Mika Nakashige '09, a sophomore at Williams College, participated in the Advanced Math/Science Research class (AMSR) during her senior year at Berkshire School. Mika worked with her mentor, Dr. David Strait,
an anthropologist at the State University of New York (SUNY) - Albany
who uses biomechanics combined with computer simulation to model how
facial muscles operate in primates. Mika’s work, which was completed
during her year in AMSR, has just been published in the prestigious
Journal of Anatomy. Mika is the principal author of the paper.
Mika’s project involved creating a computer model of the skull and
facial muscles in a monkey and then altering the model to try to
understand the evolution of early hominids. Mika’s project was very
interdisciplinary as it was a combination of biomechanics, anthropology,
and computer simulation. “When I opened the e-mail from Dr. Strait, I
was so excited!" said Mika. "I think it’s amazing that this program
continues to benefit me even while I'm in college. Not just with this
paper, but by opening doors to other research opportunities as well. Of
course, none of this could have been done without Mr. Schleunes and Dr.
Strait. Both of them have put so much time and effort toward giving me
this amazing opportunity to do research in the first place. Mr.
Schleunes, driving the van every week and cheering us up if we had a
rough day, and Dr. Strait, teaching me how to truly do science, are
memories that I will never forget. Working with both of them was so much
fun, and they showed me that as long as I really enjoy what I'm doing,
it's not work.
Mika was also the captain of the Varsity Volleyball and Tennis teams
during her time at Berkshire. What did she like most about Berkshire?
“The beauty of the mountain and the natural surroundings,” said Mika.
Mika’s title page with the abstract is shown below.
The Advanced Math/Science Research course
is designed to provide an opportunity for students who are passionate
about a particular subject area to work with mentors in world class
laboratories. The students are involved in an exciting array of
projects in a wide variety of fields: Nano-technology, Genetics,
Bioinformatics, Economics, and Biomechanics, to name just a few.
For a complete listing of the students, mentors and site locations, click here.
Course instructor and Math Department Chair Kurt Schleunes is
proud of the dedication and drive of his students. “The students are
doing actual research in some of the top laboratories in the world. They
work with highly accomplished mentors in a field of their choice from
four to eight hours a week. The students are also required to write a
Research Overview paper, a Research Proposal paper and a Research paper
in scientific form of their results. They also create PowerPoint
presentations and posters. Presenting and defending their work is an
important part of the course.” Schleunes added, “Berkshire School is one
of just a handful of boarding schools in the United States that offers
this type of course.