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!

IS Profile: Cody Turner '13
Posted 05/22/2013 11:07AM

Independent Study Profile: Cody Turner '13

Have you ever looked up at the stars on a calm summer night and meditatively thought, “I wonder if it’s all part of a plan; I wonder if I was destined to be sitting here right now on this pleasant evening under this magically dark sky, destined to live the life that I am living, to be the person that I am”?

I think it is true that everyone experiences moments of philosophic yearning such as this regarding free will. For most people though, these moments are rare and transient. Once the night ends, their meditative thoughts vanish, and they get on with their lives; they emerge from the metaphysical world just as the sun emerges from the bottom of the sky. In general, this is the case because most people are confident that they are indeed free. Sam Cabot '13 and his mentor Dan Spear in Dixon ObservatoryThat is to say, while they find the idea of destiny romantically enticing and intellectually pleasurable to briefly think about on a calm night, they do not really believe it to be true. Evidence of this widespread belief is seen in the fact that the entirety of human society operates under the assumption that mankind has free will. People are held responsible for their actions, they are told that they can achieve great things if they choose to do so, they are informed from childhood that the future holds endless possibilities. The perhaps surprising truth though is that society may be operating under a false assumption. Brace yourself. It is a very real possibility that free will does not exist.

Click here to read about the free will problem.

Throughout the school year I have been exploring this possibility in my independent study in philosophy. After reading a large number of works from ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle to esteemed modern philosophers such as Roderick M. Chisholm, it is undeniable that this independent study has augmented my understanding of human freedom. Under the incomparable guidance of Mr. Splawn, I have been specifically focused on researching and thus comprehending the phrase could have done otherwise, a phrase that holds vital importance in the contemporary free will debate. I am now actually almost finished with a research paper I have been working on over the past couple months entirely devoted to the semantic unraveling of this phrase.

Click here to read more about Cody’s work and the phrase could have done otherwise.

When it comes down to it, the question of free will is not only one of glowing philosophic importance but one of imaginative and even poetic zeal. While beautiful in some respect, the idea of destiny terrifies me. I want to be a silent traveler free to explore the inner depths of infinity at my will, a wave of sunlight powered by its own ray, not an actor trapped in the predetermined movie of life. Needless to say, next time I am experiencing one of those philosophic summer nights and meditatively think to myself, “I wonder if it’s all part of a plan,” I will not be so quick to disregard the question. For, as I have learned, the question is more real than most of us imagine.

-- Cody Turner '13

Berkshire School

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