AMSR & AESR Berkshire School | December Newsletter

Advanced Math/Science Research (AMSR) and Advanced Environmental Science Research (AESR) are yearlong courses that offer students an authentic independent laboratory experience to design and execute an original research project of their choice in the biological, physical, or social sciences. What sets Berkshire’s course apart is the program’s design: students intern with a professional scientist to conduct real-world research in world-class facilities. The course culminates with a critical review paper and a research paper, both in scientific format.

Seeking Future Leaders in STEM

Regeneron STS is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science competition for high school seniors, providing an important forum for original research that is recognized and reviewed by a national jury of professional scientists.

Regeneron STS Entrants for the 2023-2024 Academic Year (left-right): Katherine Fisher, Max Guryan, Daphne Szakats, and Logan Tao. Click the links to read about each student's project. Semi-finalists will be announced in January 2024. Berkshire School has had 11 semifinalists in the history of the AMSR Program. Good luck, Bears!



Adelgids are conifer-feeding insects, related to aphids. Hemlock woolly adelgid, Adelges tsugae Annand, (HWA), feeds on hemlock species and was first described from samples originally from Oregon by P. N. Annand in California in 1924. In the eastern United States, this non-native insect pest was initially reported at a private estate in Richmond, Virginia in the early 1950s.

The "wool" is really waxy! -CJB '24

The woolly adelgid develops and lays eggs under a ball of protective waxy wool. Campbell is interested in the composition of the "wool" that helps protect the insects from various conditions. To study this, Campbell isolated the waxy wool away from the adelgid and then used quick bursts of heat the melt the wool so that she could isolate the adelgids (see below).

Isolation of the individual components: Waxy wool (left) and Adelgid (right) Microscope: Motic Dissecting Microscope; Magnification 4X

Ultrastructure Analysis of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid by Scanning Electron Microscopy

Infected Hemlock stems are sputter-coated with gold to enhance contrast and imaged at 30X magnification with our JEOL Scanning Electron Microscope. Encased (left) and Exposed (right) Woolly Adelgid are shown in this image.

Campbell has been accepted into the University of Vermont School of Nursing program for next year!

AMSR Journal Entry 12/8/23: Connecting with Dr. Howard Shuman (Professor Emeritus, Columbia University; University of Chicago)

During the fall of 2022, I received a phone call from Dr. Howard Shuman who had been a long-time resident of the Berkshire area but retired full-time to the area a couple of years ago. The voice on the other line said something like "My wife thinks I need a hobby.....". That was the day that Dr. Shuman volunteered to join the mentor network for the AMSR and AESR Programs. Dr. Shuman and I met to discuss the history of our program and capabilities in our state-of-the-art campus laboratory. I talked with Dr. Shuman about the many students who have phage hunted while in AMSR or AESR (Elif Kesaf, Michael O'Loughlin, William Pang, Nate MacKenzie, Edeline Loh, Lars Robinson, Sherry Yang, and Chandler Gilbane to name a few; click here to see more). Impressed by our abilities and track record with phage discovery he became excited about finding a phage for Legionella an organism he worked on for decades at Columbia and remains one of the most well-studied bacteria with no known or documented viral predators. This year, Dr. Shuman is working with Asher Lefkoff and Talia Bukhman to do just that by filtering thousands of gallons of surface water and using particulate captured on the filter for the quest. Now that I know Dr. Shuman a little better, am grateful that he takes his wife's advice and am super excited about his "new hobby" of working with our students to think beyond the classroom and become inspired by our surroundings and all we have yet to discover. If you'd like to meet him, Dr. Shuman can be found on campus in the AMSR/AESR lab in most F period classes and happily working with the Winter AMSR afternoon team this year. - Dr. April Burch, Director

About 1,000 liters of fresh water were filtered this fall to identify new protists and bacteriophages involved in the Legionella lifecycle. (Photos Clockwise): Talia collects water from the stream that runs through campus at the start of the experiment, our filtration system, Asher Lefkoff, and Talia planning on how to keep the tubing warm on this especially cold Nov. 1, Dr. Shuman!, and the water team group photo of Asher, Talia, Dr. Howard Shuman, Brian Anspach (Building Water Sampling Services, LLC) and Dr. April Burch. Shout out to Berkshire Athletics for loaning the tent and to Berkshire RKMP for the use of the Solo Firepit. Go, Bears!

Berkshire's Dixon Observatory Is Back Online!

The Dixon Observatory houses state-of-the-art equipment that allows students and teachers to make detailed observations of both bodies within the solar system as well as deep-space objects.

The observatory and equipment were gifts of Cynthia and Tom Dixon in 2000. Tom Dixon held a number of roles during his tenure at Berkshire School from 1961-1976 and 1980-2000, including science teacher, Director of Technology and Dean of Students. He and his wife, Cynthia, a music teacher and the director of the equestrian team at Berkshire, shared a love of the arts and astronomy.

Astronomy Club!

Ellis Resnick '24 & Toby Huang '25 Faculty Support: Chris Meehan and David Dahari (Adjunct)

Image Gallery from the Fall & Winter Trimester
A collection of images that students have taken using the new NeoScope from JEOL. Clockwise: Ladybug, Moss, Flower, Tick Zoom, Tick Stabbing mandible and Whole Tick

AMSR/AESR Jacket Day! Follow us on Instagram to stay in touch!

Reach out to Dr. April Burch with questions about the research programs on campus!