Each summer, the Professional Development Committee awards Combustion Engine Grants, which enable our faculty to enrich teaching and curricula in innovative ways.
On January 9, 2023, Morgan G. (Science) and Matison H. D. '14 (English) presented on their funded projects from Summer 2022.
1. New High School Biology Electives
Morgan and Amber R. designed new trimester electives in biological sciences, which provide independent research opportunities and prepare students for college and laboratory research. In 2022-23, the Science Department now offers: Advanced Research in Molecular Biology: this past fall, 11th and 12th graders extracted DNA from collected arthropods and used PCR (a well-known acronym amid the Covid-19 pandemic) to identify the organism and determine infection with Wolbachia. DNA products were sent to the Bordenstein Lab at Penn State for sequencing.
Bioethics: this coming spring, students will explore the intersection of ethical, legal, and social issues in medicine and medical science. For example, students will research widely-available genetic testing (such as 23andme) and who can and should access genetic data.
Medical Microbiology: this winter, students are investigating viral and bacterial diseases, including the zoonotic Nipah virus, which had its first outbreak in 1999 and served as the basis for the movie Contagion in 2011.
2. Unified Design for Senior Seminars
All Burke seniors enroll in a trimester-long Senior Seminar, with each section broadly organized around an area of social justice and global challenges, and complete an intensive independent research project.
In developing a more unified design, Matison, David P., and Kate P. emphasized active roles for students and the seminar's role as a capstone. They synthesized materials from past seminars into a shareable resource and standardized research and writing methods (both instructor and student-facing).
This fall, paper topics from Matison's Democracy & Freedom Seminar included:
- Effects of emergency laws on human rights in Ukraine - Injustices in the American prison system - Mistrust in the US government since the Vietnam War era - Politicization of TikTok - Polarization of mass media and its effects on elections