Science Department Overview

Housed in a new state-of-the-art facility, the science program consists of three distinct disciplines: physics, chemistry, and biology. However, there are certain skills that cross academic borders. Faculty members help students master fundamental principles of scientific method, approach, and research. Students work in small, problem-solving groups to execute labs, complete assigned projects, and present reports. Technology is incorporated directly into the curriculum. Emphasis is placed on the thoughtful use of data as a reasoning tool rather than on the superficial memorization of facts. Frequent experiments are performed because they excite curiosity as they amplify and solidify the concepts. These experiments also develop the students' powers of observation, classification, and analysis. The applications of scientific principles to new situations, decision-making, and value judgments are directly addressed. In addition to the standard survey courses, honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes are also available. The main purpose of all science courses at Suffield Academy is to engender curiosity, enthusiasm, and skills, so that students will wish to learn more and have the confidence to try new pursuits.
Suffield’s science curriculum teaches students to:
  • Approach life with a sense of curiosity and engagement
  • Appreciate the world, with a particular concern for the environment
  • Work toward objectives in a cooperative group setting
  • Apply acquired skills to scientific and nonscientific pursuits
  • Work independently to analyze and solve problems through scientific method

Course Descriptions

List of 15 frequently asked questions.


    Term: Full year
    Physical Science is the introductory course within the science curriculum. It introduces the general principles of physics and chemistry, and selected mathematical concepts. Topics include general measurement and measurement errors, mass, volume and density, graphing of proportional relationships and of simple motion, heat and temperature. This course is focused on the development of skills necessary for the successful completion of more complex and subsequent science courses. The skills include scientific reasoning, abstractions, development of models, and mathematical manipulations. Upon completion of the course, students should have the ability to demonstrate an understanding of the physical world.

    Term: Full year
    This course is designed to give students an understanding of their physical world through laboratory experiences, language, activity modules, and graphs. While mathematical problem-solving is not emphasized, algebra skills are incorporated alongside the Algebra I curriculum. Many topics of classical physics are covered, ranging from discussion of motion, energy, and momentum, to electricity and magnetism. Every topic is related to everyday life; laboratories and activity modules are designed to provide practice in relating scientific concepts, representations, and models to real world phenomena. The goal of this course is to give students an appreciation for nature and technology as well as lay the foundation for future science courses through the development of scientific reasoning skills and laboratory procedures.

    Term: Full year
    This challenging, fast-paced course is designed for students who have successfully completed a rigorous college prepatory high school algebra I and geometry class. It covers the same basic curriculum as the standard physics course, in more depth and with more intensity. Additionally, the course is math based and includes aspects of trigonometry. Prerequisite: Successful completion or concurrent enrollment in honors algebra II.
  • PHYSICS 10 & 11

    Term: Full year
    Intended for students entering Suffield as sophomores or juniors, this course has the same goals, philosophy, and methodology as Foundations of Physics 9. However, since the students will have already completed Algebra I, the course makes greater use of mathematical problem-solving and abstract reasoning.

    Term: Full year
    This course is a full survey course in chemistry, supported by regular laboratory activities. Topics include the nature of matter and the particles that make it up, the vocabulary of chemistry, and chemical reactions. In addition, the periodic table is studied as well as patterns of chemical activity. A major goal of the course is to develop an appreciation of the role chemists play in the world and why it is important to learn about chemistry. We will relate our topical studies to the big picture of scientific knowledge. This course moves at a slower pace and covers topics in less depth than chemistry.

    Term: Full year
    Laboratory experiments in this course provide the basis for understanding the fundamental principles of chemistry. This approach is based on the philosophy that the laboratory should be a place where students make and record careful observations, seek a pattern in what is observed, and then explore why the pattern exists. Students are encouraged to discover for themselves ideas that will lead to the basic understandings involved in chemistry. This experimental emphasis is used to develop such major concepts as chemical equilibrium, rates and mechanisms of reactions, bonding, properties based on the geometry of molecules, and chemical systems defined in terms of the periodic table. Prerequisite: Physics, or permission of the department chair.

    Term: Full year
    This course is taken after physics and chemistry. Students begin by mastering the tools of biological study, such as the use of microscopes, cell cultures, electrophoresis, and dissections. Topics studied include cellular and molecular biology, genetics, evolution, classification, zoology, botany, human anatomy and physiology, and ecology. Exposure to these topics is introductory; an in-depth study is devoted to cell biology as the basic unit of life. Students are also asked to consider the application of these topics to their lives and to the world around them. The course stresses the acquisition of study skills to be used within and beyond the study of biology. Students use a textbook, magazines and other library resources, watch videos, and utilize laser disks and computers to engage their studies. Laboratory work involves investigations that support class lectures and other work. Prerequisite: Previous courses in lab-based physics and chemistry.

    Term: Full year
    This course is taken after physics and chemistry. Students wishing to take this more intensive, honors-level course should have exhibited a strong interest in the study of science. The course will be a thorough introduction to biology with a greater focus on the molecular biochemistry of organisms, genetics, evolution, and human anatomy and physiology. These topics will be supported with laboratory exercises, videos, and current events literature. Students are also asked to consider the application of these topics to their lives and to the world around them. The course stresses the acquisition of study skills to be used within and beyond the study of biology. Students will be expected to take the SAT Subject Test in biology. Prerequisite: Successful completion of the introductory science sequence (physics, chemistry, biology), and permission of the department chair.

    Term: Full year
    Students should have a strong interest in pursuing biology in college. AP Biology is designed to develop a deep understanding of broad topics in biology. The approach places a greater emphasis on the biochemistry of living organisms, supported by a strong laboratory component. One of the requirements for the AP exam is that students be familiar with twelve specific laboratory topics. Throughout the year, students will complete these laboratory exercises as they correlate to the topics being studied. AP Biology uses a college text in order to best prepare the students for the AP exam. To complete the course, every student is required to take the AP exam. Prerequisite: Successful completion of the introductory science sequence (physics, chemistry), and permission of the department chair.

    Term: Full year
    This is a full year calculus based course that follows the physics curriculum as prescribed by the College Board. To complete the course, every student is required to take the AP exam. (This course is offered every other year.) Prerequisite: Successful completion of the introductory science sequence (physics, chemistry, biology), successful completion of an introductory calculus course, APPhysics I, and permission of the department chair.

    Term: Full year
    This is a full year calculus based course that follows the physics curriculum as prescribed by the College Board. One half of the curriculum is classical mechanics; the other half is electricity and magnetism. It is designed to help students successfully complete the AP exam in May. The program mirrors a typical first year, college-level physics course taken as part of a physical science or engineering major. A student considering enrolling should have a strong background in mathematics and be interested in science. To complete the course, every student is required to take the AP exam. Prerequisite: Successful completion of the introductory science sequence (physics, chemistry, biology), successful completion or concurrent enrollment in AP Calculus, and permission of the department chair.

    Term: Full year
    Foundations in Biology is designed to introduce and expandupon the basic principles of biology through a project-based learning curriculum. The course begins by studying and expanding on the scientific method and developing the skills necessary for studying science at a higher level. These skills will be used to learn about the major themes, which begin at the microbiology level and increase in scale as the course develops to the organismal then the ecosystem level. The microbiology unit will focus on cell structure and function, cellular reproduction, and genetics. The organismal unit will expand on evolution, reproduction, anatomy, and health and diet. The ecosystem unit will focus on populations, communities, and their interactions and will also expand on the biosphere. Prerequisite: Chemistry.

    Term: Full year
    Particularly ambitious and well-qualified students may elect the honors section, which covers more topics than the regular chemistry course and in greater depth. This would be an appropriate preparation for any student hoping to major in a scientific or technological area in college. Prerequisite: Permission of the department chair.

    Term: Full year
    This course is designed to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving or preventing them. Environmental science is interdisciplinary; it includes chemistry, earth science, and biology, as well as history, economics, and politics in making decisions about the environment. As such, the course will explore the following main themes: the environment and society, human population growth and its consequences, renewable and nonrenewable natural resources and energy, waste management, and sustainable solutions. The course emphasizes an understanding of systems and processes, and making connections between various topics, rather than short-term memorization of facts. Students will be asked to integrate information from a number of contexts into a reasoned analysis, analogous to a scientist’s approach of devising and implementing solutions to real-world problems. Laboratory and field investigations will support class and guest lectures, and discussion. Prerequisite: Successful completion of the introductory science sequence (physics, chemistry, biology), and permission of the department chair.

    Term: Full year
    The material covered in this course is equivalent to an introductory college chemistry course in which concepts, principles, theories, and problem-solving are studied in depth. To complete the course, every student is required to take the AP exam. Prerequisite: Successful completion of the introductory science sequence (physics, chemistry, biology), and permission of the department chair.

Upper Level Electives

Upper level electives are available for those students who have already completed their science graduation requirement. Although electives vary from year-to-year, course availability is subject to student interest.

Upper Level Elective Descriptions

List of 8 frequently asked questions.


    Term: Fall
    This investigative course explores the application of genetic manipulation to the fields of medicine and agriculture. Students will explore how the cell accesses, uses, and maintains genetic information and how these mechanisms can be altered for commercial purposes. This is a hands-on course in which students will work collaboratively to become proficient in the laboratory techniques necessary for DNA extraction and analysis, gel electrophoresis, transformation, chromatography, PCR (polymerase chain reaction), and cloning. Through labs and discussions, topics will include cloning, forensic investigation, nanotechnology, DNA barcoding, cancer genetics, gene therapy, genetically modified organisms, DNA fingerprinting, “jumping genes”, RNAi, microRNA, and the recently discovered CRISPR technology. Prerequisite: Chemistry, Biology.

    Term: Fall
    The ecology and evolution of infectious diseases include interactions among hosts, pathogens and parasites, and their environments. In recent years there has been an unprecedented rise in the global incidence and severity of infectious diseases in human, animal, and plant populations across nearly all of the world’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This includes zoonotic diseases that spread from wildlife to human populations. It is thought that human activity, including habitat transformation, climate change, invasive species, pollution, and the accompanying loss of biodiversity has led to this rise. Although disease outbreaks have been investigated with regard to epidemiology, the ecological and evolutionary complexities of pathogen – host interactions as it affects disease development and transmission is a recent and essential component of securing public health from emerging disease outbreaks and spread, and conserving vulnerable wildlife populations. After an introduction to the variety and ubiquity of disease systems, zoonosis, and the importance of examining infectious disease from an ecological and evolutionary perspective, we will examine our closest living relatives, the non-human primates. We share many behavioral characteristics with them, sociability, sexuality, storage of food, and long life spans, as well as genetics. As such, their examination can help us understand disease transmission within a population, as well as transmission to humans from a non-human source. As disease ecology is interdisciplinary, immunology, viral and bacterial biology, epidemiology, molecular genetics, ecology, and evolution will be addressed.

    Term: Winter and Spring
    This course examines the structure and function of human body systems, including the integumentary, skeletal, muscular, nervous, hormonal, circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, and urinary systems. Topics in pathology and sports medicine will be addressed to further understand the relationship between structure and function of these systems when things go awry as well as methods we can use to help the human body function optimally. Additionally, we will examine how the body is constantly regulating its internal environment; the ceaseless process of homeostasis will be the theme that weaves through the entire course. The cooperation of the individual organ systems that compose the human body will be discussed to understand how cooperation is crucial to maintain the health of the body as a whole. Finally, we will learn the basic vocabulary that allows us to speak about the body in a way that is understood by scientists and those involved in all aspects of health-care. All aspects of the course will be reinforced by laboratory work. As this is a hands on course, laboratory work includes dissections, modeling of specific physiological function, classical histology, ELISA diagnostics, and cell culture. Prerequisite: Chemistry, Biology.

    Term: Winter and Spring
    This course examines evolutionary theories of binary sex determination and gender identification, as well as historical and contemporary controversies in human evolutionary biology beginning with the Victorian age of science. Introductory topics will include an historical examination of science and gendered stereotypes, the biology of binary sex determination (genetics of the Y chromosome), and a critical examination of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection as it applies to both animals and humans. These will set the stage for a critical analysis of contemporary debate surrounding the evolutionary basis for sex differences in cognition, sex preference, gender identification, physical attraction, and maternal instincts. Eugenics will also be examined to set context for those portions of the debate that examine reproductive politics as they relate to the autonomy of mother and child. Readings include historical, scientific, and philosophical analyses.

    Term: Full year
    Advanced Psychology is designed to introduce students to the systematic and scientific study of the behavior and mental processes of human beings and other animals. Students will be exposed to the psychological principles and phenomena associated with each of the major subfields within psychology, including: neurobiology, sensation and perception, states of consciousness, learning, cognition, personality, motivation and emotion, developmental, abnormal, and social psychology. Students will also explore the varied perspectives and approaches that psychologists take in their science and practice, the ethical considerations of these methods, and controversies surrounding the field’s newest and most disputed research. Based on this course, students may elect to take the AP exam. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Biology and Chemistry, and permission of the Academic Dean.

    Term: Full year
    This course covers the entire cycle of food from its development to its terminal state. The processes and resources required to feed the world whether at a commercial level or a backyard garden are explored. Topics include: the use of technology, industry standards, government regulations, GMOS, food chemistry, and cultural differences based on ecological capabilities. The format of the course is both teacher centered and project based. During the growing season, students design and construct projects to enhance the productivity and efficiency of the campus greenhouse and garden. Utilizing the space, students will elaborate on the fundamentals of agriculture through the many scientific fields as well as statistics, and technology. Fall concentrations include: harvesting produce, winterizing the greenhouse, planting fall/winter produce, constructing cold-frames, heating the greenhouse, and winterizing the compost system. Spring concentrations include: planning the greenhouse produce, planting seeds, phenology, growth rate, and ecological relationships.

    Term: Full year
    The purpose of Research Methods is to introduce students to scientific research. Combining statistics, experimental design, and scientific writing, Research Methods will prepare students for scientific research as a career. The first term of the course will explore experimental design as students learn how to conduct meaningful studies. Through the use of class studies we will look at placebo effects, double blind studies, and control groups. The second term of the course will focus on writing scientific papers and using statistics as a method of proof. Students will be expected to use their learning from the first two terms in the course to carry out their own research projects in the third term. Each team of students will conduct research, receive biweekly feedback from the rest of the class with presentations, and write a final scientific publication on their research.

    Term: Winter and Spring
    This is a course in which students become familiar with specific aspects of the broad field of astronomy. The course starts with early discoveries of the paths of the planets and different calendar systems, and after examining the creation of the solar system and its various parts–the Moon, the planets, asteroids and comets–attention is turned towards examining our place in the universe and the recent discoveries of other solar systems within our own galaxy. During the second part of the course, we will also investigate the stellar evolution and concentrate our observations on the physics of the processes that occur inside the sun.

Science Office

List of 11 members.

  • Volker Krasemann 

    Chair, Science Department
    Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Univeritat - B.A., M.S.
    Montana State University - M.S.
    Read Bio
  • Anna Ausubel 

    Bowdoin College - B.A.
    Read Bio
  • Noah Bakker 

    Middlebury College - B.A.
    Read Bio
  • Amy Bauchiero 

    Lawrence University - B.A.
    University of Rhode Island - Ph.D. *
    Read Bio
  • Paul Caginalp 

    Binghamton University - M.S.
    Colgate University - B.S.
    Read Bio
  • Andrew DesBois 

    Middlebury College - B.A.
    Read Bio
  • Steve Goodwin 

    College of Wooster - B.A.
    Read Bio
  • Greg Lynch 

    Dean of Students; Director of the Summer Academy
    Colby College - B.A.
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  • Rebecca  Pouy 

    Bryn Mawr College - A.B.
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  • Leslie Reed 

    Guilford College - B.S.
    Read Bio
  • Nick Zanussi 

    Stony Brook University - B.A.
    Read Bio
Suffield Academy   185 North Main Street   Suffield, Connecticut 06078   Phone 860.386.4400  |  Fax 860.386.4411