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!
Two New Courses Introduced
Last year, Berkshire’s academic departments engaged in a yearlong curriculum review. Our goal was to take a good, hard look at our curriculum to identify areas of strength and areas where we could continue to shape our academic program by creating dynamic new course offerings for our students. We started the review process by identifying the core skills Berkshire graduates need to succeed in college and beyond: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and community. Our commitment to these core skills has provided us with a clear lens by which to evaluate our current program and slate of classes, as well as to develop new programs and new classes. Two new courses that we anticipate offering next year will provide students not only with unique learning opportunities, but will encourage them to develop their mastery of these skills in a challenging and engaging way.
The math department will be offering Robotics and Engineering as an elective class. According to Math Department Chair Kurt Schleunes, the course “will introduce students to computer programming and robotics engineering by using a variety of programmable robotic platforms. Students will learn to program humanoid robots (the Bioloid Premium Robot) through a series of challenging scenarios that will require collaboration, mathematical precision, and creative problem-solving ability.” Because programmers will be working in teams to come up with creative solutions to problems, it is easy to see how students will be honing the skills that we’ve identified as central to our academic mission.
Berkshire’s new 2-megawatt solar field across the street has provided another opportunity for our students. The science department has been working on an upper level experiment-based course, Advanced Topics in Energy that will allow students to explore the design and function of general and renewable energy systems -- including wind and biomass, in addition to solar. Students will take advantage not only of Berkshire’s own solar field, but will connect with local business and energy experts to gain first-hand knowledge of this increasingly important sector. Anita Loose-Brown, Science Department Chair, is enthusiastic because the course will develop students' "experimental research and critical thinking skills so that they can understand energy debates and separate truth from hype in media representations of energy questions, as well as enhance students’ understanding of how their decisions concerning energy use connect to the overarching topic of sustainability."
Berkshire’s commitment to ongoing program evaluation and development is critical, as we continue to modify and hone our current and future academic program to keep pace with the dramatically changing global landscape.
-- Clay Splawn, Academic Dean