Remaining stationary is something Sarah Boylan finds difficult to do. Those who live at SPS know this well as they've watched her wear out the School sidewalks while training for the Boston Marathon, which she completed on April 15. Last summer she took part in a marathon of a different kind, making stops in Georgia, North Carolina, and Massachusetts to document the progress of Applied Science and Engineering Program (ASEP)
students hard at work interning in biological laboratories and institutes across the eastern seaboard.
Boylan, now in her fourth year with the School, was recently named the new director of ASEP, a wide-reaching incarnation of the Engineering Honors Program launched six years ago and shepherded by fellow faculty members Terry Wardrop '73 and Will Renauld. The program expanded perforce as student interest grew in both numbers and the range of disciplines. ASEP provides the opportunity for in-depth concentration for students keen on pursuing their interests in science and related fields, including everything from gene editing to civil engineering, artificial intelligence to cancer research, and more.
Boylan’s commitment to the program deepened when students hoping to pursue biology-based internships wanted help preparing for their summer responsibilities. The required hands-on summer work in a professional laboratory can be a daunting prospect. Sensing their unease, Boylan, who also teaches molecular biology, helped pave the way.
“Last spring, I volunteered to go to the spring seminar class to help prepare the kids for (lab work). They were so nervous when they left for the summer, but then by the last week of the internship, they asked ‘Why do I have to leave? I love this.’ I have now led those same kids through their capstones.”
When students return to the grounds in the fall they present their work to the School community and formulate individual capstone projects. It's an experience, says Boylan, that showcases the amazing scientific thinking cultivated at the School.
Boylan, a graduate of Phillips Academy Andover and Middlebury College, originally wanted to become a doctor but gravitated towards education. “I feed off the energy of others,” she says. “And going to boarding school was the most important four years of my life. The diversity of thought and backgrounds were amazing.” She is also working on a master’s degree in liberal arts, biology through Harvard Extension School. Her thesis involves the uses of biotechnologies to discover and design new approaches to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
She holds high hopes for the signature program’s growth, which shows no signs of slowing. Her vision for the curriculum includes cultivating a network of alumni in related fields who can provide internship opportunities for today’s students. “I’m building on a great foundation,” says Boylan. “I’m excited to continue. The outcomes I’ve seen – that’s the excitement of it. It doesn’t feel like work.”