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!

Sugaring Season!
Posted 03/06/2013 01:00PM

Sugaring Season

In Berkshire School's aptly named "Sugar Shack" there are people currently in the process of making maple syrup, a process that is done here on campus every year around this time. This multi-step process begins when the Sugar Shack crew gathers sap from sugar maple trees in the surrounding area, beginning around President's Day Weekend, or when the daytime temperatures begin to climb above 40 degrees, using buckets and special feeding (no, not eating) tubes, or lines. Forty gallons of sap are needed to produce about one gallon of syrup, with the other 39 being evaporated during the process.

After gathering the sap they need, the crew brings it to the shack and places it in a large stock tank, where it is then fed to the wood-fueled evaporator where the water in the sap is boiled out. The contraption has a preheater that heats the liquid to 100 degrees Fahrenheit before it heads to the evaporation tray where the mixture boils at 219 degrees. Using a device called a hydrometer, the crew carefully gauges the temperature of the liquid. The hydrometer floats in accordance to the temperature, revealing if the syrup is too hot or too cool, for if it ends up being too hot the syrup will crystallize in the later stages, or be too thin and spoil if the syrup is too cool. If the temperature is awry the crew can adjust the fire. After evaporating the water from the syrup, the Sugar Shack crew places it in a filter before it is placed in jugs. Last year they managed to produce 55 gallons of syrup, only half of the 110 gallons they managed to gather the year before, but the goal this year is to produce about 70 gallons. Mr. Dalton, the one in charge of the operation, would be happy if they get anything over 50 gallons; they are already behind on sap collection this year because not all of the lines are up at the moment.

The Maple Syrup Corporation consists of students who donate their time to help out, including Alex Fuller ‘13, Matthew Licata ‘13, and Charlie York ‘13. Not to be outdone by the student population, faculty members like Mr. Dalton, Mrs. Mackenzie, Mr. and Mrs. Anselmi and alumni like Mr. McGraw '70 lend their time as well. Those who help out enough are gifted with a free bottle of syrup, so if you have the time, stop by and help out!

-- Chris Jiambalvo '13

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