STEM Week 2021

Every year, Solebury School's math and science departments celebrate the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math by hosting STEM-related events, activities, and guest speakers. The week is meant not only to engage the entire school with those subjects, but also to inspire thinking about STEM-related careers. Seniors: If you are interested in pursuing a potential Senior Project with any of our STEM guests, please follow up with Math Department Head Britta Milks or Science Department Head Cari Nelson.


Matt Zisk P'24 initially began his career as a chemistry professor and expert witness. After attending law school he became a patent litigator and patent prosecutor for a fortune 25 pharmaceutical company. Matt explained to students what a patent is, the process of getting one, and showed a few examples of some unique and interesting patents. He also explained the importance of finding a mentor to help throughout college and every step of your career.


Ken Baron P'23 works in finance and spoke to students about how the stock market works. He talked about investing in the stock market, what drives stock prices, and how government policy can help or hurt the market. Ken reviewed how the 2016 election affected the stock market and had students take part in an activity pretending to be investors during the election. Students made their predictions, then reviewed the actual outcomes from 2016. He ended his presentation explaining how to get involved in investing and how material learned in various math classes can be applied in the real world.

Biology students were joined by Organic Vegetable Farmer, Mike Tholis. Mike discussed the difference between large-scale agriculture versus small-scale local farming, showing pictures of how planting techniques differ for each. He then took the class out to the garden to get their hands dirty examining three different soil types. A few brave students even tasted the different soils. Mike explained what conditions work best for growing vegetables and brought radish seeds and lettuce for students to plant in the Abbe garden. 

Thom Richmond and Russel Davis are state-licensed paramedic-firefighters with over 60 years of emergency services experience between them. Now on the facilities team at Solebury School, they keep our immediate community and the surrounding area safe as volunteer EMT firefighters. They showed students the firetruck that is housed on campus and shared their experiences as first responders and the training that is required for the job. Thom is currently a paramedic for Central Bucks SRT/SWAT and is the Director of Safety & Security at Solebury School. He is a retired Battalion Chief for Northampton Township Fire-Rescue. Russell is currently an active firefighter/EMT with the New Hope Eagle Fire company and a retired career firefighter in Newtown Township. 



Wayne Fowler, a retired Air Force pilot who now flies for Delta Airlines, explained the mechanics of flight, the process of becoming a pilot, and shared an entertaining video of him in a centrifuge machine. The students peppered him with questions and learned a good deal about the benefits of a career as a pilot, what happens to your body in flight, and whether or not the movie Top Gun is true to life.

Stephanie Dunbar is VP and Head of Statistical Sciences and Analytics at AbbVie where she oversees 300 statisticians. She discussed the process of designing clinical trials to show if a drug works and the different phases of trials. She also explained the development differences between a main brand drug and a generic drug. 

Biology and anatomy classes were joined by Eva Karkas '75, an ethnobotanist. Eva explained that ethnobotany is the interrelationship between plants and people. She read a snippet from her book published this summer about sustainability. The class enjoyed the fresh and fragrant lavender and rose hips she brought to aid in her discussion about nutraceuticals. Eva taught herself Latin to aid in her plant education and went on to receive a bachelor's in ethnobotany. She lives in East Amwell on River Bend Farm where she runs her high-end gardening business, The Country Gardener. 


Mike McMenamin, a Wildlife Biologist and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer, has always had a passion for the outdoors and animals. He shared what it's like to coordinate patrols and rescues and talked about a few of the animals he works with regularly. He explained how radio telemetry is used to track movements and specific migratory routes and demonstrated that as the receiver gets closer to the transmitter, the beeps get louder meaning the animal wearing the transmitter is close by. Mike also brought turtle shells for students to examine and a decoy turkey used to catch poachers. 

As the National Sales Manager at Pocono Organics, Dave McClain works with store owners from all over the world to teach them about the exciting regenerative organic products grown and produced at the farm. Lindsay McClain serves as the Executive Chef at Pocono Organics Market and Café and appeared on season 20 of Chopped, where she was crowned Chopped Champion. At our weekly school-wide assembly, Dave and Lindsay gave an insightful presentation on regenerative organics, sharing that Pocono Organics received the first regenerative organic certification (ROC) in the U.S. and has the tallest greenhouses in the world. ROC farms and products meet the highest standards in the world for soil health, animal welfare, and farmworker fairness. Dave and Lindsay shared the benefits of eating organically, the difference between soil and dirt, and the environmental importance of keeping soil healthy. 

Before the assembly, Chemistry students were treated to a lesson with Dave and Lindsey on food science and learned how to make their own pumpkin-spiced ice cream. They saw the difference in how high-quality cream looks from what they buy in the store and learned about the effects of salt on the temperature of water. (Hint - it makes ice colder, but melts it at the same time. We need a chemist to figure that one out).



Dr. Linda Chaille-Arnold P'20 has been an ER Physician for 15 years at Temple University Hospital's Episcopal campus in the Kensington neighborhood of North Philadelphia. She shared photos, x-rays, and CAT scans as examples of the wide variety of infections, injuries, and illnesses she sees every day. Linda and the hospital's staff have been the front lines for the care and treatment for COVID-19 in this community since the beginning of the pandemic, and she has seen both patients and staff face serious challenges in fighting this illness. She explained that Temple University Hospitals were one of the largest participants in the phase three trials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and that they are still reporting data as part of this process. Before ending her presentation she shared with students that there are various paths to medical school and it doesn't have to be a straight line through a pre-med undergraduate degree. 

Kristin Johnson is an environmental engineer. She talked to students about some of her past projects including the design of water filters in Honduras, her work as a design engineer after hurricane Katrina, being a music festival sustainability consultant in Costa Rica, and helping various communities rebuild after a disaster. She led students through an exercise in flood risk reduction measures and emergency responses, having them choose between three types of responses. Kristin also discussed her recent application to medical school sharing, “It’s okay for your career path not to lead in a straight line and to make changes.”  

You can find successful Solebury alums in almost any field, and STEM fields are no exception. Students were joined by three young alumni: Michael Glass ’17, and Matt and Susan (Huang) Keefe ’14 (now married) who shared important insights and advice on achieving what you set out to do. Matt is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California San Francisco, where he is studying how to regenerate the body’s own cells to cure disease. He shared, “Every day you are going to have to decide if you are going to do the hard work, or if you are going to take it easy. I am not successful because I am smart. I am successful because I work hard.” Susan is completing her schooling to be an oral maxillofacial surgeon and encouraged the students to have faith in themselves, especially women and students of color. Michael, who is working towards a Master of Data Analytics degree, advised students to get experience, pursue internships, and take advantage of opportunities. “It’s not the school you go to, it’s what you do while you are there.” All three also encouraged our students to use the resources available to them at Solebury, noting that their teachers, Britta in particular, and opportunities like Senior Project will set you up for success.



Dr. Erin Saltzman, MD P’25 is an endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism specialist. She talked with a packed room of students about her path to becoming a doctor and how she chose her specialization. “You have to know yourself - your strengths and weaknesses. I enjoy people and wanted to practice preventative medicine. I want to teach people so they can stay healthy.” Endocrinology is the study of hormones. From the pituitary gland to the gonads, and everything in between, the endocrine system is found throughout much of the body. Diseases and imbalances in this system cause a range of symptoms, as students learned from the informative and graphic visuals. Dr. Saltzman also presented an in-depth look at the causes and mechanics of diabetes and the evolution of the treatment of the disease. 

Students had another chance to speak with alumni in STEM fields when joined by Michael Glass '17, Carlos Lewis Miller '16, and Zonia Rueda '15. They discussed their STEM experiences at Solebury, tips on transitioning from high school to college, and what they are currently working on. Carlos, who is returning to Case Western University as a Project Manager for their study on the Genetics of Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease in Minority Populations, shared, "Use your advisors because they truly care about you and genuinely want you to succeed. Treasure the council and relationships at Solebury because it takes a lot of time and effort to find mentors." Zonia currently works in quality assurance in the pharmaceutical industry in Doylestown, PA, and oversees products and product safety for J&J. She advised students to, "Play the game, not only in college but also in the workforce. Take the opportunities and network with people. Learn to pitch your brand and who you are as a person."

Every year, Solebury School comes together for a school-wide STEM event on the final day of STEM Week. Students, faculty, and staff lined up shoulder to shoulder then fingertip to fingertip to see how long each line would stretch across campus. All week math classes gathered data to make their prediction of where each line would end. Congratulations to AP Calc BC on the correct shoulder prediction and Prealgebra for their fingertip prediction!