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!
Bellas/Dixon Center Dedication
On Friday, October 5, Berkshire School dedicated its new math and science building in honor of two longtime Berkshire faculty members: Rick Bellas and Tom Dixon. The building will be known as the Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center.
Click here for images from the day’s events.
During remarks opening the dedication ceremony, Head of School Mike Maher said, “In order to prepare students to be innovative thinkers and problem solvers, ready for an intellectual landscape we can’t even begin to predict, a solid foundation in math and science is essential.” He added that the new building would support students in all levels and grades with “lab facilities that rival any other school in the nation” and “seamless access to the mountain behind us, that’s always been a hallmark of relevant learning in our science classrooms.”
The building, designed by Centerbook Architects, is on track to receive LEED Gold certification for its many environmentally sustainable features. Mark Simon, partner at Centerbrook, also spoke at the dedication and touted the new building as being a “uniquely Berkshire building ... by, of, and just for Berkshire.”
Steve Norman ’60, president of Berkshire’s Board of Trustees, closed the ceremony by honoring Rick Bellas and Tom Dixon for their years of service. He said, “On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the generations of students whose lives you both positively impacted, a heartfelt thank you for your commitment to this School.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Carl Zimmer, a Yale University lecturer and author of 12 books on topics ranging from the history of neuroscience, to viruses, to evolution, kicked off the events with remarks titled “Exploring Your Inner Jungle.” "Mr. Zimmer spoke on how our human bodies actually co-exist with, and depend on, common bacteria that provide digestive enzymes and vitamins, akin to a microbial organ that weighs 3-4 pounds” said Dr. April Burch, director of Berkshire's Advanced Math/Science Research program. She continued, “As only an incredible storyteller could, Zimmer described how the future of medicine will change as we embrace and understand this new microbial organ.” Mr. Zimmer's Berkshire connection runs deep: both his grandfather, Harrison Goodspeed, Jr., and his great grandfather, Harrison Goodspeed, were Berkshire graduates in 1942 and 1914 respectively.
More on the honorees:
Rick Bellas came to Berkshire in 1974 and taught all levels of math and economics until his retirement in 2005. He was awarded the first-ever Myers Master award for teaching excellence in 1995. In 2005, the senior class bestowed upon Rick another great honor: the yearbook dedication. In the words of the Class of 2005: “Mr. Bellas guided and inspired students in and outside the classroom. He demonstrates a genuine interest in his students and is truly proud of their successes. We, the senior class, appreciate Mr. Bellas for his passion, energy and enthusiasm. His efforts as a teacher, coach and dorm parent have been exceptional and for that we are very grateful.”
Tom Dixon served in many roles at Berkshire after arriving in 1961: teacher of math and science, science department chair, dean of students, founder of the School’s radio station, WBSL 91.7 FM, Senior Master and the School’s first technology director. In 2000, he and his wife, Cynthia White Dixon, gave the wonderful gift of the Dixon Observatory to the School as part of the Berkshire 2000 Campaign. Mr. Dixon was also a member of the Board of Trustees from 1977-1980 and 2001-2007, after retiring from teaching. As a member of the Board, he set the course for Berkshire’s investment in technology and pioneered the School’s research into the use of anti-virus software, firewalls and other cyber-security initiatives. Mr. Dixon was named the Kellogg Volunteer of the Year in 2008 for his dedication and loyalty to Berkshire.