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Senior Projects: Stars (Students) and Stripes (Zebras) and All That Jazz

The list of Senior Projects this year did not include one that calculates how much brainpower was expended during the process, but it is safe to say that the brain of each student — which might weigh all of three pounds — was carrying more than its share of weight. 

As were these seniors, who weren't just cruising to the finish line. They were taking advantage of a unique opportunity afforded once in their high school career. Students interested in pursuing Senior Projects must submit project proposals. If their projects are approved, they must work at least eight hours per day for the last two weeks of classes to bring the projects to fruition. Students are excused from classes those two weeks, but the program description notes that these projects “are as challenging and substantial as completing the typical work of a regular course load — but usually a lot more fun.”   

An apt description. Projects this year ranged from those deeply associated with science and medicine — such as “Developing an Exercise Routine Using an Arduino EMG Sensor” — to those of various artistic and cultural endeavors, such as “Project Jazz” and “Cooking 101: The Melting Pot.”   

"What a seriously rich honor it was to showcase the varied and vibrant talents of these students," said Senior Project committee and faculty member Adam Alsamadisi. "One student produced an entire album. Another helped the pastry chef and baker produce baked goods for the dining hall at scale, while another employed linear algebra to develop a recommendation app. We saw students engage with diffusion-reaction systems, telescope parts, yarn, exercise science, and harmonicas, and each of them grew in special and important ways. I was grateful to be a part of the Senior Project Committee, and thank my colleagues Neil Chaudhary, Rachel Engelke, and Ed Pond for their excellent leadership and collaboration."

If titles are meant to pique one’s interest, the participants succeeded. Each of the 21 projects, some individual, some by teams, were presented in half-hour blacks on three evenings, May 20–22. The nights were divided into three themes: Women in STEM, Makers, and Artists. A reception was held in the Richmond Arts Center after the 29 students' last night of presentations.  

The title of Mark Zhang’s project, “Painting Stripes on Zebras: A Mathematical Exploration of Pattern Formation in Nature,” got the brains of those in the audience working. Mark explained that the project was an exploration of “Turing Patterns (aka ‘reaction-diffusion systems’), which are a system of differential equations that can be used to explain and model most of the animal coat patterns found in nature, like stripes on a zebra, spots on a giraffe, etc.  

“Not only is the model able to explain animal coat patterns,” Mark continued, “it also can explain things as broad and wide-ranging as the spacing between your fingers, why grass grows in clumps, and even visual hallucinations. I chose my topic because I love finding connections between seemingly unrelated things, and I’m also very interested in math and biology.” 

He also is a musician.  

“One of the most interesting things I found during the process was that these patterns can be considered analogous to vibrations on a second surface,” Mark said. “I happen to play the cello, and I realized that if the analogy worked for a second surface, it would also work for a [one-dimensional] object, so a cello string, and as such, the stripes on a zebra could be analogous to the harmonic overtones of a stringed instrument. The project became very special to me after I realized this sort of ‘ultimate connection’ between everything I love: math, science, nature, and now music.”  

The learning process for Mark continued right up to the presentation.  

“The project was a lot more work than expected, but I had a lot of fun,” Mark said. “A couple days before the presentation, I had over 70 slides for a 20-minute presentation. Cutting down and trying to explain the math in some sort of understandable way was quite a challenge.” 

For Mark, the project is over — for now. 

He said he is not 100 percent confident that the stripes on a zebra could be analogous to the harmonic overtones of a stringed instrument. 

“As far as I know, there has only been one paper published comparing these patterns to vibrations on a second surface, and I feel like there were many factors that they didn’t explain properly such as material stiffness, etc.,” Mark said “I hope I can bring this analogy with me throughout college and eventually learn enough to be able to say conclusively what is and is not the same in these two systems.” 

Izzie Tarantino’s project was titled “Tools for School.” 

She developed a system designed to improve daytime study halls in which students serve as proctors. Izzie said she and other proctors signed up for this role through the Learning Access and Student Achievement Office because they wanted to help younger students with their study skills. She thought the proctors could play a larger role than just taking attendance and monitoring. 

Izzie worked with Rebecca DiSciacco, associate director of Learning Access and Student Achievement, to create a series of 10-minute lessons that proctors can conduct at the beginning of study halls as well as a training program and proctor manual. 

Jessica Luo’s project, “Unlocking the Secrets of Interstitial Fluid,” brought her not only out of the classroom for two weeks, but off campus to the nonprofit Jackson Lab for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn., where she worked with researchers who were testing microneedle patch technologies for their ability to sample interstitial fluid from human skin. This kind of sampling is increasingly seen as an effective way of gathering biomarker data about a patient, in the same way that blood and urine samples are used. 

Women in STEM 2024 photo Senior Projects

The "Women in STEM" participants in this year's Senior Projects.





Unlocking the Secrets on Interstitial Fluid: A Deep Dive into the Skin Using Microneedle Technologies | Jessica Luo 

Tools for School | Izzie Tarantino 

Research in Enzyme Kinetics | Charlie Liss & Charlotte Millman 

Developing an Exercise Routine Using an Arduino EMG Sensor | Bella Flowers 

Pulse: An Encompassing Recommendation System | Zarin Rizvi 

Flood Risk Analysis: Finding Vulnerable Communities in Windsor, CT with Data | Sarah Wagner 

Seeking a New Lens | Angela Adu-Boateng & Fedora Liu 



Baking for Hundreds: Mass Producing Desserts at LC | Isabella Delach 

Cooking 101: The Melting Pot | Gabriel Jiang & Lauren Patterson 

Molding Eco Magic | Kayla Anderson 

Art on the Brain: Learning the Craft of Crocheting | Jayden Furstein, Elizabeth Purdy & Sofia Sorce 

Game Design: Retrieving a Lost Childhood Enjoyment | Andy Zhang 

Cross-Cultural Cuisine: My Journey with Food | Mina Ruffle 

Painting Stripes on Zebras: A Mathematical Exploration of Pattern Formation in Nature | Mark Zhang 

Isabella Wang's Senior Proejct in 2024

"Across the Sciences and Math: Clark Mural No. 2," Isabella Wang's project, will hang on a wall on the first floor of the Clark Center for Science and Mathematics. 



Through the Viewfinder: A Photographic History of Loomis Chaffee | Annie Nichols & Max Shapiro 

Loomis Uncovered: Exploring the Campus Through Senior Eyes | Melody Saunders & Annie Shactman 

Project Jazz | Christian Aljian 

Behind the Scenes: Stories of Those Who Make Loomis, Loomis | Dalia Brown & Jaleen Kairys 

Learning How to Produce My First EP | Leah Ozgun 

Across the Sciences and Math: Clark Mural No. 2 | Isabella Wang 

Bomoseen: The Two Week Mini-Album | Brigham Cooper 


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