The Senior Project is the crowning achievement of the BASIS Curriculum. The last two years may have looked a little different—with Senior Project research, on-site work, and presentations taking a virtual form—but our students persevered in order to complete this extraordinary milestone.

This blog sheds some light on the Senior Project, its history, our incredible advisors, and most importantly, the students who continue to show that they can and will exceed all expectations.

Senior Projects: A History

The BASIS Curriculum was originally designed to facilitate knowledge application. We wanted our students to learn to think critically, independently, and use their repertoire of knowledge to problem solve.

In first introducing the Senior Project in 2005, our students were now faced with the opportunity to ask a question—one unrelated to homework or class. The Senior Project was designed as an experience for students to harness the knowledge and skills they gleaned throughout their education, to think beyond the curriculum, and to pursue or investigate a true passion or interest. By applying their knowledge in a context outside of school in order to find a solution, our students began to see how their education had become a part of them, and how they could move beyond education into something bigger.

We sought to give students this essential moment of intrigue, one where they can transition from working for a classroom to working for themselves.

The Senior Project is now a staple of BASIS Independent Schools: a high-level research project based on a question or topic of a student’s choosing. It is designed to be the culmination of the BASIS Curriculum and their entire academic journey.

The Senior Project can take the form of independent research, an internship or even community service—our students have worked at university research labs, with independent architects, through non-profits, and more. It takes place during the final trimester of senior year, after students have completed a deep dive into university-level capstone courses, as well as a demanding college application process.

An Inside Look into Senior Projects

To learn more about what these projects can entail, read below to get some insightful perspectives from some of the Internal Advisors who help facilitate the Senior Project, as well as one of our College Counselors.

1) Can you tell us about your role as a Senior Project Advisor?

Mr. Opirhory, BASIS Independent Brooklyn: “As a faculty advisor, my role is to guide the students, make sure they’re on the right track, inform them of any additional information that might be relevant to their field, and really make sure that they’re putting their best effort into the project.”

Dr. Pittman, BASIS Independent McLean: “I see my role as one of providing students with tools, resources, firm reminders, compassion, and cheerleading as they learn the ropes of independent research. It is a joy to witness as sparks of brilliance, moments of insight, and hours of hard work culminate in a product that students can share with their communities and beyond the walls of a classroom. The role is also a challenging one as teachers balance making connections for their students, and stepping back to allow mentees to pave their own ways in the world. I have helped my advisees draft emails, navigate professional expectations, provided instruction in the research process and offered reading suggestions. Faculty advisors provide moral support. We coach students through their (perceived) failures and obstacles. We read drafts of their work, and we serve as taskmasters, reminding students about deadlines, formatting expectations, word limits, genre expectations, to name a few.”

2) What does the process look like week-by-week?

Mr. Opirhory: “Over this year, we had challenges in regards to the pandemic. But we would meet once a week virtually and would spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour discussing the project. I would share an artist that I thought he’d be interested in investigating for his project, and he would share what he’d been doing, and it was very much an open conversation. Each week, we would discuss what his plans were and go over how he planned to investigate that information and how he’d work through whatever he was challenged with.”

3) What sets the Senior Project at BASIS Independent Schools apart from other independent studies?

Mr. Brauch, College Counselor at BASIS Independent Brooklyn: “The Senior Project is an opportunity for students to synthesize all of their passions from all the years they’ve been here inside and outside of school, and to employ those tools that they’ve gained here to actually perform independent research at the college level. To begin, students come up with a seedling of an idea and then actually build that out into a research question and go full-scale—creating a research proposal, performing a defense in front of a Senior Project committee, actually working on-site for ten weeks during the school year in that third trimester—all to answer a research question that they’ve constructed themselves. We just don’t see something like this anywhere else. And it’s also very exciting to college representatives.”

4). How does the Senior Project prepare students for college and beyond?

Dr. Pittman: “For me, the Senior Project is one of the most outstanding components of the BASIS Curriculum for the purpose of preparing students for college. One of the initial challenges students encounter in the first year of college is the expectation that they be able to develop a critical question and a research agenda that explores that question culminating in a final project or essay. Typically, that project is the most heavily weighted assignment in a course. Our students enter college having experienced developing a research agenda and seeing the product through to fruition under the guidance and supervision of their faculty, and often on-site, mentor. This style of mentorship is not available to most students until they are deeply immersed in their majors as upper-level undergraduate students or, sometimes, not until graduate studies. The Senior Project is valuable to students for this reason alone.”

Mr. Brauch: “In terms of students’ on-site opportunities, there’s a great benefit here in that students have the chance to start creating their professional networks before they even leave high school. They’re working with professionals in fields that they are already passionate about, and those professionals are going to be available to speak with as students grow and learn as young adults in college and after college.”

2021 Senior Project Presentations

Last year saw our students tackle these projects—which involve hundreds of hours of in-person research or hands-on work with outside mentors or businesses—with even more complexity amid COVID-19 and new safety perimeters. Their final presentations were virtual, paving the way for the format that this year’s projects followed.

Senior Projects have covered vast topics over the years, and this year was no different. Whether a student is investigating paycheck distribution frequency or utilizing geographic information system mapping software to chart future California wildfire hotspots, this experience offers us (as well as college admissions scouts) a unique glimpse into our students’ characters, talents, passions, and individuality.

Please find full virtual presentations of Senior Projects at two of our campuses here:

Below we've highlighted a few specific projects from our Class of 2021:

BASIS Independent Brookyn—

Jacob H: A Study of Liminal Space in the Architecture of Transportation Facilities

In-between and connecting recognizable destinations, a liminal space can be described as a “non-destination” where a rite of passage, such as travel, has become entrenched in the way individuals understand that environment. As users spend time in a liminal space, expectations of continued transition from one point to the next may contribute to distress as the constructed purpose of the space remains unfulfilled. To account for liminal disorientation, the design of a transition space must incorporate elements that aim to re-establish that space as a unique destination. Under the mentorship of architect Jonathan Toews, this project will identify some of these potential design solutions through an examination of the architecture of four New York City transportation facilities.

Himani S: Roots of Racism in Medicine: Deconstructing Authority Figures’ Treatment of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)

Our society has begun the process of acknowledging and working to remedy disparities that exist as a result of racism being so deeply intertwined in our societal institutions. While focus has been placed on our public safety departments and governmental institutions—things that absolutely must continue to reform—it is of the utmost importance to examine the medical field and dismantle the existing racist ideas and practices, alter medical education to distance them from the Eurocentric standards and account for racial diversity, and ensure that healthcare is provided equitably. With my Senior Project, I will create a manual explaining the roots of racism in medicine; what is being done well and what needs to be improved in regards to the healthcare of BIPOC communities. 

BASIS Independent McLean—

Adelia Z: Investigating Paycheck Distribution Frequency: Is More Often Always Better?

How often should people be paid? Initially, the relevance of this question may not be apparent. After all, most people are likely more concerned about how much they earn. However, how often employers pay their employees significantly impacts both of them and the overall economy. Therefore, in my Senior Project, I will attempt to determine optimal paycheck and government aid distribution frequencies. Concurrently, I will participate in an internship at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Research. By combining what I learn through both avenues, I hope that I will be able to propose a system for paying individuals in a way that maximizes the benefits for the employee, employer, and economy.

Sean P: An Unfriendly Species’ Contributions to a Global Initiative

Because of the high production cost and time of pharmaceuticals, certain areas of the world have limited supplies of chemotherapeutic drugs despite the widespread cancer in those areas. Consequently, discovering a means of production that will enable the cheap production and easy distribution of pharmaceuticals will lead to large-scale advantages. I will conduct my Senior Project at Protein One LLC. Protein One produces several medicines using recombinant DNA technology, where a sequence of human DNA encoding for a specific protein is inserted into bacteria. Using this technology with proteins and antibodies used in cancer treatments, I can examine whether chemotherapeutic drugs can be produced using such methods and whether they remain as effective as those made using other means.

BASIS Independent Silicon Valley—

Anna S: Evaluating the Effects of Auxins and Environmental Stress on the Production of Plant-Based Polyphenol and its Implications in Alzheimer's Research

Research on the use of plant-derived polyphenols to treat neurodegenerative diseases has been expanding rapidly in recent years and this research follows the same trend, but with a focus on the potential benefits of Mentha X Piperita and Lamiaceae on Alzheimer’s’ disease, as well as the effect of auxins on their growth. One of the richest sources of polyphenols, Mentha X Piperita, or peppermint, has been found by multiple studies to have the highest quantities of the flavanone eriocitrin and the phenolic acid rosmarinic acid, of which the latter has also been researched for treating Alzheimer’s disease. This research aims to see the combined effects of environmental stress, such as droughting, and additive auxins on the polyphenol production rate of M. piperita and Lamiaceae.

Laura S: Utilizing Geographic Information System Mapping Software to Chart the Spread of Wildfires and Future Wildfire Hotspots in Northern California

In 2020 alone, Cal Fire reported that over 8,500 separate wildfire instances had occurred, burning over 4.1 million acres of land. Just as the earth’s temperature is projected to increase over the next 20 years, so are the projected frequency and severity of wildfires. By using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software, this inquiry seeks to synthesize existing literature with collated data sets to visualize the influence of environmental factors (precipitation, humidity, wind speed, temperature, biomass) on wildfire risk in Northern California.

BASIS Independent Schools campuses are located in California, New York, Northern Virginia, and now Washington. Learn more at basisindependent.com