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: Spring Update
Posted 04/06/2012 10:19AM

Independent Study: Spring Update

The Independent Study Program at Berkshire allows students to pursue an academic interest that extends beyond the core courses and the dozens of electives offered in the regular curriculum. Working with a faculty mentor, a student designs a course and directs its in-depth development in either a one-semester or year’s study. Independent Studies may combine academic work on campus with shadowing area professionals or volunteer internships at local organizations.

In the first semester of 2011-2012, thirteen students began Independent Study projects. In January, six other students began independent work.  

The Berkshire School community will celebrate the work of the following students on Independent Study Night, May 17, in Berkshire Hall.

  • Thomas Harrigan ’12, working with Michael Dalton, is studying the architecture and engineering in the design and construction of Berkshire’s new Math/Science Facility.
  • Simon Jia ’12 assists French teacher Elizabeth Renehan in her French I class and offers extra help to students taking French language courses.
  • Three students are studying with Berkshire’s Athletic Training staff. Kelsey West ’12 and Alex English ’12 meet with Marc Wysocki, and Kelly Dempsey ’12 with Brian Lewton. All of the students are exploring the profession of athletic training, with an eye to future study at the college level.
  • Samuel Cabot ’13 is working with various equipment and software in Berkshire’s Dixon Observatory in a project on Advanced Astro-Imaging. His teaching mentor is Dan Spear.
  • Akash Bharwani ’12, with Jesús Ibáñez, is reading and writing about Spanish and Latin American literature in his Advanced Spanish Literature project.
  • Michelle Jung ’14 is pursuing Advanced Music Theory, including ear training, with Tasia Wu.
  • Niklas Rhodes ’12 and Elias Krause ’12 are adapting a stage play, The Intruder, for film in their Advanced Film Production project with Jesse Howard.
  • Hayden Provost ’12 works with Anita Loose-Brown to study Zebra Mussel Biology, primarily in Lake Champlain near his home but also in lakes near Berkshire School.
  • Bradley Keum ’12 is researching educational changes in his home country of Korea in the last hundred years. His history mentor is Bill Bullock.
  • Eli Merritt ’12 is working with Linda D’Arco on the first phase of a project to install a permanent piece of sculpture on Berkshire’s campus. In first semester, he is creating maquettes and working with a foundry, hoping to create a large bronze bear in the spring.
  • Taylor Sorensen ’13 extended her first-semester study of psychology with Sylvia Gappa into a second-semester independent project on developmental psychology, focusing on the infants and preschoolers at Undermountain Child Care on the Berkshire School campus.
  • Jae Seung Lee ’13, mentored by Wil Smith, is exploring ethnic stratification in the multicultural American society. He is also examining experiences of international students at Berkshire.
  • Charlotte Weil ’13 is researching women’s fashion design. With the guidance of Linda D’Arco, she is developing a portfolio of original designs and creating garments for peers to model in a springtime show.
  • The Pacific Theater in World War II is the focus of study for Charles Yorke ’13. Working with Wil Smith, he is researching military strategies and tactics in the major battles of that part of the war.
  • Ximena Lascuarin ’13 is interviewing professionals who work in the culinary field and writing profiles of their experiences. Her mentor is Linda Bellizzi.
  • Juan Escobar ’13 is completing the introductory French I course with Elizabeth Renehan, working independently with the plan of further study in the language.


After presenting their written proposals to a panel of faculty members for approval, students meet with their mentors each week, sometimes more than once, depending on the course. Assessment varies by topic: most students read extensively and write essays or critiques in addition to leading discussions with their mentors on their progress. Others demonstrate through projects or compositions that they are progressing in the syllabus they created.

Primarily available to Fifth and Sixth Form students, the program is flexible if a strong proposal comes from an under-former. An Independent Study may be taken as a fifth course, to earn a letter grade, or as an additional course, either graded or pass/fail.

The Independent Study Program is directed by Linda Bellizzi, a member of the English faculty. 


Berkshire School

245 North Undermountain Road
 |  Sheffield, MA 01257
 |  T: 413 229 8511

Berkshire School is a co-ed, New England college preparatory boarding and day school offering a rigorous academic course of study in the northeast United States. Our campus, located in Massachusetts, has state-of-the-art academic, artistic and athletic facilities on a stunning 400-acre campus in the Berkshires.

Berkshire School received 5 out of 5 stars from over 3 Google reviews.

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