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: Andrew Walther '11 and Tim Kou '12
Posted 04/15/2011 11:17AM

While Andrew Walther ’11 and Tim Kou ’12 developed their interest in economics through different paths, they were brought together last fall by a desire to study Micro and Macroeconomics at the AP level. With their faculty advisor, Jasper Turner, the boys are preparing for the two economics AP tests this spring by reading and discussing a comprehensive college-level text, N. Gregory Mankiw’s Principles of Economics, and completing practice AP tests.

Andrew, who is from Elkins Park, PA, says that “I’ve always liked business.”  In about the ninth grade, he began to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, both for its stock market information and its conservative perspective on business news.  Two years ago, he and his dad wrote a computer program to evaluate stocks through their intrinsic value and their book value, with an eye towards getting useful information and helping Andrew to come up with an investment strategy.  When he proposed studying AP Economics last fall, Andrew also planned a real-world application of the concepts he would be studying in his textbook.  “I had about $1000 I was going to invest,” he says.  “I threw it into the market a little while ago.  It hasn’t had much time to do anything, but I am hopeful that I’ll see some good returns in the future.  If I do well on a stock, I can recycle it into a little fund I have or snag some spending money from it.”

Andrew finds his independent study useful for various reasons.  While he misses the spontaneity of a classroom setting and hearing many different students’ angles on topics, Andrew finds that his work has been important in confirming that he wants to major in economics in college.  “The flexibility of an independent study is a positive because it makes the course possible:  it was my 7th course in first semester, and now my 6th.”  He adds that studying independently  “ makes me more intrinsically motivated:  at any given point I can close the book and no one knows, but I think it’s going to prepare me to take control of my future course of studies.”  

Tim Kou, who came to Berkshire from Beijing, China, last September, took an elective economics class in his previous school, The Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University.  After a brief introduction to economic theory, the class worked with a classroom-based economic simulation computer program called MESE (Management and Economics Simulation Exercises), which is the basis for a national contest offered by Junior Achievement Worldwide.  Although Tim did not have time in his schedule to compete with the school’s team, he enjoyed the class because he worked with various small groups to consider the many variables necessary to get maximum profits from their simulated companies.  After taking that class, “I wanted to know more about the theories that are behind actual companies.  I wanted to extract the core that governs success or failure,” Tim says.   He finds that his independent study “is systematic and structured:  everything links together, is coherent.” 

This exposure to the field of economics should be useful down the road for Tim, who next year will do a project in Math/ Science research on game theory in computer programing at Berkshire.  He also sees economics as a good choice for a college major and has his eye on schools like the University of Chicago.  “More importantly,” Tim says, “as I step into my 20’s, having some knowledge of economics will allow me to manage my life—and scarce resources like time, brain power, money—to its most effective level.”

Andrew and Tim’s faculty mentor, Mr. Turner, is excited about the progress of this course.  “Both Tim and Andrew have been working diligently throughout the year to supplement their already impressive understanding of economics.  With their strong math background, the reasoning and quantitative components of economics came quickly to them.  They’ve also read a variety of Economist and other business journal articles related to the subject.  In fact, we’ve just finished discussing a cost-benefit analysis of taxation on the US economy.  Both students bring incredibly different perspectives to the table.  Andrew’s a strong believer in the free market and Tim comes from a powerful historically command-oriented economy.  Hopefully, their hard work all year will be apparent on the AP.”

-- Linda Bellizzi, Independent Study Program Director

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