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Science

Science

Explore scientific questions and design relevant solutions.

At The Ethel Walker School, students learn the fundamental principles of science and the essential skills required to investigate the foundational disciplines of physics, chemistry, and biology.

In addition, students are able to go beyond the basic science requirements and explore individual interests through numerous science electives. With this strong foundation, students engage in inquiry-based discovery, research-guided coursework, and student-driven exploration of topics that are engaging and relevant to their lives. 

As science educators, we prepare students to think critically and to recognize bias as they explore scientific questions through student-designed lab experiments. The rich experience of hands-on labs supports individual creativity and curiosity and allows students to engage in argument-driven inquiry, analyze data, and finally draw conclusions based on observation and experimentation.

Students also gain valuable writing and presentation skills and become effective communicators as they present their findings. With the skills and content that they develop, students emerge as lifelong learners and innovators who have the confidence to tackle unfamiliar problems and the courage to be resilient as they work to design solutions to these problems. We strive to inspire future scientists as well as citizen scientists and enlightened future voters, mindful of the scientific issues that are locally and globally relevant.

Each student is required to complete three years of science; Physics during 9th grade, Chemistry during 10th grade, and Biology during 11th or 12th grade. The concept of “physics first” provides students with a strong scientific foundation on which Chemistry, Biology, and all science electives are built. Most students at The Ethel Walker School go beyond the graduation requirement and take science courses all four years, and many students take multiple science electives during the 11th and 12th grades.

News

Science Faculty

Suzanne Piela P’22

Chair, Science Department and Science Faculty

860-408-4336

Suzanne Piela P’22

Suzanne joined The Ethel Walker School in the fall of 2007 and since then has taught AP Biology, Advanced Biology, Honors Biology, General Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Honors Biochemistry, Equine Science, and an independent study in Microbiology. Suzanne earned her B.S. in Biology at the University of Notre Dame and her D.V.M. at the University of Minnesota. She also did a small animal internship in medicine, surgery, and emergency medicine at Rowley Memorial Animal Hospital in Springfield, MA.

Suzanne practiced as a small animal veterinarian for 10 years before transitioning to teaching. Prior to her role at Walker’s, she worked as a park naturalist and taught ecology at the elementary level, and worked as a middle and high school science and math tutor.

Suzanne is currently the Science Department Chair, coaches JV Tennis, and loves to ride at Walker’s barn when she has time.

Melissa Bernardo

Science Faculty

860-408-4328

Melissa Bernardo

Melissa joined Walker's in 2017 after completing her Ph.D. in Biology from Wesleyan University. Her dissertation dealt with nutrient-mediated manipulation of host-feeding behavior by a parasitoid. Melissa has taught a range of topics at the university level and brings her knowledge and enthusiasm to Walker's chemistry, biology and environmental science classes. She also coaches volleyball and softball.

Mary Beth Conley

Psychology Faculty, Academic Support Coordinator

860-408-4283

Mary Beth Conley

Mary Beth joined The Ethel Walker School in the fall of 2007. During this time she has taught Psychology, AP Psychology, and Advanced Psychology and has also partnered with the school counselor to teach the Wellness section of the 9th Grade Seminar. Since the fall of 2011, Mary Beth has served as the academic support coordinator which has enabled her to combine her background in counseling psychology with her understanding of brain-based learning strategies.

Julie Greshin P'12

Middle School Math/Science Faculty

860-408-4339

Julie Greshin P'12

Julie began teaching at Walker’s in the spring of 2005. She is a member of both the science department, teaching sixth grade science and eighth grade earth science, and the math department, teaching sixth and seventh grade math. Julie coordinates the School’s Wednesday morning assembly program, she is the head of the Middle School Math Olympiads club, assistant director of the Middle School winter play, and she is a student adviser. She began her teaching career at Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford, CT.

Mary Mattheis

Mary Mattheis

Dr. Emma Mitchell

Physics Faculty

860-408-4334

Dr. Emma Mitchell

Emma received her Bachelor’s degree in physics from Vassar College in 2009, where she also was senior editor of the college newspaper. She taught physics and chemistry at her alma mater, Emma Willard School, before earning a Ph.D. in applied physics at the University of Virginia in 2016. Her Ph.D. research was in laboratory astrophysics and astrochemistry, focusing on thermal and radiation processing of frozen water in astronomical environments. As a graduate student, she was awarded fellowships by both the NASA Earth and Space Science Program and the NASA Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Emma lives with her rescue border collie, Davy.

Sandra Quinlan P'16

Chemistry Faculty

860-408-4338

Sandra Quinlan P'16

Julia Sheldon

Science Faculty

860-408-4335

Julia Sheldon

Dr. Julia Sheldon P’20, ’23 began teaching science at Walker’s in 1998. Her childhood fascination with the natural world led her to love science and eventually to pursue a degree in chemistry at the University of California at San Diego. During her time at UCSD, Julia became a certified SCUBA diver and worked in a research lab studying fish physiology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Julia also discovered a passion for teaching through serving as a teaching assistant and mentoring low income, first-generation college students in the Ronald McNair program at UCSD. After college, Julia continued her research and teaching at Yale University, where she earned a Ph.D. in bioorganic chemistry while studying the interactions between DNA and the proteins that begin the cellular process of transcription.

At Walker’s, Julia is passionate about engaging girls in science by encouraging them to observe the environment around them and to explore how science can help them understand and improve their world. A highlight of her career was being named a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, which allowed her to travel on an expedition to the Arctic and develop and teach an interdisciplinary elective course in Arctic Studies at Walker’s. Julia also co-developed and now co-teaches Honors Biochemistry, Walker’s research-based science course that allows girls to search for new antibiotics in response to the worldwide antibiotic resistance crisis. Julia has also held several administrative roles at Walker’s including science department chair and co-dean of faculty, and she currently serves as dean of studies.