PRISMS aims to provide a comprehensive 9-12 high school education with a particular focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and a culminating research or development project in an area of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics.


Core Science Courses

Honors Biology

Honors level freshman Biology course at PRISMS is an intense introductory course that equips students to think seriously about science. The course focuses on cellular processes found in living organisms (cell cycle, cell structure and function, and metabolism), genetics, molecular biology (DNA replication and protein synthesis), the biological basis of evolution, and ecology. Laboratory work is an integral part of this course. Honors Biology requires strong study skills and an ability to work independently and in small study groups.

Honors Biology is an integral part of the PRISMS BASE program, which bridges a common topic of study between the Arts, Science and Engineering. The BASE Program operates through a required three-period block and integrates the instructional objectives of English 9, focusing on the arts, Science, focusing on biology, and Applied Engineering. The BASE Program uses a process-oriented approach to help students establish connections across the disciplines and attain the objectives for each course. Student groups learn to collect and analyze data, conduct literature searches, and prepare publications and presentations through long-term independent scientific research. Separate grades are awarded for each course: Honors Biology, English 9 and Applied Engineering.

Back to top 

Honors Chemistry

Honors level Chemistry course at PRISMS. A study of the structure, behavior and properties of matter. Topics include: dimensional analysis, significant figures, stoichiometry, solutions, gases, thermochemistry, atomic structure and nuclear chemistry, electronic structure and periodicity, chemical bonding and intermolecular forces, basic chemical kinetics and equilibrium, acid-base chemistry, and electrochemistry. Students are expected to have a strong foundation in algebra.

Back to top 

Honors Physics

Honors Physics is a non-calculus based conceptually and mathematically rigorous first year university preparatory course. Laboratorycentered, the course exposes students to methods of scientific inquiry and elementary error analysis. Course design requires students to develop a solid background in the conceptual basis of physics as well strong critical thinking and problem solving skills. The course is a comprehensive treatment of the topics of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and waves and oscillations. When time allows, other topics in thermodynamics or modern physics may be treated on an instructor-specific basis.

Back to top 

Elective Science Courses

AP Biology

This college-level course is recommended for students who intend to major in biological sciences such as biochemistry and/or medicine. AP Biology provides students with the conceptual framework, factual knowledge, and analytical skills necessary to critically handle the rapidly changing science of biology. The emphasis of this laboratory course is to develop an understanding of concepts and of science as a process rather than an accumulation of facts.

Back to top 

Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

This is an advanced, lab intensive course in which students apply modern molecular biology techniques to explore aspects of cell biology and biotechnology. Students will perform numerous techniques during the course, including PCR, bacterial transformation, gel electrophoresis, SDS-PAGE, Western Blot, protein purification, and chromatography. The course uses the lab techniques as a means to develop a student’s understanding of molecular processes and not simply to learn a given lab technique.

Back to top 

AP Chemistry

This course is structured around the six big ideas (BI) in the AP Chemistry Curriculum Framework and is designed for students who have completed one-year of high school chemistry and have a strong foundation in math (the College Board recommends that students have successfully completed two years of algebra, e.g., Algebra 1 and Algebra 2). Overall, this course differs from Honors Chemistry in the breadth and depth of topics covered, textbook, emphasis on mathematical relationships and formulation, nature and variety of laboratory coursework, pacing, and time required by the students. It is assumed students have a thorough knowledge of the topics covered in the first year course; these topics are reviewed in-depth in a summer homework assignment and briefly in class so that more time can be spent deepening and extending the students’ understanding of chemistry.

Back to top 

Organic Chemistry & Biochemistry

An introduction to the principles of organic chemistry and biochemistry, including the relationship between structure, properties, and reactivity of organic compounds including amino acids and carbohydrates.. Examples of organic chemistry in biology, medicine, and industry will be presented for discussion. Typical laboratory techniques for the synthesis, isolation, purification and identification of organic compounds will be taught. Recommended for students with an interest in studying biology or chemistry in college.

Back to top 

AP Physics

Students study a mathematically substantial formulation of Newtonian mechanics (first semester) and electricity and magnetism (second semester), including vector and calculus-based treatment of particle kinematics (motion), energy, linear momentum, angular momentum, systems of particles, oscillators, and Newtonian gravity in the first semester. Topics covered in the second semester include electromagnetic fields, superposition, electrostatics, magnetostatics, induction, electric currents and elementary circuits, Maxwell’s equations in integral form and the Lorentz force law. Students should allot time to complete at least seven hours of quantitative problem solving homework per week to attain mastery. Students are thoroughly prepared to take both the Mechanics and Electricity and Magnetism sections of the Advanced Placement Physics C examination.

Back to top 

Quantum Mechanics with Applications in Nanotechnology

The course covers fundamental concepts of quantum mechanics such as wave function, Schrödinger equation, statistical interpretation, probability density, uncertainty principle, particle in a square well, harmonic oscillator, Hilbert space, observables, three-dimensional systems, spin, tunneling, emission and absorption of radiation. Octave (MATLAB) is used to solve Schrödinger equation for arbitrary potential, visualize solutions, and consider time dependent phenomena. Nanotechnology coverage includes discussion of underlying physical concepts and phenomena of nanoscience based on the theory of quantum mechanics, fabrication techniques, applications of nanomaterials and nanodevices, and microscopy at nanoscale.

Back to top 

Evolution and the Origins of Humankind

Evolution is one of the pillars of modern biology and is the source of all biological diversity on Earth. In this course, students will delve into many of the core topics of evolutionary biology, including natural selection, major modes of speciation, molecular evolution, major transitions in evolution, and an analysis of the fossil record. We will conclude with a survey of human evolution. The course will utilize material from textbooks as well as the primary literature. Class time will be spent discussing readings and major concepts, with little emphasis on the traditional “lecture” format.

Back to top 

Analytical Chemistry

Analytical Chemistry is a one-semester, post-AP chemistry elective course. The course provides an introduction to analytical chemistry, including topics such as data handling and analysis, volumetric titrations, separation techniques, molecular spectroscopy (including UV-visible spectroscopy, molecular fluorescence, and infrared analysis) as well as sample preparation.

Back to top 

Data Science I

Data Science I is designed to teach students how to analyze data using the R language, as well as how to present results from data analysis. In the modern world, data are coming from different sources and in different formats: sensors, surveys, databases, or downloaded from the internet. Often these data will have a “messy” structure or will be missing values, and thus present a unique challenge to data analysis. Students will learn how to access data from various sources and to reshape, organize and clean it. Basic statistical information and plots will be employed for initial exploratory analysis. We shall also cover techniques for creation of highly customized, professionally looking data plots. Students will learn how to create interactive plots and interactive web applications (using R Shiny) and how to present data visually to a wide audience. Linear models will be used to perform a basic modeling. This class involves a lot of coding and practical exercises in R.

Back to top 

Data Science II

Data Science II will cover selected topics of machine learning. When data are cleaned and properly analyzed (topics covered in Data Science I), it is possible to create a “prediction” model to perform such tasks as the prediction of a projected salary, classifying emails to spam or ham, find “clusters” of friends on Facebook, or detect a fraud transaction on a credit card. Students will obtain skills in doing regression, classification, clustering and anomaly detection. The following algorithms will be covered: k-nearest neighborhoods, linear model, logistic regression, LDA, QDA, polynomial regression, splines, GAMs, tree-based methods, SVM. The coverage will include resampling methods, regularization, principal components, and text mining.

Back to top