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!
Dr.Kohlhepp was this year's recipient of the Class of ’57 Faculty Award for excellence in teaching and tenure of service. We sat down together to talk about teaching and life in the middle of a rainy spell under the mountain. Here's some of what he had to say:
Tell us a little bit about what brought you here.
We moved to Berkshire in the summer of 2001 after two purgatorial years in Jacksonville, FL. At the time, we had a new baby and were looking for an engaging place in which to live, work and raise a family. A dozen years later, Berkshire has provided all that and more. Allie (12) and Max (10) have never known another home, and we can't imagine a better place to have raised them. I think that my wife (Virginia Watkins, web manager) and I have also "grown up" a lot during our years here!
Talk about your teaching philosophy.
I am definitely not the "sage on the stage," more like the coach in the corner. A lot of the work that I do goes to setting up the discussions and activities through which the students can learn, rather than memorize, the big ideas that underlie the minutiae of the classroom. The way I see it, no amount of information I provide them can take the place of their own interaction with the material.
Having said that, I also believe in the power and potential of storytelling and bring narratives into the learning environment to clarify and to reinforce, and I am also prone to Hamletian allusion to an extent that probably drives my students (and my own children) a little bit nuts. ("Really, DK?" they groan. "Do we really need to know how Polonius's offhand comment in Act II relates to the use of the semi-colon in contemporary tweets"?)
Do you have any teaching goals for this year and beyond?
I have taught every level of English at Berkshire School by now and am excited to take on the Advanced Humanities Research class this year. I am also thrilled for year two of a senior elective called College Writing Workshop, which course allows me to bring together my rhetorical training from graduate school; the potentials of online writing technologies; and the real needs of Berkshire students as they make their way into the next set of challenges they face.
Any other goals?
Outside of the classroom, I take great joy in my work with squash and baseball. My nighttime obligation in Buck dormitory provides further opportunities to interact with Berkshire's best and brightest, and my charge as academic advisor contributes endless opportunities to connect one-on-one. I find that the deepest bonds are often formed with students who have the hardest time at boarding school.
I think I come into every single school year wondering, "What’s next?" A certain degree of restlessness underlies everything I do and pushes me to explore new avenues and approaches for all aspects of my life at school and at home. Short version: I feel incredibly fortunate for the continuing opportunity to do meaningful work in a place that I, and my family, love so much.