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January 2012

Check out the updates below to find out what students and staff have been up to in the science department!


Veterinarian Speaks to Students About Lab Animal Care, Ethics

Dr. William Singleton, a veterinarian and president of Animal Care Training Services (ACTS), visited Boys' Latin on Tuesday, January 17, from 9:00-10:00 for the first Science Speaker Series of 2012.

ACTS is a training company that specializes in improving daily operations in the field of biomedical research as it relates to the care of laboratory animals. ACTS, under Dr. Singleton's direction, has done work with companies like AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

Through his work, Dr. Singleton has travelled the world and done work with research labs in places like Australia and Hong Kong.

Dr. Singleton spoke to a small group of students about the use of animals in laboratory research and the kinds of work that can be done in the field of veterinary medicine.

The students asked him about his work with primates and other animals that are typically used in laboratory research. The question of ethics when it comes to working with animals was ever-present in the conversation. Students even asked about the way that animal research was portrayed in the recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes Film.

At the end of the talk, Dr. Singleton spoke with a small group of students and handed out a book that he asked students to pass around and share over the coming months. 

Dr. Singleton grew up in West Philadelphia and studied at the University of Maryland and Tuskegee University.



Princeton Professor Explains Research in Fluid Dynamics

Dr. Howard Stone, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at Princeton University, visited Boys' Latin on Thursday, January 26, from 9:00-10:00 for the second installment of the Science Speaker Series.

Dr. Stone studies fluid mechanics, including topics like viscosity, buoyancy, surface tension, and surfactants. He works with theory, computer simulation and modeling, and experiments to conduct his research.

At Boys' Latin, Dr. Stone provided students with two demonstrations to show the ways in which matter can behave in unexpected and sometimes unexplained ways. Students asked questions about a paper that when cut in different directions would curl and uncurl in a dish of water. Dr. Stone also demonstrated the properties of a polymer that behaved at times like a solid and at other times like a liquid. Dr. Stone also spoke about the importance of finding a passion and pursuing that passion.

Dr. Stone heard about the speaker series at Boys' Latin and emailed Mr. Smith about visiting the school.  

Dr. Stone completed his undergraduate studies at University of California at Davis and earned his Ph.D. at Caltech. He joined the Harvard faculty in 1989 after spending one year as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University.



Students Learn About Genetic Research on Congenital Diseases, Visit Penn Lab

On Wednesday, January 25, students visited a genetics research lab in the Abramson Research Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The trip was part of the monthly Science Excursions program at Boys' Latin.

The lab's principal investigator, Dr. Nancy Spinner, and a team of graduate and undergraduate students graciously welcomed the group of twelve Boys' Latin students to their lab. The team of scientists described the work that they were doing to unlock the genetic science behind Alagille syndrome, a congenital disorder that affects the heart and liver. The researchers work in a research lab and consult with patients at the hospital through their research on Alagille syndrone.


After an intense and in-depth presentation about Alagille syndrome and genetics, students visited the lab where the team works each day. Students were able to load samples of DNA into gels used in a process called electrophoresis. Scientists use gel electrophoresis to sort the molecules in a DNA sample. Students also looked the genetic code of an individual with Alagille syndrome compared to the genetic code generated through the Human Genome Project.

Dr. Kristin Field of the Penn Genome Frontiers Institute helped organize the trip for students and teachers.





Physics Class: Putting the Pedal to the Metal 

January was a transformational month for the physics students in Ms. DeChant's class. They started the month studying momentum, impulse and the law of conservation of momentum. By the end of the month, they were examining evidence from a car crash (skid marks, witness reports) to determine what happened during the crash and whether either of the cars involved broke the law. Students relied on their own background research, collaboration with peers and teamwork among their groups to solve the problem and provide detailed reports on the accident.

This marks the first time this year that the students were able to solve complex problems in a self-directed way, which is just in time for the most exciting project of the year. Next month, look forward to hearing about students adventures with building and experimenting on their own roller coasters.



Students Collect Data for Independent Science Investigations 

On Wednesday, March 14, freshmen and sophomores will present the findings of their Independent Science Investigations at the second-annual Science Symposium. Since September, students have been working to select a question, create an experimental design to test the questions, and collect data through the experimentation process. Students will turn in completed reports with their findings by February 24.

Students may perform the experiments at home and/or at school. Check out photos of students collecting data during Leadership Academy, Boys' Latin's afterschool program on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. 


Interested in attending the Science Symposium and/or judging student projects at the event? Email Mr. Smith for more information.



Students Study Matter, Energy, and Biogeochemical Cycles in Ms. Galib's Class 

Students have been hard at work in biology and chemistry classes trying to understand the ways that matter and energy flow through ecosystems on Earth. Below is a description written by freshman Everol about some of the work done in Ms. Galib's class:

The first thing that interests me most was learning that the plants and trees that we see each day play a very significant role in all of our lives. The oxygen we need to live comes from the trees, and the carbon dioxide we give off is needed by the trees to help make their food by the process of photosynthesis. Oxygen is needed for the process of respiration in humans and animals.

We studied the ecosystems of living and non-living things, including biotic and abiotic factors. All these factors are interrelated. If one factor changes, the whole system changes. We also did the water cycle and all of the different processes that water goes through. Water is important to all living things. 

My favorite part in all that we studied was creating the cartoon with the ecosystem. I was fascinated with the vine snake. I am still amazed by the many cycles, oxygen, phosphorus, nitrogen, and the infamous, carbon cycle.

Students also learned about other biogeochemical cycles. Below is a description Tyrone and Naseer (aka "The A Team") about phosphorus:

We learned about the Phosphorous Cycle and how it relates to matter and energy on earth. Phosphorus is a very important element found in ecosystems and the human body. Phosphorus is found in the soil and water and it is also found in nucleic acids and our cell walls. Phosphorus gets broken down and excreted from animals. The soil phosphates are used by plants, converted into organic phosphorus, and then when animals eat the plants, animals use the phosphorus since it is in an organic form. The process happens all over again, which makes the Phosphorous Cycle.



Analyzing Data, Looking at Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere 

Students in Mr. Smith's biology and chemistry class have been examining scientific data regarding recent increases in the levels of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere. Students have been studying graphs of data from time periods that range from the last century to hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The study of changes in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is part of a larger look into the biogeochemical processes that occur on Earth. Students considered the changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in terms of changes in different parts of the carbon cycle.

In addition, students measured the possible increases in temperature that can occur when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase. This phenomenon is called the "greenhouse effect." Students compared temperatures of two similar setups with one variable that was changed: carbon dioxide levels. Students observed temperature increases over time. The data was collected using Vernier temperature probes.



Five Students Selected to Participate in Science Program at Haverford College 

Freshmen Jason Footes, Clifford Jordan, and Tyler McColley; sophomore Alec Stith; and senior Kenneth Bourne were accepted into a selective Saturday summer science program at Haverford College.

The Mentoring And Student Teaching (MAST) program is an innovative outreach program that offers high school students the opportunity to develop a greater appreciation for the sciences and writing. The program is open to freshman through seniors.

The MAST program will run for ten Saturdays from late January to mid April. Students will be in sessions from 9:15 A.M. until 3:00 P.M each Saturday of the program. Lunch and a small stipend will be available for every student. Funding for public transportation is also available. College students will act as mentors and role models for the students in the program. The program will end with a reception for students and their families.



Students Prepare for NSBE Try-Math-A-Lon, Science Fair in Pittsburgh

Six students are busy getting ready for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) 38th Annual Convention in Pittsburgh. The convention will be held March 28 through April 1. This is the first year that students from Boys' Latin will attend the conference. This is also the first year that Boys' Latin has sponsored a NSBE chapter.

While at the convention, three juniors and two sophomores will participate in both a Try-Math-A-Lon competition. Three sophomores will also present the findings of their independent science investigations at the NSBE science fair. In addition to participating in the math and science competitions, students will visit the Carnegie Mellon Science Center, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University and will attend in dinners, workshops, and various events with professional engineers.

Juniors Shaquan Battle, Jared Browning, and Deion Pugh and sophomores Raleigh Russell, Ashly Stallworth, and Bryan Weaver will represent Boys' Latin in Pittsburgh.

Students interested in joining NSBE should contact Mr. Smith.



Science RULES: Practicing Collecting Data

Students observe and record data about the pressure that air can exert over large surface areas. The materials needed for the experiment are simple--a ruler and a sheet of paper!



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