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Independent Study Showcase

Students learn best when they become the architects of their own education. To provide students with opportunities to pursue self-directed learning, the school offers a rich program of independent study. To take on an independent study course, the student must find a faculty sponsor and propose their curriculum to a relevant academic department. Upon approval, the student works the curriculum and verifies key milestones with their sponsor. At the end of the term, the work is presented publicly, most often at our Independent Study Symposium but also at our Arts Festival or in independent publications such as math and literary journals.



A Look at Belonging

Jane '22

Arts Department Sponsor: Gale Jesi

We all have an identity that we present to the world, but this identity might change depending on the situations we are in. We choose how we showcase ourselves, the tone of voice we use, what we say, but ultimately, we may feel an obligation to remain true to ourselves and our values. This project explores the changes we go through.

Urban Exploration Through Photography

Emma '23

Arts Department Sponsor: Gale Jesi

Throughout my project I have explored different areas of the city, while focusing my photographs on the different ways in which one can blend in with their surroundings. My presentation involves an analysis on my various photos, as well as a description of the development my photos have gone through over the course of the semester!

Photographic Exploration of Feminine Identity

Gigi '22

Arts Department Sponsor: Gale Jesi

This book tells a story of experience. Identity and, in particular, female identity means grappling with experiencing, expectations, sexualization, virility, control, and vengeance. This book is a narrative deconstructing the feminine experience, or rather the imposition of societal constructions onto women.


Adelaide '23

Arts Department Sponsor: Bria Goeller

This series explores perception – both perceiving yourself and being perceived by others. I wanted to recreate feelings like negative self-image and feeling overwhelmed by combining abstract patterns and realistic figures in a series of monochromatic pen drawings.

Graphic Design and Branding

Julia '23

Arts Department Sponsor: Gale Jesi

In this study, I created a company and branded it. I developed a recognizable logo, and a social media ad while incorporating aspects of current household trends, my company's brand and purpose, and a contemporary look. ArtScapes is an art rental service that preselects art pieces to send to customers bi-monthly or monthly on a subscription basis. In branding I had to think about the demographic I was marketing to, and how to reach them aesthetically. If you want to see my work, come to my presentation!

Experimentation in Glazing

Benjamin '23

Arts Department Sponsor: Nikhil Paladugu

During this semester I looked into the process of the creation of glazes. For those who don't know, glazes are a type of paint used in Ceramics that when fired to a high temperature can have an array of physical changes. During this project I experimented with mixing together ingredients to create glazes and then looking into the chemistry behind the physical changes. I will be presenting my pieces along with a little dive into the science and process behind them.

Creating an EP

Maddy '23

Arts Department Sponsor: Joel Chapman

I workshopped, recorded and mastered 4 original songs with Joel Chapman as my sponsor. In my presentation, I'll talk a little bit about the process and then we will listen to the songs together.

Writing California

Eva '22

English Department Sponsor: Christine Huang

For my independent study, I investigated California as a phenomenon: the romance and fantasy attributed to it, the opportunism and independence, the disillusionment of unmet expectations, in addition to the people and the land that compose it physically. After reading about California through both fact and fiction, I wrote several short pieces about my family's connections to the state as well as my own. The one I have chosen to showcase is a combination of personal narrative and cultural criticism that serves to analyze one of California’s many myths

Clay Chess Pieces

Rowan '23

Arts Department Sponsor: Nikhil Paladugu

Come through to see my Chess pieces! There is one of every piece, and each one is oversized.

Politics Through the Lens of Literature

Hannah '22

English Department Sponsor: Ryan O'Donnell

I will talk about the book I read (The Handmaid's Tale) and read an excerpt of the short story I wrote.

Asian Women in American Films

Claiborne '23

English Department Sponsor: Christine Huang

From “dragon ladies” to exotic seductresses to meek, subservient wives, Asian women have been harshly stereotyped and sexualized throughout the history of American movies. In my independent study, I took a closer look at how the portrayal of East Asian women has changed over time, and how this representation translates to the way women are treated in real life in American society.

Graphic Illustrations of AAPI Short Stories

Janine '22

English Department Sponsor: Pierre Carmona

In this independent study, I read short stories by Asian American writers. The focus of the project is creating artwork based on these stories as an extension of what I have learned in The Search for Asian American and Painting III classes. I illustrated one digital painting based on a story from "Monstress" by Lysley Tenorio and a comic based on "Interior Chinatown" by Charles Yu.

Modernizing Mythology

Maren '24

English Department Sponsor: Barbara Holler

During this semester I read several books of Greek myths (both the original versions and modern adaptations) to see what effect a modern adaptation had on the themes and writing of the myth. I also explored the theme of Arete and what it means for different people. Throughout the study I thought about the relevance of the lessons that we can learn from Greek myths and how they can help us today.

Painting in the Moment

Alicia ‘22 and Sofia ‘22

Arts Department Sponsor: Lisa Carroll

This independent study was inspired by Monet's loose and impressionistic style, which we tried to emulate through timing our small paintings. This technique allowed us to focus on color theory and general forms rather than details. We attempted to move away from a realistic and more detailed style of painting and into a looser one. Another goal of the independent study was to begin to move away from a perfectionist mindset. To achieve these goals, we painted a series of timed acrylic paintings where we focused much more on the overall composition and on color theory. In the beginning, it was a difficult process learning to transition from a very detailed-oriented realistic style to a looser one in which the focus of the piece and style of painting had shifted, but as we progressed we continued to build technical skills and paint in a looser style. Using what was learned about color theory, composition, and a looser painting style, we painted larger, more detailed pieces but still aimed to incorporate what we had learned in completing the series of timed paintings.

Biology and Gender: How Society Informs Science

Ariane '22

Science Department Sponsor: Rochelle Devault

We all know that gender is a social construct, but what about biological sex? In this Independent Study, I worked to prove that biological sex is just as much of a construct as gender, examining the extent to which personal bias affects scientific findings. I also explored topics such as academic language and education with regards to gender inclusivity.

Recalling California's Recalls

Nikhil '24

English Department Sponsor: Ashley Clarke

A brief overview of the history of recall elections in California. I'll go over the origin of the recall as a democratic process, the lead up to the 2003 and 2021 recalls, and analyze both. Please come if you have even a passing interest in psephology or want to learn more about California's political climate.

The Origins of American Stereotypes

Jay '22

History Department Sponsor: Chris Martin

Whether it be from films, tv shows, tiktok, etc., we all have a pretty good sense of how the rest of the world sees us: we’re arrogant, materialistic, uncultured, uber-religious, and more. Have you ever wondered why and how all these stereotypes about America and Americans emerged? It might interest you to know that our Old-World friends have been saying these things about us for centuries. Join me for a light-hearted discussion of American stereotypes rooted in the canonical text Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (1835).

Freedom in the Nation: An Interactive Project

Kent '22

History Department Sponsor: Bayete Henderson

This project tells the story of the African diaspora in Indian Country through interactive maps and primary sources, specifically looking at the search for freedom by the so-called 'Freedmen' of the Five Tribes of Oklahoma (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole). The story spans from Florida and the Southeast to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, and beyond to Texas, Mexico, and even the Caribbean islands. It is a rich and powerful story that tackles themes of freedom, citizenship, belonging, land, and opportunity, and has contemporary ramifications. The mapping project should serve as a resource for US history students in high school and college, and it seeks to bring to light a little-discussed area of study.

The Journey Through the Middle East

Ozan '22 and Zac '22

History Department; Sponsor: Haleh Partovi

Through the semester we have explored different cultures and the food that they make. We have gone through many of the middle eastern countries that we all know of. As well as cooking and researching each dish we have also made connections between them to find themes.

Fascism Through History and Today

Noah '22

History Department Sponsor: Jesse Berrett

I will use two separate definitions of Fascism to analyze historical Fascist movements in Britain, Hungary, and Greece. Then using the same method I will demonstrate how some political movements in the world today also meet those definitions.

Strange Bedfellows: The Evangelicals and Donald Trump

Arya '22 & Lindsay ‘22

History Department Sponsor: Jesse Berrett

We spent the semester reading about and discussing Evangelicalism and its influence on American politics. Our presentation will be a discussion on the major questions we have been asking this semester. Come prepared to talk about the extent to which religion should be involved in politics, the potential strength of the religious progressives, and more!

The Origin of Reproductive Rights to Today – What's Happening to Roe v. Wade?

Peaches '22

History Department Sponsor: Jesse Berrett

What is the future of Roe? My project explores the Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme court case that legalized contraception for married women and served as a precedent for future cases like Roe v. Wade. My presentation discusses how the basis of Griswold's decision is being criticized by the current court, and also how recent abortion challenges are weakening Roe's legacy.

Hyper-Personalized Accessibility: Using Machine Learning to Create
a Better Web

Adam '24

Human Development Department Sponsor: Nandita Dinesh

While web formatting is becoming standardized and easier to read, the web can still be a cluttered mess. This problem can be exasperated for people who are neurodivergent, making using the internet a hard to navigate and use. The concept for this application is to implement machine learning to simplify webpages to a highly personalized level. Each user will have their own experience tailored to them. This presentation will go over each proposed aspect of the application.

Advanced Spanish Seminar: Almodóvarama

Mirabel '22

Languages Department Sponsor: Ernesto Padró-Campos

The Spanish film director, Almodóvar, created in a time known as "la Movida" -- a countercultural protest to the Franco dictatorship. Using this as a lens, I analyzed five of his films, primarily focusing on the portrayal of women and femininity, the use of drugs, and his cinematographic choices, drawing from my understanding of Unamuno and Borges. I wrote analytical pieces in the form of a blog, all in Spanish -- enjoy!

Cryptography: Algorithms for Digital Security

Mericel '22

Math Department Sponsor: Megan Storti

With society’s increased reliance on technology, it is becoming more and more important for companies to secure their users’ data from third parties. This independent study investigates the use of different ciphers and encryptions in modern technology such as computer passwords, chip-based payment methods, and cryptocurrencies. It also examines the mathematical principles behind cryptography algorithms and the use of information theory, number theory, and abstract algebra.


A Proof-Based Approach to Linear Algebra

Matt '22

Math Department; Sponsor: Byron Philhour

Many students dislike their linear algebra courses because they require endless computation and little critical thought. In this independent study, I wanted to break that mold, and tried my hand at learning linear algebra from a proof-based perspective. This course covered vector spaces, systems of linear equations, determinants, and eigenvalues and eigenvectors. For my final project, I found both practical and theoretical applications of what I learned.

Data analysis and Sports Statistics

Kellan '23

Math Department Sponsor: Leah Dorazio

In my project, I examined the use of statistics in college basketball. I used code to find the correlation between statistics and possessions, and then I created my own model to forecast the amount of possessions in a game.

Astrobiology - Exploring Life Past Earth

Henry '22 and Sean '22

Science Department Sponsor: Rochelle Devault

From its name, it should be easy to infer that astrobiology is the interdisciplinary study of astronomy and biology. But what does this mean? NASA defines it as "the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe,” and this subject includes topics like habitability, theories for life, and extremophiles. Come see our presentation to explore life beyond Earth and learn about the most indestructible creature known to mankind—the tardigrade.

Multiverses: Maybe the MCU was right?

Isabelle '23

Science Department Sponsor: Byron Philhour

There's probably another version of you, on their phone or laptop, reading about an independent study. But maybe not this independent study. Maybe it's about Greek tragedies or gardening tools. Either way, there is a probability they do indeed exist in this multiverse. This project explores how this might be scientifically possible and ponders the philosophical implications of questioning our very existence.

Introduction to Linguistics

Bryce '24

Science Department Sponsor: Andrew Galatas

Throughout this semester, I have been studying the aspects that form the foundation of our modern languages. In this presentation we will be analyzing sentences from their meaning, structure, and word forms all the way down to the articulation of the very sounds that make them up. Hopefully you walk away from this presentation with enough knowledge of linguistics to second guess each element that forms the sentences you produce for the next week…

Le Deuxième Sexe: An Exploration of Feminism Through French Literature

Alexa ‘22

English Department Sponsor: Adrian Acu

My independent study explores feminist philosophy and the status of women in history through Simone de Beauvoir’s book The Second Sex, one of the most highly regarded books regarding the female condition. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to shed light on the philosophical and social implications that are associated with being a woman, both in the past and present.


Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Lucas ‘22

Math Department; Sponsor: Byron Philhour

As our society becomes increasingly complex and sophisticated in how we operate, the acceptable margin for error decreases. Fortunately, machines are not only becoming more powerful, but they are also becoming smarter. Through complex machine learning algorithms, the technology of today can now think for itself and learn from its mistakes. In this independent study, I explored the basics of machine learning and the core fundamentals required to enter this massive field. In my code, I used Python, an essential programming language to know for those attempting to learn about these complex systems.

Mathematical Proofs for Publication

Lucas ‘22 and Alex ‘22

Math Department Sponsor: Ben Jacobs

This semester, we enjoyed working on 2 different proofs. First, Lucas tackled a problem from Math Horizons, and successfully solved it. The challenge: what is the probability of a square that is dropped on a checkerboard landing on a single square? This challenge is also related to a problem we worked on before from the magazine. His proof will be published in full or partial form in the February edition of Math Horizons. Then, we worked together on a challenge from Math Magazine and submitted a proof. This problem is related to minimizing the length of segments of tangent lines to an ellipse. We just submitted the proof and are waiting to hear back from Math Magazine about its publication status

Culinary Science: Chemical Reactions that Make Cooking Possible

Amani '24

Science Department Sponsor: Khaleh Thomas

In my independent study I explored the science involved in cooking, specifically the chemical reactions that occur during the process of cooking. I observed how these reactions affect the outcome of certain dishes and then experimented and cooked with these new scientific concepts. Through this, I gained a greater understanding of the development of recipes and the reasoning behind traditional cooking techniques.