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!
Mika Nakashige '09, a sophomore at Williams College, participated in the Advanced Math/Science Research class (AMSR) during her senior year at Berkshire School. Mika worked with her mentor, Dr. David Strait, an anthropologist at the State University of New York (SUNY) - Albany who uses biomechanics combined with computer simulation to model how facial muscles operate in primates. Mika’s work, which was completed during her year in AMSR, has just been published in the prestigious Journal of Anatomy. Mika is the principal author of the paper.
Mika’s project involved creating a computer model of the skull and facial muscles in a monkey and then altering the model to try to understand the evolution of early hominids. Mika’s project was very interdisciplinary as it was a combination of biomechanics, anthropology, and computer simulation. “When I opened the e-mail from Dr. Strait, I was so excited!" said Mika. "I think it’s amazing that this program continues to benefit me even while I'm in college. Not just with this paper, but by opening doors to other research opportunities as well. Of course, none of this could have been done without Mr. Schleunes and Dr. Strait. Both of them have put so much time and effort toward giving me this amazing opportunity to do research in the first place. Mr. Schleunes, driving the van every week and cheering us up if we had a rough day, and Dr. Strait, teaching me how to truly do science, are memories that I will never forget. Working with both of them was so much fun, and they showed me that as long as I really enjoy what I'm doing, it's not work.
Mika was also the captain of the Varsity Volleyball and Tennis teams during her time at Berkshire. What did she like most about Berkshire? “The beauty of the mountain and the natural surroundings,” said Mika.
Mika’s title page with the abstract is shown below.
The Advanced Math/Science Research course is designed to provide an opportunity for students who are passionate about a particular subject area to work with mentors in world class laboratories. The students are involved in an exciting array of projects in a wide variety of fields: Nano-technology, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Economics, and Biomechanics, to name just a few.
For a complete listing of the students, mentors and site locations, click here.
Course instructor and Math Department Chair Kurt Schleunes is proud of the dedication and drive of his students. “The students are doing actual research in some of the top laboratories in the world. They work with highly accomplished mentors in a field of their choice from four to eight hours a week. The students are also required to write a Research Overview paper, a Research Proposal paper and a Research paper in scientific form of their results. They also create PowerPoint presentations and posters. Presenting and defending their work is an important part of the course.” Schleunes added, “Berkshire School is one of just a handful of boarding schools in the United States that offers this type of course.