave short talks about their work in the new Bellas/Dixon Math and Science lecture hall. The talks were followed up by break-out sessions where Belmont Hill students described their research projects and students discussed commonalities between the projects and future goals.

The second semester of AMSR started with some terrific news. The AMSR program was awarded a grant from The Chinchester Dupont Foundation for the purchase of an EVOS fluorescence microscope.  This piece of equipment will expand the types of experiments and analyses that can be done by AMSR students this and future years.  The microscope should arrive shortly, and Dr. Burch has invited everyone to stop in for a look next time they are on campus. 

One new, exciting project that is underway in the winter season of AMSR in the afternoons is being spearheaded by Elif Kesaf '14.  Elif is from Turkey and seeks to identify novel viruses of non-pathogenic strains of Legionella bacterium from travertines in Pamukkale. In collaboration with Dr. Sunny Shin at the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, she will be working to isolate viruses of this bacterium with the hope of identifying new agents to combat Legionnaires' disease caused by a pathogenic form of Legionella.

Look for more news from Dr. Burch in the next issue!

Independent Study: Jorge Bordas
Posted 03/10/2011 02:24PM

Growing up in Barcelona, Spain, Jorge Bordas ’11 had friends who dreamed of careers as soccer players for their beloved FC Barcelona.  Although Jorge loves soccer, especially his hometown team he calls Barça, he has always wanted to be a businessman.  His Independent Study in Business and the Stock Market is a step in that direction.

An interest in business runs in Jorge’s family.  His parents own several restaurants and clubs in Barcelona, and his brother Ramon ’10 is in his first year at ESADE, a top European business school located in Barcelona.  Jorge has been admitted to ESADE for next year.

In the meantime, he has been learning as much about business as he can.  In his Adv. Economics course, he studies concepts and theories, and in his Independent Study, he narrows his focus to the practical problems of formulating a business plan for a Spanish restaurant in New York City.

Beginning last summer, Jorge tracked international restaurant chains on the New York Stock Exchange (through Yahoo Finance) to see if there was a pattern to the rise and fall of restaurant stocks.  He then did some research in the first months of school to determine why stocks went up and down.  He began working towards the business plan in first semester.

Jorge meets weekly with his project advisor, John Alden, Berkshire’s Chief Financial Officer, whose background includes a BS from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and an MBA from Harvard Business School.  Before coming to Berkshire, Mr. Alden worked twenty years with Sheraton Hotels, including being Director of Food and Beverage for The St. Regis Hotel in NYC and Vice President, Food and Beverage, for Sheraton Inns worldwide.

Jorge did some field work on his project during fall Parents’ Weekend, when he and his parents visited New York.  With his father, Jorge had a “quick dinner” in what Jorge had earlier determined to be the four best Spanish restaurants in the city.  Jorge was surprised:  while the food was somewhat familiar, including tapas (a Spanish appetizer of small pieces of bread with various toppings), he noted that “the typical tapas plates from Spain weren’t available at these American restaurants.  Worse was that the ambience wasn’t warm:  we didn’t feel at home in the Spanish restaurants in New York.  All of those restaurants could be improved.”  That trip helped Jorge determine the kinds of food, restaurant size, and décor he would incorporate into his business plan.

Much of Jorge’s research has been online.  He was surprised to learn that one out of ten people in the city work in the restaurant industry.  He also uses a Zagat guide to New York restaurants, which he says offers good information.  Second semester has been focused on gathering specific data about such things as rent, labor, furniture, licenses, equipment, china, and flatware that will all figure in the plan he will write.  Jorge did a drawing of a restaurant “to see how many people I could fit into a small restaurant” and determined that a space of 2000 square feet could accommodate 64 diners.   To estimate costs, Jorge has relied on his father “who tells me what something costs in Spain,” and on Mr. Alden, “who uses his experience as a hotel manager to discuss if that cost would be the same in the U.S.  If the figures don’t match up, we explore more.”  For instance, his father had no idea what restaurant rental costs would be in Manhattan, so Jorge went back online and determined a figure of $23 per square foot per month.

Recently, Jorge and Mr. Alden have been working on a formula to assess how many meals his restaurant would need to serve to offset all other expenses.  “With my initial prices for costs, assuming that people would spend about $45 per meal, the number of covers [meals served] would have to be 161 a day.  That was a lot, so we went back to the original costs and tried to figure out what we could take out.”  Jorge mentions a number of subsequent ideas:  making the restaurant larger so more people could fit in, putting in more bar space because profit for bar sales is high.  He also considered cutting labor costs during slow weekdays and concentrating labor money into the weekends.

While Jorge has documented his research with summaries and ideas about each point he’s explored, he will start writing his actual business plan after March break.  He has a business plan from the internet that will be his model.  Through Mr. Alden, he will also have contact with a restaurant owner in Connecticut who wrote a business plan prior to opening his restaurant.

Jorge’s final plan will include his original ideas for a restaurant as well as a process to expand the New York restaurant into a chain.  Mr. Alden and Jorge have discussed Venture Capital financing, which would lead to eventually issuing stock as a way to finance the growth of the chain, and also have explored the procedures for seeking  loans for start-ups from the U. S. Small Business Administration. 

To learn more about Independent Study at Berkshire, click here.

-- Linda Bellizzi, Director of the Independent Study Program

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