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!
AMSR 2011-12 Wrap-Up
The Advanced Math & Science Research (AMSR) program is in its 5th year of providing authentic research experiences to Berkshire School students in classrooms and biomedical laboratories around the area. In addition to their regular schedules, which often include multiple AP courses, this year’s AMSR students logged hundreds of hours of laboratory work, performed countless experiments, and contributed significant amounts of extra work in pursuit of a world-class scientific educational experience.
Twenty twelve was another banner year for students in the AMSR Program. The highlight of this year’s accomplishments was the INTEL competition, where student researchers submit their research findings to a review panel of experts. Two Berkshire School seniors, Peiyun Ni and Seyoon Lee, were named INTEL semifinalists. As only a few hundred student researchers from around the country are named each year, this is a very prestigious award and speaks to the talent of these students and the commitment of both the Mentor and the AMSR Faculty leaders.
The accomplishments of the 2012 students were on display at the AMSR poster session held on May 23rd in the Berkshire Hall Atrium. At the banquet that followed, the current students and Head of School Mike Maker showed their appreciation for Math Department Chair Kurt Schleunes, the outgoing Director and founder of the AMSR program. Maher also welcomed the new Director Dr. April Burch. Dr. Burch is a classically-trained Virologist who comes to Berkshire School from the Wadsworth Center and SUNY-Albany, where she mentored James Steiner ’12. She is thrilled to be a part of the Berkshire School community and about ushering the AMSR program to the next level.
Construction on the 14,000 sq. ft. Science Education and Research Building will be completed in August of this year. The building will house multiple state-of-the-art teaching “CLabs” (classroom labs), a 120-seat lecture hall, several study areas, areas for long-term exploration, and a high-tech fully-equip research laboratory where Dr. Burch will conduct and supervise student-driven research. Berkshire School is the first independent preparatory school to offer an on-campus research program directed by a Resident Scientist. The ultimate goal of the new AMSR program is to offer Berkshire School students more research opportunities on-campus without the need for hours of travel.
In addition to assisting students with on-going research projects, Dr. Burch will launch the Berkshire School Phage Hunters research program in the new academic year. This college-level program will allow student researchers to utilize cutting-edge technologies to isolate and characterize their very own virus from environmental samples collected on campus and on the mountain. These common viruses infect bacteria, are found in most places and are excellent/safe model systems for biomedical research. Dr. Burch aspires to publish the work from the Berkshire School Phage Hunters in a peer-reviewed journal at the end of the 2013 academic year. Stay tuned for more….