Science at George School

Science at George School encourages you to ask questions, explore hypotheses, and ultimately understand the world in which we live. Our academic schedule provides ample time for hands-on learning through experimentation, in both the lab and the field.

Paths can vary greatly from student to student, going beyond the big three of chemistry, biology, and physics to include computer programming, robotics, environmental science, and more targeted courses, such as cognitive neurology and forensic science. Understanding the world, after all, involves looking at it from different perspectives—even varied scientific ones.

Our Alumni

By taking robotics, Priya Tarpley took pleasure in programming.

Science by the Numbers

2

Alumni who have won Nobel Prizes.

11

Creative, thoughtful, and investigative teachers.

25

Science courses, 5 IB and 4 AP.

35+

Students participate in the annual IB Science Weekend.

More to Explore

Our Alumni

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Akobuije Chijioke ’92 still ponders a question asked by his IB Theory of Knowledge teacher at George School.

Our Faculty

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Chris Odom’s students learn very human lessons from working with robots.

Science Courses

Biology

This introductory course provides a survey of biology’s diverse fields of study. Topics covered include ecology, evolution, biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, Mendelian genetics, bioethics, diversity of life, human anatomy and physiology, and botany. Concepts presented in lectures are illustrated using demonstrations and experiments. Students will hone their abilities to articulate their knowledge clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Lab reports include data collection and analysis of experimental outcomes; students should be able to apply basic algebraic skills to these analyses. Students are assigned supplemental readings, in addition to readings from the textbook.

This course fulfills the life science requirement.

Students interested in taking an IB or AP Biology course in the future should take Intensive Biology instead of this course.

Recommended for: Sophomores and juniors

Intensive Biology

This introductory course will move at a pace and depth more typical of AP and IB Biology classes, covering at least 25 chapters in the textbook. Topics covered include ecology, evolution, biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, Mendelian and non-Mendelian genetics, bioethics, microbiology, diversity of life, human anatomy and physiology, and botany. Concepts with increasing complexity and abstraction will be tackled (for example, photosynthesis and cellular respiration pathways). Students should expect to handle large amounts of material and to spend considerable time studying outside of class. Students in this class must be able to articulate their knowledge clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Lab experiments will regularly be conducted in class, with an occasional required evening lab (one per term). Lab reports include data collection and in-depth analyses of experimental results; students should be able to apply algebraic skills and statistical analyses to their data. Some laboratories will be administered and assessed according to IB criteria. Students are frequently assigned technical and complex supplemental readings, in addition to readings from the textbook. No summer work is required for this course. This course is the required prerequisite course for IB Biology SL, IB Biology HL, and AP Biology; exceptions to this must be approved by the department.

This course fulfills the life science requirement.

Recommended for: Sophomores and juniors

IB SL Biology

This course prepares students for the IB Standard Level (SL) Biology exam. Lecture-format classes are combined with frequent experiments to investigate all major topics in the IB SL Biology curriculum: cells, molecular biology, genetics, ecology, evolution and biodiversity, and human physiology. An in-class dissection of a mammal provides hands-on experience with anatomy. Information is covered in detail and at a moderately fast pace. Nightly homework typically includes reading a chapter in a college-level textbook, writing a lab report, or preparing a presentation. Occasional evening and/or weekend labs are required in order to fulfill IB lab expectations. This course includes a lengthy independent research project.

All students are required to take the IB SL Biology exam, usually offered in early May. Students must also attend a weekend-long IB science retreat, during which they complete an IB-style research project. Readings are assigned over most vacations, and students are required to complete a summer assignment in preparation for this class.

Open to: Juniors and seniors in the IB diploma program

IB HL Biology

This college-level course prepares students for the IB Higher Level (HL) Biology exam. Lecture-format classes are combined with frequent experiments to investigate all major topics in the IB HL Biology curriculum: cells; molecular biology; genetics; ecology; evolution and biodiversity; human physiology; nucleic acids; metabolism, cell respiration, and photosynthesis; plant biology; genetics and evolution; and animal physiology. Information is covered in detail and at a fast pace. Nightly homework typically includes reading a chapter in a college-level textbook, writing a lab report, completing review sheets, studying for weekly quizzes, or completing analysis of scientific studies with data-based questions. Occasional evening and/or weekend labs are required in order to fulfill IB lab expectations. The course includes a lengthy independent research project which is required as part of the IB’s Internal Assessment.

All students are required to take the IB HL Biology exam. Students must also attend a weekend-long IB science retreat, during which they complete an IB-style research project. Readings are assigned over most vacations, and students are required to complete a summer assignment in preparation for this class.

Open to: Seniors in the IB diploma program

AP Biology

This college-level course prepares students for the AP Biology exam. Lecture-format classes are combined with frequent experiments to investigate all major topics in the AP Biology curriculum, which center around four Big Ideas loosely defined as evolution, metabolism, information processing, and biological complexity. Topics are covered in detail and at a fast pace. Nightly homework typically includes reading a chapter in a college-level textbook, writing a lab report, or writing an essay. Occasional evening and/or weekend labs are required in order to fulfill AP lab expectations. Most labs are inquiry-based, requiring students to develop their scientific skills and work more independently

Students are required to take the AP exam. Students are also required to complete a summer assignment in preparation for the class.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Chemistry

The major concepts of inorganic chemistry are covered in this course. These include atomic structure, molecular bonding, typical chemical reactions, stoichiometry, acids and bases, solutions, nuclear reactions, thermodynamics, and kinetics. The study of these topics requires a facility with single-variable algebra and mathematical calculations to demonstrate quantitative principles. Material is taught thoroughly and in-depth to facilitate student understanding of complex concepts. Comprehension is reinforced with frequent practice of various types of problems typical of a chemistry curriculum. Learning is supported with weekly lab activities and demonstrations. Students are expected to read and practice problems from their textbooks daily. Frequent written lab assignments are required.

The version of this course offered for upperclassmen also includes the following topics: Electrochemistry, equilibrium systems, and oxidation-reduction.

This course fulfills the physical science requirement.

Open to: Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors

Intensive Chemistry

The major concepts of inorganic chemistry are covered in this course, at a pace that requires prior mastery of single-variable algebra. These include atomic structure and theory, bonding, periodic trends, chemical reactions, stoichiometry, gas laws, solution chemistry, acids and bases, thermochemistry, kinetics, equilibrium systems oxidation-reduction, and nuclear chemistry. Students are expected to read and practice problems from their textbooks daily. Rigorous and fast-paced lectures are supported by weekly lab investigations and demonstrations. Frequent written lab assignments are required to be completed in a scientific lab notebook and students use computer software applications for data collection, graphing, and analysis. This course will prepare students for future study in AP Chemistry.

This course fulfills the physical science requirement.

Open to: Freshmen and new sophomores

AP Chemistry

This course prepares students for the AP chemistry exam and for the SAT subject test in chemistry. Students are assumed to have a baseline understanding of stoichiometry, chemical bonding and intermolecular forces, atomic theory, thermodynamics, gas laws, periodicity, and types of chemical reactions at the beginning of the course. These topics are reviewed briefly, and the following topics are studied in greater depth: acid-base chemistry, spectroscopy techniques, relationships between macroscopic and microscopic properties, kinetics, equilibrium, oxidation-reduction reactions, electrochemistry, and standard lab procedures. This is a fast-paced course with a significant laboratory component, and students are expected to design some of their own lab procedures and participate actively during all class sessions. Frequent written assignments are required, both on a weekly basis and over most vacation periods.

Students are required to complete a summer assignment in preparation for this course.

Open to: Sophomores, juniors, and seniors

Physics

This course helps students to discover the laws of nature firsthand, at a pace that allows for the development of required mathematical concepts. Major concepts covered include, but are not limited to, kinematics, laws of motion, energy, momentum, gravity, circular motion, electricity, magnetism, and electrical circuits. Substantial time is spent in the laboratory. Weekly or biweekly lab experiments are performed during class and the results are analyzed in lab reports. In addition to lab reports, students are assigned approximately three to five hours of homework per week, which might include reading a chapter from a college-level text or solving several related problems.

This course fulfills the physical science requirement.

Students interested in taking an IB or AP Physics course in the future should take Intensive Physics instead of this course.

Open to: Sophomores, juniors and seniors

Intensive Physics

This course helps students to discover the laws of nature firsthand, at a pace that requires the prior mastery of Algebra and Trigonometry. Topics covered in the physics course will be presented at a deeper level in order to prepare students for future study in International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) physics courses. Substantial time is spent in the laboratory. Weekly or biweekly lab experiments are performed during class and the results are analyzed in lab reports, some of which are assessed according to IB criteria. In addition to lab reports, students are assigned approximately three to five hours of homework per week, which might include reading a chapter from a college-level text or solving several related problems. This course fulfills the physical science requirement.

Open to: Sophomores, juniors, and seniors

IB SL Physics

This course prepares students for the International Baccalaureate Standard Level exam, as well as algebra-based physics at the college level. Substantial time is spent in the laboratory. Covered topics include mechanics, thermal physics, waves, electricity and magnetism, circular motion and gravitation, atomic, nuclear and particle physics and energy production. Students in this course will participate in the Group 4 Project, which is a weekend long, interdisciplinary scientific research project. Students must have mastered multi-variable algebra, trigonometry, logarithms, exponents, and operations using a graphing calculator. Additionally, students should be familiar with vectors and mathematical modeling of data. Weekly or biweekly lab experiments are performed during class and the results are analyzed in lab reports. All students must also complete a 10-hour independent research project. Students are assigned approximately five to seven hours of homework per week. All students enrolled in the course are required to take the IB exam.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

IB HL Physics

This course prepares students for the International Baccalaureate Higher Level exam, as well as algebra-based physics at the college level. Substantial time is spent in the laboratory. The topics covered in this course are broadly the same as those in IB SL Physics with the addition of quantum physics. Concepts are treated in more depth and with more mathematical rigor. Students in this course will participate in the Group 4 Project, which is a weekend long, interdisciplinary scientific research project. Students must have mastered multi-variable algebra, trigonometry, logarithms, exponents, and operations using a graphing calculator. Additionally, students should be familiar with vectors and mathematical modeling of data. Weekly or biweekly lab experiments are performed during class and the results are analyzed in lab reports. All students must also complete a 10-hour independent research project. Students are assigned approximately five to seven hours of homework per week. All students enrolled in the course are required to take the IB exam.

Open to: Seniors

AP Physics C: Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism

This demanding and fast-paced course follows the syllabus of the AP Physics C-Mechanics and the AP Physics C-Electricity & Magnetism exams, preparing students for a two-semester course of calculus-based physics at the university level. Topics include, but are not limited to kinematics; Newton’s laws of motion; work, energy, and power; systems of particles and linear momentum; circular motion and rotation; oscillations and gravitation; electrostatics; conductors, capacitors, and dielectrics; electric circuits; magnetic fields; and electromagnetism. The course helps students develop a deep understanding of the laws of physics through the application of rigorous mathematical techniques and detailed analytical approach to experimental data. Throughout the year, students will learn how to solve complex physics problems using the differential and integral calculus. Students must be able to recognize mathematical patterns quickly and to apply their understanding of specific experiments to more general phenomena. Substantial time is spent in the laboratory. Students must have mastered multi-variable algebra, trigonometry, vectors, logarithms, exponents, and mathematical modeling of data with and without a graphing calculator. Weekly or biweekly lab experiments are performed during class and the results are analyzed in lab reports. Students should be unafraid to use computer technology in the acquisition, analysis, and reporting of data. Students are assigned approximately five to seven hours of homework per week, which might include reading a chapter from a college-level text, solving several multi-step problems, writing lab reports, and conducting independent research.

During the summer months, students are required to perform summer work, which might entail reading a book of scientific interest, studying tutorials on spreadsheet and/or calculator programming, and/or solving problems in the text. This course fulfills the physical science requirement.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Environmental Science: Sustainable Systems

This class combines discussion and experiential learning, both in the lab and in the field, to rigorously investigate the impact of humans on our environment. Major topics include climate science, geological processes, ecology, biomes, resource management, energy, population, environmental stewardship, sustainable development, organic gardening, green architecture, and environmental politics. The curriculum is supplemented by online articles and other sources to synchronize the course with current environmental issues. Students contribute to the curriculum through presentations and special projects, and their progress is assessed based on participation in class discussions and activities, as well as lab reports and testing.

This course fulfills the life science requirement.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

IB SL Environmental Systems and Societies

This lab-driven, transdisciplinary course prepares students for the IB Environmental Science exam. Students use systems thinking to explore ecosystems, energy and nutrient transformations, population dynamics, biodiversity, and the issues of global warming and pollution management. Students also investigate a range of environmental value systems with reference to specific environmentally-related decisions made locally and globally. Students should expect to work knee-deep in water or trudge through thick meadows, rain or shine, because field work is central to understanding the environment. All students in this class are expected to take the IB exam and to attend a weekend-long IB science retreat, during which they complete an IB project. Students are expected to own their own closed-toed shoes appropriate for wading into a stream. Rain boots are preferred.

A summer assignment is required in preparation for the course.

This course fulfills the life science requirement.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Computer Programming and Robotics

This course is cross-listed in the math and science departments. This is a self-directed course that is project-oriented and driven largely by student interests. Students build their own PRT3 motherboard and learn to use the Arduino Language to program their own Teensy 3.2 microcontroller development board. (The Arduino language is based heavily on the well-known C‑programming language.) It is assumed that students are already comfortable with computer technology but know very little about computer programming. Throughout the year, students create autonomous robotics applications for wheeled, walking and facially-expressive robots manufactured by Patton Robotics, or they can design and build their own robot or embedded controller system.

Programming topics include logical statements, functions, loops, recursion, sensor input, motor control and relays. While students in this class will be required to write some algorithms from scratch, they will be permitted to use algorithms found online or authored by other students. Students will be taught how to use computer-aided design (CAD) software to make 3D models which can then be printed on the many 3D printers in the laboratory. Students are also introduced to electronics, circuit design, and mechanical engineering concepts and tools. Once the student has shown an understanding of programming basics, 3D design and electronics, they are on their own to design, build and program one or more robotic applications that will perform some autonomous task, usually incorporating simple feedback control systems. Students will display their projects during the Interactive Robotics Open House, which takes place at the end of Term 3.

Students who are uncomfortable applying science and mathematics to everyday situations may find this course will provide practical and relevant ways to help refine and augment their own knowledge of science and mathematics. Students in this course should challenge themselves to use their hands and imaginations to make robots do something.

This course fulfills the physical science requirement.

Open to: Sophomores, juniors, and seniors

Intensive Computer Programming and Robotics

This course is cross-listed in the math and science departments. The pace of this course is parallel to Computer Programming & Robotics, but there is a difference in depth. Specifically, students in the Intensive class are required to solve about 30 percent more problems and are expected to show mastery of the basic topics as well as learn additional topics such as arrays, EEPROM data storage, and communications protocols. Students in this class are required to write most of their algorithms from scratch. For the final project, their robots are expected to perform sophisticated autonomous tasks incorporating multiple feedback control systems.

This course fulfills the physical science requirement.

Open to: Sophomores, juniors, and seniors

AP Computer Science A

AP Computer Science A is an introductory course in computer science for those who already have some basic programming experience. The course emphasizes object-oriented programming methodology with a concentration on problem solving and algorithm development, and is the equivalent of a first semester college-level course in computer science.

The central activity of the course is the design and implementation of computer programs to solve problems; the goal of the course is to develop and hone skills that are fundamental to the study of computer science. Creating computer programs is used as a context for introducing other important aspects of computer science, including the development and analysis of algorithms, the development and use of classes and fundamental data structures, the study of standard algorithms and typical applications, and the use of logic and formal methods. The responsible use of these systems is an integral part of the course.

The computer language studied is Java, as required by the AP curriculum. The prerequisites for entering this course include knowledge of algebra, a foundation of mathematical reasoning, and experience in problem solving. In addition, because documentation plays a central role in the programming methodology, competence in written communication is a requirement. It is expected that all students in the course will sit for the AP Computer Science A exam, which is administered in the spring term.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Cognitive Neurology

This term course delves into underlying questions regarding our evolution, behavior, and perception. Students explore some of the questions regarding the way we, as a species, perceive, behave, and respond to the world around us, challenging themselves to look for connections. As they search for a deeper understanding of the scientific principles covered, students examine the validity of the theories presented to them about how the brain works. Specific topics covered include cognitive biases, the limbic system, memory, visual perception and processing, and some interesting cognitive disorders that give us a window into the inner workings of the brain.

Students are expected to maintain a well-organized, detailed journal to document observations and reflections from readings, discussions, and lab activities. Among the thought-provoking readings for this course are challenging technical articles and Rita Carter’s Mapping the Mind. One major oral presentation is required.

This course fulfills 1 credit of the life science requirement.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Forensic Science

This term course provides an introduction to the many scientific and procedural methods involved in the field of crime scene investigation. The primary focus is on the particular scientific techniques used to analyze a variety of types of forensic evidence. In addition to becoming proficient in each of these techniques students need to understand the scientific principles that make these tests possible and valid. Some of the laboratory experiments include fingerprinting, flame tests, blood typing, DNA analysis, gel electrophoresis, print casting, and fiber, hair, and blood pattern analysis. Laboratory activities take place during most class periods and are supplemented by reading assignments from the text. A final project challenges students to apply the techniques they have learned to complete an investigation of a staged crime scene.

This course fulfills 1 credit of the life science requirement.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Genetics

The study and application of modern genetics is the focus of this term course. Following an introduction to the relationship of DNA and proteins to the expression of genetic traits, the students have ample opportunity to learn and use many of the techniques of biotechnology. Laboratories include, but are not limited to, isolation of DNA, bacterial transformation with plasmid DNA, and protein and DNA analysis by electrophoresis. The students explore the new field of bioinformatics via the Internet, and consider the various ethical issues involved in the uses of genetic technology. Each student is expected to maintain a well-organized notebook. Previous experience in biology is helpful, but not required.

The course fulfills 1 credit of the life science requirement.

(Course will not be offered in 2017-18.)

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Human Anatomy and Physiology

The Human Anatomy and Physiology term science class takes a holistic and applied approach to introducing students to this exciting area of study. The course relies heavily on laboratory activities, as well as on selected readings and discussions that emphasize the interconnected nature of anatomy and physiology. Laboratories will include the dissection of preserved comparative anatomy specimens; the use of clay human anatomy models is also being explored. The class also includes discussions of bioethics and conversations about various career paths related to anatomy and physiology. Each unit emphasizes the relationship between structure and function as it applies to a particular topic. For example, the musculoskeletal, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems are taught in the context of exercise physiology and sports medicine. Other units include, but are not limited to, nutrition and our gastrointestinal microbiome; infectious diseases, vaccines, and the immune system; and reproduction in the age of genomics, epigenetics, and personalized medicine.

This course counts toward the life science requirement.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Adv. Microcontroller Programming (Independent Study)

Advanced Microcontroller Programming is an applied science and mathematics course for students who, due to the independent nature of the course, are self-motivated and have a deep understanding of microcontroller programming, mathematics, and basic electronics. This is a project-oriented course and is largely driven by student interests.

In this course, students will continue their work from last year and dive deeper into programming a microcontroller using the Arduino C language. One goal of the course is to broaden students’ programming horizons by introducing them to a number of additional programming platforms, which may include H-Bridge controllers for driving DC motors, GPS controllers for outdoor way-point navigation, RF modules for wireless communication between robots, or PIC processor programming.

Through independent study, students will also delve more deeply into microelectronics, providing valuable hands-on experiences with circuit board design and assembly of one’s own sensors, controlling multiplexers and LCD screens, and further integration of electronics theory with microcontroller analog-to-digital operations. New programming topics may include top-down and event-driven programming, arrays, serial commands, multitasking, and multiplexing.

Student progress will be assessed via work on one or more projects throughout the year. Project ideas will be formulated by the students. A faculty member will oversee the project(s) and provide support when necessary. Students and their faculty mentor should set aside a mutually agreed upon time to meet every other week to monitor progress. External assessment and feedback may also be sought in the form of robotic competitions and contests around the country. Projects may include, but are not limited to, autonomous open terrain navigation using a 4-wheeler vehicle, environmental sensing, robot soccer, robotic firefighting, planetary exploration, and search & rescue.

This course may only be taken as a 7th course.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Adv. Programming (Independent Study)

Advanced Programming Languages and Techniques is an applied science and mathematics course for students who, due to the independent nature of the course, are self-motivated and already have a deep understanding of desktop programming. Experience with another programming language such as C, C++, Arduino C, Visual Basic, and/or Python is required for enrollment in this course.

The goal of Advanced Programming Languages is to broaden further the student’s horizons in computer science. Students may continue their work in a language in which they are familiar, or they may dive into other languages. This is an applied mathematics and programming course for students who, due to the independent nature of the course, are self-motivated and have a deep understanding basic algebra and experience in problem solving.

This is a project-oriented course and is largely driven by student interests. It is not an introductory programming course, nor does it formally cover information technologies such as word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, or Power Point design. There is little formal lecturing, placing the emphasis on student-driven, inquiry-based learning.

Student progress will be assessed via work on one or more projects throughout the year. Project ideas will be formulated by the students. A faculty member will oversee the project(s) and provide support when necessary. Students and their faculty mentor should set aside a mutually agreed upon time to meet every other week to monitor progress.

This course may only be taken as a 7th course.

Open to: Juniors and seniors

Java Programming (Independent Study)

Students in this course will learn the Java programming language. It is important that students understand that this course builds upon a foundation of mathematical reasoning that should be acquired before attempting such a course. Students who take this course for three terms will be prepared to sit for the AP Computer Science A exam, which is administered in the spring term.

Java Programming is an applied programming course for students who, due to the independent nature of the course, are self-motivated and have a deep understanding basic algebra and experience in problem solving. This is a project-oriented course and is largely driven by student interests. It is not an introductory programming course, nor does it formally cover information technologies such as HTML programming, word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, or Power Point design. There is little formal lecturing, placing the emphasis on student-driven, inquiry-based learning.

The course emphasizes object-oriented programming methodology with a concentration on problem solving and algorithm development, and is meant to be the equivalent of a first-semester college-level course in computer science. Because the design and implementation of computer programs to solve problems involve skills that are fundamental to the study of computer science, a large part of the course is built around the development of computer programs that correctly solve a given problem. The AP Computer Science Lab Requirements (new in 2014-15) will be a large part of the curriculum, especially in the latter half of the year.

Students and their faculty mentor should set aside a mutually agreed upon time to meet every other week to monitor progress. Student progress will be assessed in a number of ways. Challenge Problems, laboratory work, and sample AP exams will be given throughout the term. Challenge Problems and lab work will be created by both the teacher and student. The student’s assessment and preparation will conclude with the taking of a number of practice AP exams.

This course may only be taken as a 7th course.

Open to: Juniors and seniors