Posted: October 4, 2012

Six VI Formers and two V Formers are fully engaged in the first year of the St. Mark’s Science Research Fellowship in Biology. Sophie Lee ’13, Angela Koh ’13, Manny Guerzon ’13, Becca Elkinson ’13, Katie von Campe ’13, Sarah Nelson ’13, Ali Mills ’14, and Luya Wang ’14 were accepted as the first SM Science Research Fellows at the end of the last school year. They now meet four times a week on top of their regular course-load, doing scientific research “with a mind-set toward real life application,” says Science department chair Kimberley Berndt.

The eight St. Mark’s Science Fellows are currently in the “research phase” of the program, while independent authentic laboratory work with a broader application is a goal of the year-long Fellowship process, with systems analysis and research linking concrete situations with cause-and-effect science.

Ms. Berndt is co-collaborating in the facilitating the Science Fellowship Program with colleague Lindsey Lohwater. Both Ms. Berndt and Ms. Lohwater hold the Fellows to the highest standard of intellectual discourse and application. “The level of discussion with the eight scholars rivals some of the best conversations I’ve ever had in education,” says Berndt, “representing the best of scholarship at any level.”

Recently, the SM Fellows, accompanied by Ms. Lohwater and Ms. Berndt, visited the Genzyme laboratories. "It was really cool not just to see the laboratory and to learn about new things like bioreactors and chromatographic columns,” said one St. Marker, “but also to hear them mention cell signaling and hydrophobic groups, which we've all learned about it. It gave us a sense that though this was high level work they were doing, we are already learning the basics."

Science Fellow Katie von Campe is enthusiastic about the challenging program. “It's wonderful because it makes my brain hurt,” she says. “We're reading high level articles, which sometimes even our teachers don't completely understand. It takes all of us working together to figure out some of the trickier points. It's a lot of collaborative learning, so we're all benefiting from each other's experience.”

A VI Former from Groton, MA, von Campe is keeping the experience in perspective. “I’m certainly excited, if not a bit intimidated, by what lies ahead,” she acknowledges. “ Looking at the companions I have for the journey, however, I know that we’ll survive the various inevitable bumps and setbacks along the way.”

As part of the Science-Technology-Engineering-and-Mathematics (STEM) inititiative in the SM Strategic Plan 2020, the Fellowship is one of the many new STEM programs planned at the School. It is designed to offer students the chance to further study their own particular area of interest while fostering the real-world skills needed for high level scientific research. It will eventually become the St. Mark’s STEM Research Fellowship. It will engage in both independent and collaborative research, work with mentors to develop specific skills, design and perform their own experiments, and incorporate an additional academic discipline into their biological studies. The benefits of this blending of independent study, practical hands-on learning, and interdisciplinary efforts exemplifies the aims of the Initiative to prepare students for growingly STEM-centered world through both a thorough understanding of inquiry-based scientific research and practiced application of integrated and collaborative problem solving.

“This program provides a unique opportunity for St. Mark’s students,” says Kimberley Berndt. “It should hopefully attract a great deal of interest here at St. Mark’s and among high school students in general.” Speaking of the current Fellows, she acknowledges that she “would certainly love to see continuity of focus and personnel as the program continues in subsequent years, but that is up to the students themselves.”

In keeping with the School’s philosophy, a service element is intended as an element of the Science Research Fellowship experience. Already, connecting the work being done to the conditions in and issues affecting Haiti is part of the program. Three broad categories—water, nutrition, and disease—have been emphasized. “We’ve already uncovered issues within issues within issues,” says V Former Aly Mills. There are numerous possibilities for the practical application of the Fellows’ research around the world, in keeping with the Global initiative in the SM Strategic Plan 2020.

Information about the St. Mark’s Science Research Fellowship program, as outlined last spring, can be found below.

St. Mark’s Science Research Fellowship in Biology

An Advanced Topics in Science Offering

Science extends beyond the walls of the classroom and involves more than the acquisition of information from textbooks. While innovative Electives provide you the opportunity to understand and appreciate this idea, active participation in authentic research and real world exposure to the applications and illustrations of scientific issues is more powerful. The St. Mark's Science Research Fellowship provides students an opportunity to engage in advanced independent scientific research, collaborative work within a team investigating an area of common interest, a focused interdisciplinary approach, and the deliberate application of research to real-world challenges through a service-- learning experience. This fellowship reflects St. Mark’s dedication to be a school of consequence. The St. Mark’s Science Research Fellowship will provide an opportunity for students to work beyond the AP level. Further, acceptance and successful participation in this program requires a commitment to an academic endeavor spanning an entire calendar year and requiring significant independent scholarship. The Science Research Fellowship is currently geared towards work in the Biological Sciences. Therefore pre and co--requisites relate specifically to Biology courses.

Essential Components

• Application Process

• Summer Independent Scholarship and/or Research

• On-campus Research and Collaboration

• Off-campus Service--‐Learning

• Community Presentation

Application Process

All students Mark's Science Research Fellowship must complete an application process to be admitted into the program. The application process begins with a required information session clearly outlining the expectations of the program and providing additional information regarding the focus of the research. Those who attend the information session will be provided an application\ that requires the following components:

• Personal Statement

• Proposal for Individualized Project*

• Advisor Evaluation

• Current Science Teacher Evaluation

• Interdisciplinary Mentor Evaluation

• Support of College Office

Students are eligible for the Fellowship in 2012-2013 only if they have successfully completed or been admitted into AP Biology for 2012-2013. Those students who complete the application process by the stated deadline will be invited to interview with a panel that will ultimately determine which students will be offered the Fellowship.

*While multiple St. Mark's Science Research Fellows may study the same biological topic, each Fellow will be expected to personalize their individualized program according to their own interests and experience in deliberate interdisciplinary work. Examples of interdisciplinary work may include, but are not limited to, French students combining and applying their French studies to service-learning work in a Haitian orphanage; photography students using photojournalism to document the Fellowship; computer science students investigating ways to model phenomena related to the research; or psychology students studying the psychological impact of major disasters in preparation for working with such a population. There are numerous ways that a Fellow can individualize their program, and each application should speak to the individual’s own unique skill sets, interests, and motivations. Applicants are expected to identify potential mentors for their interdisciplinary work and ask these mentors to complete an evaluation form.

Summer Independent Scholarship and/or Research

St. Mark's Science Research Fellows will complete significant work in the summer after program acceptance to prepare for their research in the fall. This work may include, but is not limited to, summer lab research or scientific literature research. In their application, students are expected to identify ways that they will utilize their summer to prepare for the Fellowship. Fellowship mentors will work with accepted Fellows to help arrange these plans.

On-Campus Research and Collaboration

St. Mark's Science Research Fellows will be enrolled in a course section together to provide time for research, shared lectures, collaboration, and reflection. The Fellows will collaboratively determine the use of this class time; the Fellowship mentors will contribute to this conversation and offer support and guidance as needed. A general overview of how segments of the year will be organized is below:


§ Conduct authentic independent research

§ Participate in biweekly reviews with each Fellow discussing the progress of their individual and team work

§ Conduct necessary scholarly research into interdisciplinary connections

§ Plan, and begin, service--‐learning aspect(s) of project

§ Identify, with consultation with project mentors, additional needs of project


§ Complete independent research project

§ Finalize plans for service--‐learning aspect(s) of project

§ Begin writing of scientific paper based on independent research

Early Spring

§ Complete service--‐learning aspect(s) of project

§ Present to SM Fellows Applicants during the Informational Meeting

§ Participate in the Selection of SM Fellows for the Upcoming Year

Late Spring

§ Final revisions of scientific paper and/or poster

§ Reflect upon service--‐learning

§ Prepare for and present to the SM community (minimally) student’s individualized project

Off-Campus Service-Learning

St. Mark's Science Research Fellows are required to identify a way that their research can be applied or utilized in a service--‐ learning project. Given our relationship with Dr. Ciottone, one obvious service-learning component could involve work in Haiti. Students unable to complete such a trip will be expected to determine a service--‐learning project in an alternate location. Fellowship mentors will help Fellows identify appropriate opportunities that can be in close proximity to St. Mark’s and does not require travel.

Community Presentation

St. Mark's Science Research Fellows are required to present their research and experience to the St. Mark's Community in a formal setting. While all Fellows will complete a scientific paper and/or poster of their Scientific research they will also present the entire project to the community, including their interdisciplinary and service-learning experience. Formats for these presentations may include, but are not limited to, formal presentation, film documentary, or an educational workshop. These presentations should showcase the lens through which the students viewed their year as a Fellow, specifically speaking to how the interdisciplinary and service-learning components were affected by and affected their scientific research.