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!
“I just want to make other people aware of these stories that I grew up with. Most people know the majority of their history of the Holocaust from movies like Schindler’s List or from a history class but not from firsthand survivors,” Emily explains. “There’s a difference in a section from a history book and a story from someone who’s been there.”
Emily also realizes that time is a factor: the survivors, now in their late 70’s and 80’s, speak of themselves as “a dying breed.” She wants to record each firsthand account in a meaningful way “before there’s no one left to give it.”
Last summer, Emily interviewed six people from Aventura, her suburban Miami community that is home to a large number of Holocaust survivors. Her initial connection was through her temple, the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center. Victor Cynamon, who heads Holocaust Remembrance activities at the center, was the first survivor Emily interviewed, and he introduced her to the others. “I mostly asked them to tell me their stories and then asked questions at the end,” Emily said. “They’re very old, so their stories varied in quality because of their age.” Emily used a video camera on a tripod to record the interviews, and she remained off-camera.
Her plan is to edit these videos and publish them on a website which she is currently creating. She’ll include a short biography of each survivor and a written account of her experience with each. Emily has already completed other sections of the website which will give historical perspective to the survivors’ stories. Topics that she has researched and discussed with her project advisor, Bill Gulotta, include the Nazi Regime, Hitler, Ghettos, Medical Experiments, and Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). Prompted by references from her interviewees to several specific concentration camps, Emily added sections on Dachau and Auschwitz. She plans to further investigate other camps mentioned in the interviews and add those topics to the website.
Mr. Gulotta describes working with Emily as “the most independent independent study I’ve ever done; when I see her, she’s telling me what she’s done, and she’s teaching me. She’s self-motivated.” He also realizes that engaging with a topic like this can be emotionally difficult. In addition, he’s impressed that she’s learning some technology as she shoots and edits video and creates a website, all of which, Mr. Gulotta says, “has taken a little time away from the history research and analysis.” But the payoff, he says, is that she will present her research in a modern and accessible form.
From Emily’s perspective, Mr. Gulotta is “so much fun to work with because he cares deeply about history and has lots of ideas. He knows Holocaust survivors too, and he was telling me their stories.”
Her goal for May, 2011, when Emily’s independent study will be complete and her website should be up and running, is to create hope. She wants those who explore her website to understand what these remarkable people have been through and how their hope sustained them.
“It’s hard for me to imagine how big a tragedy the Holocaust was, even after hearing the stories. People hear about six million Jews and handicapped people dying—but hearing one person’s individual story is much more emotional. We can imagine multiplying that story by six million and get a sense of the horror.” Emily feels privileged to have had a glimpse of the lives of some survivors, and she hopes that sharing her work will educate and inspire others.