Science, Spring 2013

AP Environmental Science

APES students learned about mining and visited St. Mary’s Wilderness which used to be mined for Manganese and Iron. We visited the Solara solar plant in Waynesboro while studying alternative energy sources.  Students learned about the waste humans generate and what we do with it and visited the Fishersville waste water treatment plant.  Students learned about outdoor and indoor air pollution and visited Betsy Bell to learn how lichens are indicators of air pollution.  The last unit we studied was water pollution and we did a healthy stream survey of Christians Creek and its tributaries.  For the survey, students measured phosphate, nitrate, pH, temperature, and turbidity.  The students also captured macro-invertebrates and identified them, drew a map of the riparian area, and tested for pathogenic E. coli.

APES - Water Testing


Modern Physics

Qubits, Quantum Dots, Quantum Teleportation and Quantum Computers … Those were our final two weeks topics in Modern Physics. Students employed their knowledge of quantum physics and quantum mechanics to explore the state-of the art of the most recent advances in information, computation and communication technology. They studied the topics they were interested and got to understand better, from practical application perspective, those “weird” quantum phenomena – quantum tunneling, “Schrodinger cats” effect and quantum entanglement. They were excited to find what they learned in classroom can not only let them understand the mechanisms beneath those widely used technologies, could also be directly applied to the coming technological revolutions in the information creation, collection, storage, processing, retrieving and transportation.

Molecular Biology

Students in molecular biology spent the final weeks of the year studying DNA structure and function along with biotechnological applications of this science.  In lab, students used gel electrophoresis, a “workhorse” technique of the molecular biology lab, to analyze restriction digests of plasmid DNA and to prepare maps of this plasmid.  Another laboratory investigation focused on bacterial transformation; students used specific techniques to transform E. coli with a gene from a jellyfish that caused the bacteria to glow green when exposed to UV light.  In another exercise, students performed a simulated microarray to learn how molecular biologists analyze differences in the expression of an organism’s genes under different conditions.  At the end of the year, students completed projects in which they considered the societal impacts and bioethical issues surrounding a variety of biotechnological applications, including animal cloning, stem cell research, genetic testing and databases, and genetically modified foods.  Through their work on these projects, students showcased their understanding of cellular and molecular biology, the resulting biotechnological applications, and the possibilities and ethical issues that these advances have brought about.

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