Happy Spring (Term)!

Today’s Vernal Equinox also brings the start of the Spring Term at Phillips Academy

This morning, Monday, March 20th, at 6:29am marks the vernal equinox and the official arrival of Spring. Though, it does not look very spring-like outside the Gelb Science Center.

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During the vernal equinox, “the sun’s most direct rays cross over from the southern hemisphere into the northern hemisphere. During this process, the sun is shining directly over the earth’s equator, bathing the earth’s northern and southern hemispheres in nearly an equal amount of sunlight.

Instead of a tilt away from or toward the sun, the Earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the Earth and the sun during an equinox. During the equinox, both day and night are balanced to nearly 12 hours each all over the world.

Good news for those [of us] in the northern hemisphere: Daylight continues to grow longer until the summer solstice, which occurs on Wednesday, June 21. The opposite occurs in the southern hemisphere, where daylight continues to grow shorter toward their winter solstice on the same day.”*

Blue Moon

An introduction to Andover’s new STEM-based Magazine

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The Phillips Academy students have published a new STEM Magazine – Blue Moon – a magazine of student-written research papers and articles.

Blue Moon was created as a platform for STEM research, as a means by which students can exercise the final step of the scientific method: communication. It aims to foster curiosity and cooperation in both its writers and its readers. Bi-annual print publications are made possible by a grant from the Abbot Academy Association, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring. Issue I of Blue Moon spotlights the diversity of student interest within the sciences, topics ranging from immunotherapy to gender discrimination to prosthetics. (*from the inside cover of Issue I)

We spoke with Amanda Li, ’18 who pioneered this project, which has been about two years in the making, thus far. During her freshman spring, she began to look for a place on campus to share a paper she had written. When she could not find an outlet on campus, she began to formulate the idea of a student scientific publication. 

“Seeing as there wasn’t any such thing yet, I reached out to students from different grades and backgrounds to see if they were interested in a STEM journal. The overwhelming response was yes, so I decided to take some action and hopefully allow other students to share their research and ideas. It also allows new students to start exploring various STEM areas, by allowing them to read about the interests that their peers hold.” -Amanda Li, ’18

img_6869She applied for an Abbot Grant in her lower fall to fund the publication of bi-annual issues. She received full funding and got to work! She gathered editors, graphic designers, and potential writers during her lower spring and summer. They officially started Blue Moon last fall and they have received over 30 articles so far!

“I’m really grateful for the AAA’s support, otherwise I doubt this would be possible. I’m looking forward to start the process of making the next issue!”  -Amanda Li, ’18

If you are interested in learning more or reading the many articles submitted, visit bluemoonjournal.com. They are always looking for submissions and feedback!

Brace Student Fellow Presentation: Katherine Wang

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Over the summer, I was able to undertake a Brace Center research fellowship about the gender bias in medicine and biomedical research. Last year, my biology teacher Dr. Kemp shared with the class an article about the bias (https://psmag.com/is-medicine-s-gender-bias-killing-young-women-4cab6946ab5c#.2f5iidt11) and the topic really struck a chord with me. I knew about the bias concerning the representation of women in STEM fields, but I wasn’t really aware that women were literally dying due to a bias about diagnosis and treatment. I wanted to learn more, and that’s what the Brace fellowship allowed me to do!

I began last spring by brainstorming with my project advisor, Dr. Kemp, and by working with Ms. Tompkins, a librarian at the OWHL. I began to gather my resources, and this is where I began to feel overwhelmed. I wanted to encompass so much information, and the OWHL provided endless resources. When summer finally began, I went through my resources and picked out only what I needed. I ended up reading online articles, books, scientific articles, journals, and news stories about the gender bias. The outlining portion of the project was challenging because it was the time I had to really organize my thoughts into a cohesive argument. What did I want to say with all of this information? After a full month of reading and processing, I came to a conclusion (with the help of Dr. Kemp, who was tremendously helpful in her emails) that it was the flawed application of the scientific method that lead to improper treatment of women. Now came the task of drafting a paper that elucidated that argument.

At the end of July, while drafting, I was surprised at how unmotivated I was to do my project! Dr. Kemp and Dr. Vidal (the director of the Brace Center) agreed, having both completed PhD dissertations, that even if you’re initially excited about a topic, you can get tired with it. Once I pushed myself to finish drafting, I got great feedback from Dr. Kemp, and that incited me to revise. On Monday, November 7th, from 5-6:30 PM,  I presented this research in the Brace Center! I hope people are interested by this topic– you don’t have to identify as female, be interested in medicine, or be curious about gender theory.

World Food Prize: Global Youth Institute!

Learning About Global Food Security Issues in Des Moines, Iowa

Guest Blog Post by Andie Pinga ’19

Hello! My name is Andie Pinga and I’m a lower from Vermont. About a month ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Global Youth Institute World Food Prize conference in Des Moines, Iowa. I was honored to be chosen to represent Massachusetts based on a research paper I wrote over the summer. Under the advising of my Bio 100 teacher, Ms. Milkowski, I researched the effects of aflatoxin contamination as a major driver for malnutrition in Malawi. At the World Food Prize, I learned about food insecurity issues around world by immersing myself in the world of agronomists and interacting with some of the leading professionals in the agronomist field, listening to mind-blowing key note presentations, and meeting other passionate high school students from around the world.

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My dad accompanied me to the 3-day conference in Iowa

 

The three-day conference was jam-packed with events and discussion. One of the most inspiring lectures I attended were in the World Food Prize Symposium. Among the many speakers, I was especially impressed by a presentation by Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, who illustrated government efforts to address food insecurity in the United States and around the world. In addition to the symposium, the Global Youth Institute hosted a “watch-party” of the laureate ceremony. This year’s World Food Prize was bestowed to four experts in the field, and the prize is often considered as the Nobel Prize of agriculture. The ceremony was absolutely beautiful and inspiring, and also allowed me to make some amazing friends.

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The Laureate watch party!

One intriguing aspect of this experience was the ability to interact with real-life agronomists on a personal basis. I had the great privilege to meet the Former President of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda before she delivered her powerful speech on women empowerment. I was completely overwhelmed by the truth and weight of her words. And as well as taking picture with her, she was kind enough to sign my research paper!

I also had the privilege to talk with Florence Chenoweth, Liberia’s first woman Minister of Agriculture, and Dr. Per Pinstrup-Anderson, a 2001 World Food Prize Laureate and distinguished agricultural economist. In addition, I sat at meals and interacted with numerous scientists who would passionately described their current global projects and travels to foreign countries to me.

Another highlight of the World Food Prize was attending my first Oxfam Hunger Banquet. The event strives to model the world food situation on a smaller, more coherent scale. Each diner received a random raffle ticket to determine their economic status, which then determined the amount food they were served that night. My low-class meal consisted a bowl of rice shared between other participants. It was so enlightening to see the three classes interact and discover the distinct boundaries between the richest 20% and the rest of the world. Some of my friends even resorted to stealing part of the high-class’s three-course meal! In addition, we were able to package rice bags for Haiti through an assembly line. In total, we packaged two thousand pounds of rice.

My experience in the World Food Prize was exhilarating from start to end. On the last day, I was nominated by my peers to present our group discussion to the symposium after my own presentation on aflatoxin contamination. Honestly, I was absolutely terrified to speak to a such a distinguished audience. But I was thrilled to be given the honor to emulate the numerous speakers I had eagerly listened to over the previous three days.

 

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have attended the World Food Prize. I’m so excited to bring some of my experiences back to Andover – and I definitely recommend any student to submit a research paper! This was a priceless experience, and I am determined to take my place in the next generation of passionate hunger fighters today.

Moviemaking on Campus!

Filming Has Begun on a Campus Documentary Featuring Tom Cone

The documentary is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Abbot Academy Association, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring.

Filmmaker Charlie Stuart ’62 brought a film crew last week to document Mr. Tom Cone’s 51st year (and last as he is retiring at the end of this year) of teaching and his knowledge of the natural history of this campus. Dr. Christine Marshall-Walker and I applied for an Abbot Academy Association Grant to fund a short film featuring Tom Cone. His deep understanding of nature and his passion for teaching are gifts to be archived and cherished for years to come.

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Along with his crew, John Baynard and Mike Tridenti, Charlie filmed Tom Cone with his Biology 100 class observing different types of trees.

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First, Mr. Cone took his class to see a red oak tree which was planted after the Gelb Science Center was built in 2004. He was pointing out the characteristics of the Red Oak Leaves and pointing out the acorns. Each oak has its own variety of acorn and leaves. The Red Oak Leaves have lots of little points at the end of the divisions.

Then, they went to a beautiful Red Maple Tree in full color. He spoke about the pigments and how they are made and how the weather effects the color production. The Maples in particular may produce a red pigment that many other types of trees don’t have.

Next, they looked at a Copper Beech Tree located near Newman House on the Salem Street side of Gelb. They were talking about how this tree, like the American Beech, is characterized by smooth bark. If it is found in parks, this is the tree that many people will carve their initials into it. It can potentially grow to be 300 years old. We used to have an American Beech near Gelb, but it was removed to build the Sykes Center, so the students could not see it today.

They weren’t the only Biology 100 out that day! Dr. Catherine Kemp’s class was also looking at the same trees and talking about characteristics of each tree.

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Charlie and his team will be on campus throughout the year, so keep an eye out for more filming stills and the final product in the spring!

Learning at the Fish School

Animal Behavior Students Observe Schooling in Fish

In Mr. Tom Cone’s Animal Behavior classes last week, students participated in an interesting lab about determining the schooling ability of certain fish.

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According to Tom Cone, the significance of schooling in fish is that of safety, but also companionship. When fish are good at schooling (gathering in large groups), it helps them look bigger to other fish which is a great anti-predator mechanism. It also helps with procreation, as a fish to mate with is never far away. In addition, studies have shown that schooling fish live longer in groups, which indicates schooling is also a social behavior.

Mr. Cone set up multiple fish tanks with different species of fish inside. Students divided into groups and chose a type of fish to observe. The experiment is set up where one fish is in the large tank and the others are in an adjacent smaller tank. The large tank is separated into four equal quadrants.

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Students then began to observe the single fish in the large tank – for 10 minutes they record the location (which quadrant) of the fish. They repeat the recordings with the small tank on the other side of the large tank.

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The students then tried to make observations to determine what attracts the one fish to the others (the releaser or stimuli) – is it their color? their size? their markings? They then repeated the entire experiment, but instead of using the small jar of fish, they created their own model of a fish using paper and markers to see if the fish behave the same way.

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Students then took the data they gathered and used it to determine if their species of fish is a “schooling” fish. Some students found significant data that their species of fish is great at schooling – their fish stayed mostly in the quadrant adjacent to the other fish. Other students found that their fish may not be great at schooling as they swam all around the tank.

Infrared: Not Just for Astronomers

Physics Department Has Fun With Infrared!

Caroline Odden, Physics Chair, just got an infrared camera that attaches to the iPhone.  Here’s a class portrait in infrared. 

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Infrared radiation may be used to detect temperature variations.  In this image, the white places are the warmest, followed by red, yellow, green, and blue.  Astronomers take advantage of all kinds of radiation (including infrared) to learn about the universe.  Infrared detectors are also used for a variety of practical purposes here on earth.  For example, thermal (infrared) imaging may be used on buildings to detect where heat is being lost in the winter. 

http://www.flir.com/instruments/building/display/?id=49418

Happy First Day of Autumn!

Go Outside and Explore the New England Autumn

Nature in New England has so much to offer, especially in the Autumn when the leaves start to change. You don’t have to go far to witness the beauty of this event.

According to an article from the US Department of Agriculture, “A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions – lots of sugar and lots of light – spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson.”

This seems to describe the weather we have been experiencing, so watch out for more color changing trees!

You can find the article on color changing here: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/pubs/leaves/leaves.shtm

Welcome and Welcome Back!

On the first full day of classes, the Division of Natural Sciences would like to WELCOME all new students to PA and WELCOME BACK all returning students!

As you can see by the photos above, our Gelb Garden has flourished throughout the summer and we will continue to use these plots as a teaching tool in our Biology Classes. We are excited about the new year and new possibilities!

Farewell and Good Luck

Marc Koolen Retires After 42 Years of Teaching at PA

One of the joys of working in two different departments is the great people you meet and share your days with  (for those of your who don’t know, I split my time between the Division of Natural Science and the Theatre and Dance Department). One of those great people is Marc Koolen, Biology Instructor. This was his last year at PA – retiring after 42 years of teaching here! I have not known him for very long, but I, like everyone else I have spoken to about him, have enjoyed my time here with him.

At the farewell ASM, Peyton McGovern, ’16 spoke about Mr. Koolen, which also accurately sums up my experience this year as well – “The way Mr. Koolen conducts himself embodies the goodness of the human spirit, and [he] has taught me two lessons that I believe are valuable for everyone here today. The first is to do every project you partake in with passion… the second is to add humor into your daily life as much as possible.”

The Science Division wishes him luck in this next chapter of his life, but he will be missed!

And a special thank you to the Science Division faculty and teaching fellows that will not be with us next year – good luck to Denise Alfonso, Adela Habib, Tom Kramer, and John Tortorello!

Please enjoy some “throwback” photos of Marc throughout his time here at Andover.