Flash Features: news and student achievements

New three-year Research class added to coursebook

New to the 2015–16 coursebook is a class called Research, taught by biology teacher Jacqueline Katz. The three-year, application-based program teaches the importance of research in science. Participating students choose scientific topics to research and experiment with over the course of the three years, consulting with mentors and working scientists. The course ends with presentations of completed work at science competitions.

“It’s a three-year course because students need to begin by learning the requirements of quality scientific research [in the] 2015–2016 [school year]; they then need to generate their own research proposal which can take a great deal of research and refining,” Katz said. “The remaining time in the program will be spent gathering data, which can be challenging and require multiple trials and some redesign of the original process.”

The course was the brainchild of Cherry Sprague, the District Supervisor of Science, and Katz was brought on for its implementation. Katz said, “Its goal is to bring actual scientific research to the high school level so that students can be aware of what’s actually going on outside in labs, and what they need to do to get involved in that type of research.”

Applications for this year’s class were due in February. Students were asked for basic information such as their math, science, and English class grades, as well as one teacher recommendation. “Once students submitted an application, they were asked to come and complete a writing sample. We were looking for students who performed well in math, science, and English, but also had a real passion for a particular topic,” said Katz.

Some students did not determine a focus area until after the application. “I basically wrote I had no idea [on the writing sample], because at that time I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Now I’m looking into molecular biology, on the medicinal side,” said Caren Ju ’18.

Over the summer, participating students read three scientific articles, summarized them, and recorded their reactions to share with the class.

Katz said, “Most students have a general idea or path, but we will be doing plenty of discovering, as right now they have very big ideas that need to be specialized.”

As overlap in topic choice emerges, Katz will group students with similar interests together. “I will be here to make sure the students keep moving forward. I will communicate with students as well as their mentors to track progress and hopefully ensure that necessary deadlines are met. I will also serve as a ‘sounding board’ when students encounter problems and need to discuss potential solutions,” Katz said.

The class has partnered with Rutgers University’s Waksman Student Scholar Program, through which they will try their hands at extracting genomes and will have the ability to publish DNA sequences. “We will be taking visits to Rutgers to see different departments and professors from different universities will be visiting us to speak about their experiences as scientists and researchers,” said Emma Glasser ’18.

“It’s really mindblowing. Honestly, I’m so excited for this course in general because it is exposing me to so many interesting new ideas and studies,” said Simran Kaur ’18.

The course’s application process will re-open to ninth grade students this spring.

Graphic: Aileen Wu

Graphic: Aileen Wu

Alumus donates internet access to district

After founding technology company Atlantic Metro Communications as a PHS sophomore, alum Stephen Klenert ’02 has given back to the district with a donation of Internet access to the entire district for three years. Use of the service began this past August for both Wifi and hardwired computers.

“I was contacted to participate in the bidding process required by schools and libraries for procuring these types of service by someone in the technology office,” Klenert said. “We were feeling pricing pressure from the bigger guys, so I came up with the idea of just donating the services. “

Klenert’s decision to donate was primarily due to the positive influence of the PHS technology office during his own time at the district. “If it was not for the help and mentoring I had at the technology office, I would have likely dropped out of high school to run the business that I am still running today,” Klenert said.

One of Stephen’s earliest mentors was Manager of Information Technology, Peter Thompson. Thompson acted as an advisor for several of Klenert’s individual projects, all tied to the technology office and related to helping with computer labs around the high school and middle school, and three of which he was involved in by his senior year. One was student-teaching a Cisco Systems class to students who wanted to learn about Internet protocols and routers. “Being given this opportunity really shaped what I was interested in and helped give me the skills I needed to start my own ISP business at the age of 17,” Klenert said.

Across the school district, the Internet access is used by approximately 3,500 students and has had few to no issues thus far. “This connection is twice as fast as what we had before, and is shared with all the Princeton [Public] Schools and the Princeton Public Library,” Thompson said. “I certainly haven’t heard anyone say it’s slower.”  

Klenert said, “We have 300-plus direct peering relationships, which means the things you want to connect communicate directly with our network and don’t traverse multiple providers, [which would take] longer to respond back.”

As in previous years, to access the Internet service via Wifi, all students can pick the guest network on their devices and log on with their active directory log on.

Regarding his business, Klenert believes that his focus on quality service differentiates his company from larger ones. “We’ve come to live in a very fast-paced, technology-focused world, and we want our interaction with our cell phone and our computers to react to our requests at the same rate,” Klenert said. “I’ve built my business based on relationships and helping my customers grow—our customers are not numbers to us like many other companies, which … have hundred of millions of dollars for marketing and are venture-backed. Their only goal is to add customer base and revenue; they don’t always care about quality of the service being delivered or the customer service.”

When it comes time to rebid after the three years, Klenert plans to continue providing Princeton Public Schools with Internet access at a reduced price.

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