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An independent day school educating students PreK-Grade 12

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Advanced Research Program

Advanced Science Program for Independent Research and Engineering (ASPIRE)

ASPIRE is King School’s elite two-year science research program designed to offer hands-on, high-level experiences to King School’s most promising, top-achieving upper school students to better prepare them for a career in research prior to college. 

Students in this program participate in on and off-campus research opportunities where they receive mentoring, training, and guidance while focusing on their research

Internships and Advanced STEM

The ASPIRE program consists of two main components: 1) an internship at a renowned laboratory of the student’s choosing to get hands-on experience in the field of modern scientific research, and 2) enrollment in the Advanced STEM Research course, where students learn how to appropriately communicate their research in both written and oral formats such that students are competitive at local, state, regional, national, and international science fairs and research competitions. With this training, students are also capable of publishing their work in prestigious research journals.

Students intern at their lab placements for the remaining two summers of their time at King for this two-year program. Current and prospective interested students should contact Dr. Victoria Schulman,, for more information. 

Established in 2018 by Margharet, Frank, Bea '15 and William '17 Nash, the Advanced Mathematics and Science Study Program endowed fund supports select students with demonstrated ability and interest in achieving true excellence within science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics in global competition preparation, and/or laboratory research experiences.

If you are interested in supporting this opportunity for students, please contact the development office to discuss how your gift can help.

Program Timeline

King students are eligible to apply for the ASPIRE program, which spans 2.5 years, in the fall of their sophomore year.

2022-23 School Year ASPIRE Students

Antonia Kolb

Antonia Kolb ’24

Environmental Remediation

Environmental remediation via photocatalysis for partial methane oxidation and oil photodegradation.

Yale University, Shu Hu Lab

Gouri Kirshnan

Gouri Krishnan ’23

Reducing Energy Loss

Reducing energy loss from wasted plastic and lighting inefficiency through a combination of environmentally friendly polymers created from biomass and energy-saving electrochromic windows.

Yale University, Shu Hu Lab

Ben Persily

Ben Persily ’23


Utilizing and optimizing prime editing to target endogenous loci (CFTR and SOX2) and ameliorate genetic disorders in pluripotent stem cells.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Ting Zhou Lab

Yuriy Sandmeier

Yuriy Sandmeier ’23

Curing Tuberculosis

Knocking down of the essential 23S rRNA methyltransferase, rv3579c, increases the susceptibility of Mycobacterium tuberculosis to macrolides.

Rockefeller University, Jeremy Rock Lab

Layla Shah ’24

Understanding Eye Cancer

Determining the pigmentation of overexpressed BAP1 on the 92.1 GFP cell lines to predict prognosis for uveal melanoma.

Ryan Wempen ’24

Designing Spacecrafts

Designing a simulation for the aerothermodynamic performance of trans-atmospheric vehicles and ablative heat shield designs for space exploration reentry and hypersonic missile defense.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Labs: Air, Missile, and Maritime Defense Technology Group/Interceptor and Sensor Technology Group

Highlights of ASPIRE

During each academic year, students are required to submit the current state of their research projects to a variety of competitions and conferences as part of the student’s grade in the Advanced STEM Research course. The purpose of participating in high school research competitions and professional research conferences is to provide opportunities for the students to hone their presentation and communication skills, network with professionals who may open more doors of opportunity for the students, and provide an avenue through which students can receive external validation for their work in the form of recognition, prizes, accolades, and scholarships. Since 2020, King students have competed successfully in every state and regional competition they were qualified to enter. This is the ultimate goal of the course and the research program as a whole.

As part of the ASPIRE program, working with a real laboratory and helping conduct original research while I am still in high school is beyond my wildest dreams. The future of DNA as a nanomaterial is as extensive as the combinations it can produce, and the opportunity to work with it is now steering my thoughts towards a career in molecular biology.

Billy Bernfeld '22

Meet the Director of Science Research

Dr. Victoria Schulman leans on her vast experience in high-level research to coach and mentor students to help them reach their full potential.

Dr. Schulman earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Weill Cornell Medical College and completed her Postdoctoral research training at Yale University School of Medicine. She has 15+ years of research experience, having worked at many prestigious institutions, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH; Bethesda, MD), the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (Washington, DC), Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY), Weill Cornell Medical College (New York, NY), and Yale University (New Haven, CT). As a researcher, she was well respected in her field. Having published eight research papers, she was an invited speaker at three national/international research conferences and two national symposiums. She also earned numerous accolades for her research, including the William E. Kirwan Junior Investigator Research Award, the Vincent du Vigneaud Award of Excellence, the Golden Key International Scholar Grant, an NIH Research Grant, and she was even the recipient of the Distinguished Student Award for her graduating class at Weill Cornell Medical College and gave the keynote address at graduation. 

After changing careers in 2016 to teaching, Dr. Schulman has brought her expertise to the students at King School, where she mentors young, budding scientists and engineers as they pursue their research interests and present their findings and developments at local, state, regional, national, and international science fairs and research competitions. For her mentorship successes, she has been awarded the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium Regional Teacher Award for Excellence in Research Education, the Education 2.0 (Education of the Future) Outstanding Leadership in STEM Education Award, and been named a Distinguished Modern Classroom Educator and Expert Mentor as well as a Regeneron National Teacher of Merit.

Victoria Schulman

Science Faculty, Director of Science Research
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Alumni: Sammy Hillenmeyer '21

While I am studying topics in college that are drastically different from the research I did in high school, the skills learned from the ASPIRE experience are still very valuable to my work. Problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration are necessities in the field, no matter what major you end up entering. I have designed and built (with my class) a sample 100-foot bridge in an effort to learn about the forces in a suspension bridge and how to most efficiently put it together. It was a very cool and hands-on project, similar to my research in the lab. I declared civil engineering as my major.

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Portia Cummings '19

 I am a biology major in my final year at Columbia University and applying to medical school this year. Currently, I am conducting research in the Kim lab which investigates therapies to halt blood vessel growth in cancers, a process known as tumor driven angiogenesis. We target factors that destabilize tumor blood vessels and make it more difficult for immune cells to infiltrate and eradicate cancer cells. Through this research, we hope to elucidate the mechanisms underlying tumor driven angiogenesis and increase the efficacy of anti-angiogenic therapies. The ASMR/ASPIRE program introduced me to the field of cancer biology and aided in my early development of many fundamental laboratory skills. This exposure to basic and translational research had a huge impact on my ability to read and present scientific papers as well as comprehending how a research lab operates. It has been essential in determining my future career objectives, and I am very grateful to have had access to this opportunity while at King.”

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Alumni: Harry Amadeo '20

Getting a start in ASPIRE and now working in a propulsion lab solidified my passion for the aerospace industry and has made me more excited than ever to start a career in this field. Currently, I am doing undergraduate research at Purdue's Zucrow Propulsion Laboratories. I am working under a DARPA-funded program, in which we are training artificial intelligence to predict rocket propellant characteristics. Instead of running a multitude of tests on one propellant to determine its attributes, an AI could provide a solid baseline for future use. This will allow for time and money to be saved when researching and developing new propellants.

Research in Action

King Student Excels at International Science & Engineering Fair

King student Ben Persily ’23, placed fourth at the Connecticut Science & Engineering Fair (CSEF) in March for his research using stem cells and prime editing to study and correct the genetic mutations that cause cystic fibrosis. Ben’s accomplishment put him on the podium, standing out from over 600 students who participated in the state-wide fair. The success also meant that a student from King School would represent the Connecticut delegation at the International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) for the first time. 

Read More about King Student Excels at International Science & Engineering Fair
Researchers Demonstrate Resilience for Return of Science Fair

The Upper School Science Fair was back in the gymnasium this year after a two-year pause. Upper school students in Honors Biology, Honors Chemistry, Honors Physics, and the ASPIRE program participated in two sessions held on May 12 to present their research to peers, faculty, family, and special guests. 

“I love mentoring science fair projects for beginning students. Their excitement for trying new things is always refreshing. My favorite moments are when they shift from fear and nervousness about doing something new to excited and confident after they get results and realize it’s not that hard, and then they’ve learned a new skill,” said Director of Science Research Victoria Schulman. 

Read More about Researchers Demonstrate Resilience for Return of Science Fair
Young Scientists Research Independent Projects for Science Fair

A crowd of lower school students looked up in awe as a bottle rocket launched to near ceiling height at the Lower School Science Fair. Using a pressure pump, Ella Mendez ’29 and Ella McKee ’29 hypothesized that the more air pressure they added into a soda bottle, the higher the bottle will rocket upwards. The students learned that there were other variables that impact the height of the bottle such as its angle at launch and the force of gravity. The fair, which took place on April 28, presented new innovative ideas from the fifth grade class.

Read More about Young Scientists Research Independent Projects for Science Fair
King Students Advance to Prestigious Research Competitions

Six students from the Advanced Science Program for Independent Research and Engineering (ASPIRE) delayed their spring break plans to qualify for the final round of the 2022 Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair (CSEF). The effort proved to be worthwhile for the students, who advanced through higher levels of competition and brought home numerous awards from the event.

Ben Persily ’23 won several distinctions for his research exploring whether prime editing in stem cells could be used to correct the well-characterized mutation that causes cystic fibrosis. Among other awards, he earned one of only seven prestigious spots on the Connecticut delegation to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).  

Read More about King Students Advance to Prestigious Research Competitions