STEM Distinction 2018 Graduates


While there are instances when it makes pedagogical sense to teach certain topics in isolation of others, addressing real world challenges compels us to remove interdisciplinary boundaries. Students who pursue the STEM Distinction at King School not only take a broad range of advanced STEM courses, but also engage in a Capstone project wherein STEM topics are meaningfully integrated to address a problem or a question. Dr. Thomas Castonguay, Chair of the Science Department and Director of STEM, underscores the value of a Capstone experience by explaining, "In effect, students are provided an authentic experience that is characteristic of STEM conducted on a professional level."

This year, three students presented their Capstone work to US students, Faculty, and parents at King's annual STEM Colloquium on Thursday, May 31.

Elena Gribelyuk

Elena Gribelyuk's Capstone work was carried out last summer under the guidance of Dr. Baba Vemuri, Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering and also Director of the Center for Vision Graphics and Medical Imaging at the University of Florida. Elena developed a novel computer algorithm that improves upon the conventional approaches that are used for filtering and enhancing image data. Elena's work has far-reaching implications in fields that require fast and reliable routines for processing high-resolution images, such as those that rely on high quality magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In presenting her work, "Efficient Recursive Bilateral Filters for Symmetric Positive-Definite Matrix-Valued Images," Elena shared her excitement that her contribution to the field may someday improve the accuracy with which doctors can diagnose diseases using MRI data. Elena described her experience by saying, "I feel honored to have had the opportunity to complete the STEM distinction, as I was empowered to complete an in-depth study of subjects that I am passionate about. Furthermore, as I pursued my Capstone research project, I was able to clarify what topics I'm particularly fascinated by in the fields of mathematics and computer science-- it was a life-changing experience that solidified my desire to seek a career centered on research." Elena will be majoring in mathematics at Columbia University.

Ali Wheeler

Under the mentorship of Mr. Schleunes, Ali's project, "Facial Recognition Using MatLab, Error Correcting Output Coding, and a Deep Neural Network," entailed developing a novel algorithm for conducting facial recognition in digital images. By leveraging her talent for mathematics and computer science, Ali wrote a program using matrix algebra and neural networking, among other advanced concepts. The result was an accurate and extremely efficient method for identifying facial images. Ali's work has the potential to impact fields that apply recognition and verification technology (e.g., security, counterfeit detection, etc.).

Reflecting on her work, Ali stated, "The STEM Distinction provided a great opportunity for me to combine multiple disciplines and skills to address a problem. You don't typically get to do that in a classroom setting." Ali will attend Middlebury College, where she will prepare for a career in neuroscience.

Max Helman

Max worked with both Mr. Schleunes and Dr. George Waters, an economics professor at Illinois State University, on a project titled "A Computational Econometrics Stock Market Simulation: an Evolutionary Game Theory Approach" that investigated the effect of insider trading on the stock market. By taking advantage of the powerful suite of mathematics and programming tools in MATLAB, software that professional scientists and engineers use routinely, Max modified an existing program - one that models legal stock trading stochastically - in order to account for the market response to insider trading. Max's modification to the code employed elements from evolutionary game theory as well as advanced topics from statistics. The simulations Max ran revealed that stock market stability is, in fact, increased when at least some insider trading is present. Although insider trading is illegal, Max's Capstone project brings to light some intriguing topics for discussion and further study.

In evaluating his experience, Max explained, "Pursuing the STEM Distinction allowed me to receive recognition, as well as opportunities, in fields I am interested in pursuing in the future. Receiving the distinction after rigorous coursework, extensive extracurricular pursuits, and a Capstone project provided immense gratification. The STEM Distinction is a wonderful opportunity for interested students, and is just one of many ways King prepares its students for future endeavors." Max intends to major in engineering at Columbia University.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics have always been part of King's core academics. Their interdisciplinary nature is core to our curriculum and sets our academic process apart. US students pursuing the STEM Graduation Distinction engage in rigorous courses, intensive clubs, and project development and research, which culminate in the Capstone projects. Learn more about STEM at King.