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 Profile: Ernest Yue '13
Ernest Yue, a senior from China, is a featured student of the Advanced Math/Science Research (AMSR) program. Ernest is working with Dr. Nick Webb of Union College. Professor Webb is an expert in Artificial Intelligence and Computational Linguistics. His research encompasses a range of language processing problems, including Information Extraction, Question Answering and Dialogue Systems. Dr. Webb is now turning his expertise to social robotics. Ernest chose to work with Dr. Webb to learn more about artificial intelligence and computer programming. Ernest meets with Dr. Webb at Berkshire School in the Project Exploration Laboratory.
Click here to learn more about Dr. Webb.
Click here to watch Dr. Webb's recent TED talk.
Ernest’s project involves building a better social robot. Specifically, Ernest is working with Dr. Webb to build the module for the robot to use for recognizing human gestures like a hand gesturing to stop. “Adding such features to a social robot makes it more 'social' and humanized," said Dr. Webb. "While socializing with others, verbal cues are only one form of communication for a human. Gestures and other body languages (for example eye contact or facial cues) are important for a human in socialization—so are they for a social robot. Social robotics is now a newly-emerged topic in computer science and engineering research. Ernest will use computer programming modules. This research not only helps to build a new social robot, but may also help with the design of the human body language recognition module for AI in the future."
Ernest finished AP Calculus BC and AP Physics C Mechanics last year and is currently in several math and science classes including AP Statistics, Multivariable Calculus, AP Biology and AP Environmental Science. When Ernest was asked why he chose to work with Dr. Webb, he responded, “Because this project corresponds with my interest and can hopefully help me learn more about computer science, as well as understand engineering.” He added that the most interesting elements of the projects are “the concept of a social robot and its future perspectives.” Ernest said the most challenging aspect of the project are “creating ROS nodes using Python.” When asked about his future and how the AMSR program will help him, Ernest replied, “It will help me understand more about programming and develop skills in robot operating and designing. It will also help me with selecting my major in college.” If you see Ernest in the halls, be sure to congratulate him and, for the brave, ask him more about ROS nodes.
A total of 20 students are in the Advanced Math/Science Research program this year. Many students work on campus in group or independent projects. This year, students are also working with professional research mentors in the Albany area, while one student will be working over the internet with structural virologist at Penn State College of Medicine. 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 for 2012-2013 are involved in an exciting array of projects in a wide variety of fields: Nano-technology, Genetics, Social Robotics, Economics, Cancer, and Virology to name just a few.
Dr. April D. Burch, Director of the AMSR program, is passionate about the advantages these research opportunities present to Berkshire students. “These students spend 4-8 hours a week on their extracurricular projects. They work all year to gather and analyze data on their projects that are, in most cases, at the graduate-level. At the end of the school year, students present that work at a symposium open to the entire Berkshire School community. Being able to explain and defend their work is a major component of the program as exceptional communication skills are a must in the highly competitive world in which we live. This type of program puts Berkshire School students at a competitive advantage and Berkshire School is the first independent or public school to offer an on-campus research program hosted by a Resident Scientist for students who excel at Math and Science.”
Select AMSR students have the opportunity to submit their work to the INTEL Science Talent Contest, the nation's most prestigious science competition for high school students. In the past three years, thirteen students have submitted their work for review, and four have been selected as INTEL Semifinalists.