For her senior class project, Bozeman High School student Nichole Chimbos did a lot more than a traditional research paper.

She pursued her interest in eating disorders by interviewing psychologists, surveying 200 classmates, creating a website and making a small poster to raise awareness.

Chimbos, 17, said she learned from her semester of research that most people with eating disorders don't fit the stereotype of being so thin their bones become visible.

“It can be extremely hidden,” she said. And she learned that eating disorders often occur in teenagers who are athletes, straight-A students or perfectionists.

Hers was one of six senior class projects chosen by a vote of their classmates to be presented to the public next Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Museum of the Rockies.

“This was a chance to do something in school we wanted to do, not just what the curriculum wanted us to do,” said senior Kaylee Ackerman.

Ackerman, who hopes to study nursing at Montana State University, did her project on bubonic plague. She interviewed a local doctor and learned that the plague not only had a huge impact historically – killing millions of people in the Middle Ages – but can persist today, even in Montana. Fortunately, we're able to treat it with antibiotics

“You didn't die in a very pleasant way. It was pretty agonizing,” Ackerman said.

Steven Feagler did his project on Ponzi schemes. He researched convicted Ponzi schemers like Bernie Madoff of New York City and Richard Reynolds of Belgrade. Feagler said he wanted to come up with ways investors could protect themselves.

The No. 1 red flag that an investment is really a Ponzi scheme, he said, is that it consistently brings higher returns than the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and doesn't decline when the index goes down. Feagler said he's planning to major in criminal justice at the University of Wyoming and wants to go into federal law enforcement or law school.

Taylor Warren did his research on Ninjutsu, a martial art that emphasizes striking your enemy from an unseen position or taking advantage of their blind spots. Warren said he was inspired by his interest in taekwondo, which he has been doing for seven years. He has earned a second-degree black belt. He hopes to study psychology and computer science at MSU.

Jesse Rousher did his research on sociopaths, often defined as people with an anti-social personality disorder. Dictators are often sociopaths, he said, such as Adolph Hitler.

Typically, if you're a sociopath, Rousher said, “You do not have remorse for things you do.” He's planning to attend Carroll College and study chemical engineering.

The students agreed that senior projects were worthwhile, especially for those who took them seriously.

“For people who took it personally and chose to educate themselves, it was really powerful,” said Chimbos, who wants to study cell biology and neuroscience at MSU.

Kaj Stone-Bishop did his project on body language. A thumbs-up gesture might mean OK in America, he said, but in Germany it means No. 1. And in northern Greece it can be an insult.

His project will be one of 160 presented to the public on Saturday, Jan. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Berg Library, upstairs at the high school. English teacher Cale Van Velkinburgh said last year about 300 people attended.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 582-2633.


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