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!

What We're Doing Now: Alumni Profile of Jen Stafford '09
Posted 03/04/2014 08:32AM

09 Alum, Jen Stafford, was a bright light during her time at Berkshire and she was nice enough to sit down recently and tell us a little bit about what she's doing now. Here's what she had to say:

After Berkshire, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College with a degree in broadcast journalism. During my time there, I was the Vice President of the Emerson Sports Network, the anchor for the school’s number one sports talk show and reported in front of a sold out crowd at Fenway Park for the New England Sports Network. During my internship at NESN I was given the opportunity to speak with Rob Gronkowski, Alex Rodriguez, Mickey Ward, Shawn Thornton and covered many other places and faces around Boston.

In November of my senior year I was recruited by Red Bull’s human resource department and encouraged to apply for a position within Red Bull’s Media House. Over the next three months nearly 4,000 soon-to-be college graduates vigorously competed for 22 positions within Red Bull. In November of 2013 I received the news that I had been given the job. The following July I moved to Santa Monica, California, to take on a role in Red Bull Media House’s Communication Department.

My department is the vehicle that communicates all things Red Bull. My team works alongside each department, predominantly sports and culture marketing, and is responsible for getting the word out to the media about every Red Bull event, activation and athlete project. We are the liaisons between Red Bull and the press. On any given day, we are responsible for hiring photographers and videographers, writing stories, press releases, coordinating interviews and much more. After an event, we distribute photographs, video packages, and stories and are then responsible for tracking the quantitative results, i.e. the number of views our stories receive through print and online media and broadcast.

This has been an incredible beginning to my career, but someday it is still my goal to get back in front of the camera, potentially in long-format journalism such as ESPN’s 30 for 30 or 60 Minute Sports. I love the human and emotional aspect that comes with going out into the field, talking to people and learning their stories and relaying them to a greater audience. When I’m doing that, it feels like I’m making a difference in someone’s life. It’s much more rewarding than sitting behind a desk, that’s for sure.

I came to Berkshire after a series of unforeseen family events. In August of 2005, I pulled into Berkshire’s driveway for girl’s soccer preseason with a growing pit in my stomach. My response remains one of my family’s favorite quotes to date “This sucks. You are dumping me in the middle of nowhere.” I now look back on that moment and understand that was the voice of a very niave, scared fourteen year-old girl days away from being utterly enlightened. Although I did not know it in that moment, the next four years were going to be some of the best in my life. Growing up as an only child I had always been envious of big families. I was jealous of the friendship, the chaos and anything that came with a family with several children. Little did I know I would have all of that and more at Berkshire.

By the end of preseason my parents drove back up the Berkshire driveway half expecting to take me home. They had not heard from me in five days after leaving me with tears in my eyes sitting on my door room bed. To their surprise, they spotted me strutting across Berkshire’s turf with my arms casually slung around my new best friends acting as if I had lived there my entire life.

It took no time at all to realize Berkshire was one of the most beautiful places on earth. I was so proud to show people from home pictures of the campus and of my new friends. No matter where you are there are always going to be growing pains in high school; by its nature, it’s a very transformative time period, but Berkshire was always such a happy place for me. Tucked under the safety of the mountain it was as if we all had the world by the tail, and we knew it.

When you go to Berkshire you don’t just acquire a new set of friends. You inherit a family.

I lived in CGR my freshman year, and the friends I made there are still some of my best friends today. Myself, Kelly Wallace, Kelsey Brown, Maddy Geisler and Kristin Wolfe all went on to be four year seniors and continued to be best friends even as we walked across the graduate stage.

I have been involved in a lot of communities throughout my life, moving from public high school to boarding school, transferring colleges, moving across the country. Throughout those transitions I have  been fortunate enough to meet a lot of wonderful people and experience and appreciate different cultures, but I do not share a bond with any of those people like I do with my friends from Berkshire. When you go to boarding school, it is as if you suddenly share this secret experience you can only understand if you have lived it.

To say we have kept in touch is an understatement. As luck would have it, I moved 3,000 miles across the country and wound up working across the street from Kelsey Brown and Maddy Geisler. They are digital coordinators at Dick Clark Production and have a far more glamorous job than I do, working on all the major award shows around Los Angeles and doing social media for celebrities and rising stars. We all get dinner every Tuesday night after work and see each other more often than not on the weekends.

I won’t pretend I talk to everyone from Berkshire on a daily basis, but when we have a reunion we are instantly transported back into the mindsets and giggles that we shared as teenage girls. There is a bond that you subconsciously inherit after you become a student at Berkshire. No matter how many years pass or how many miles separate you, family is always family and that is what you get when you go to Berkshire.

I still carry Mrs. Piatelli’s card listing 10 behaviors and traits to live by around in my wallet. Everything on the card is so fundamental, holding the door open for people, making eye contact, taking the initiative, but I have found these characteristics make all the difference. The bullet points initially may seem simple and easy to write off, but when it comes to making friends, being selected as a team leader, or securing a job over other very qualified candidates I have found it is these small details that have gotten me where I am today.

Peter Quilty was the teacher who helped me the most while I was at Berkshire. Quilts was my advisor and hockey coach and I could not have asked for a better mentor. He looks intimidating; perhaps that is part of his job title, but he’s really a softy underneath. Over my four years at Berkshire Mr. Quilty and I built a pretty good relationship, but the way I met him is not necessarily the route I would advise. I can look back on it and laugh now, but I had two very close encounters with the Dean of Students. Ironically enough, the two incidents occurred on my very first day of school my freshman year and the very last day of school my senior year…. both involved Kelly Wallace and Kelsey Brown (major smile). A whole lot happened in the middle, but I’d like to think those are two pretty good book ends to my Berkshire career.

My favorite place to visit would have to the dining hall. I can’t begin to count the hours I spent sitting there with my friends. Some of my best memories happened there. Eipper Wall would be a close second, though. The biggest shock was coming back to see the new science building. I was at Berkshire when Berkshire Hall was rebuilt, and at the time I thought that was pretty incredible. The students who attend Berkshire now and get the luxuries of having such incredible resources are pretty lucky. The other big surprise was coming back to find the old hockey rink had been torn down. If you go to Berkshire, hockey is in your veins, even if you don’t play. Seeing the campus evolve and lose some of the things that I treasured most was sad, but it’s also reassuring to know that place was a memory everyone is my class will always share.  That Jack is pretty cool too though…

I think my advice for current students would be to work hard and pursue what you love.

I have never been the smartest person in my class or the most naturally talented, but I graduated from Emerson Magna Cum Laude, nearly missing a straight-A record and was the first in my graduating class to secure a job, competing against 4,000 other candidates. I achieved this through hard work and resilience.

 One part of my journey I often don’t tell people is that before I got my internship at NESN, I was rejected for an internship with the Olympic Committee four times in a row. At the time I thought it was the end of the world and I was an absolute failure…but I wasn’t…and the sun came up the next morning. On that note, resilience is also very important, as you get older. At some point in your life, you will get rejected. It was a very hard lesson for me to learn, but it’s just the way the world is. It’s about how you  move forward that makes or breaks you. 

There are so many great qualities and memories that I could share about Berkshire. It is hard to consolidate everything into one sentence that truly does the school justice.

I know alumni probably say this to point of numbness – But, making the decision to attend Berkshire truly changed my life. Very few people have the luxury of looking back on their early adult life and being able to point to a single date and say, “That is one of the smartest and most rewarding choices I have ever made.” But that is what I can do with my Berkshire experience. I cannot say where I would be had I not gone to school here, but I am certain I would not be sitting at my desk at Red Bull typing this letter. 

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