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Five years ago, I was living in rural Ireland with little more than sheep for company. My boyfriend lived in another country and I had left my university friends behind. It was a lonely time. One day I took it in my head to begin to write, with the primary objective of passing the time. At first, the words came out at the lethargic pace of a sleepy sloth. This was how my book started, in its highs and lows.

When Covid arrived I had made another move, to Brussels. A new country with new potential doors, that were all sealed shut by the pandemic. Loneliness was an ever more present companion in the corners of my quiet, empty apartment. I began to think of old friends. Amazing people I had met at university, at school. As I thought of them, my book expanded, falling onto the page in a flurry of words and fond memories.

At one point, one book wasn’t enough, the ideas kept coming. The pressure to write released in bursts of short stories. I was inspired by my friends. My past. My job as a chemist. I took to social media under the pen name J. S. Xander. Once I entered social media I had to ask myself a very fundamental question, because, on social media, you must present yourself with a personal brand. So I asked myself what is my brand? What do I stand for? I am a Chemist by background, a writer, and actress by passion. I was writing “Science stories for grown-ups,” and in this, I discovered something about myself. Who I am. Scientist and Artist. Two conflicting sides, or sides that are theoretically conflicting, that come together.

Writing has been a process of discovering myself and who I am. More importantly, however, it has been an act of reaching out to others. I published my first novel in November 2021 and dedicated it to the friends and family who taught me the world spins in more than one direction. It is a story of friendship and culture with a hint of terrorism. When I published, people from across my sphere of life reached out to me. I have been reminded of the power that a story has to help you connect with those around you.

The “Science Stories for Grown-Ups”? They developed further because of another bond in my life. I reached out to an old friend. A great artist. Someone who had walked with me through the flames of the University of Edinburgh Chemistry course. Together we molded the stories further and this summer will debut our first Science Communication show at the world-famous Fringe Theatre Festival in Edinburgh.

It started. It ended. It’s somewhere in the middle. It would not have been possible without my friends. Keep your friends close. In this era of messy, superficial communication try to make real connections with others. Your classmates can be your greatest source of inspiration. The people you are close to already and the people you still haven’t gotten to meet and spend time with. You never know, what magical, amazing endeavors you can accomplish with the might of your community behind you.

As you ponder on that, I hope you can enjoy a short science story.

Silent Night

Frank the water molecule lay on the blades of grass. It wasn’t the first time he was in this situation. After multiple centuries on earth, Frank had been almost everywhere and done almost everything. He even knew the names of most objects. Unusual for a molecule. Only old hats like Frank had the ability to comprehend the patterns of bonds and emissions of light that made each object unique. That was why Frank could recognize the patterns of phosphorus, nitrogens and carbons emitting green wavelengths of light underneath him as GRASS.

At the beginning of his existence, only glimpses and pieces came from the world, however, over time the puzzle had come together to give him a clear picture. In particular, he had learnt a lot when he once spent three years in a dusty water bottle that had fallen behind a cupboard of a middle-school history class. It had been illuminating. Centuries of existence had flowed into each other, settling as pearls of knowledge.

So he lay on the grass. His previous posting had been a beer bottle, but he’d accidentally been dropped on the ground. Warm rays of light were coming from the sun and Frank knew what would happen soon.

Sure enough! A few minutes later the light started filling him with a vibrant energy. Frank felt the bonds keeping him close to the grass weaken as he started to buzz! With a few shakes, he was off!

He floated up into the air.

It was a familiar journey and the sky was waiting.

Winds pushed him around through their cool breeze.

Time passed.

After quite a while, Frank resigned himself to this being one of the longer trips in the sky.

The world merged below, emitting light and heat from its various surfaces.

Floating along, Frank arrived to a space in the sky with a more than average number of water molecules, along with other particles and molecules in the air. The breeze turned him and with immense glee, he recognized an old friend, Walter! He had known Walter from his time in the middle school water bottle. They’d enjoyed many spirited discussions over those three stagnant years.

“Hey, Walter!” Frank yelled out to his old pal.

The breeze slowed. The temperature dropped. A large number of water molecules were just hanging around. A dust particle stood between Frank and Walter, so Frank made his way over. It was a perfect place to just chill and chat. Walter took his queue. They latched onto the grainy surface.

“Frank! How long has it been!” Walter seemed thrilled to see him. They aligned their bonds, oxygen to hydrogen, it was the way water molecules would interact, so their charges were well paired. The temperature dropped some more.

“What was your last posting?” Frank asked after having told his tale of the beer bottle.

A chill was setting as they moved further up. Walter and Frank relaxed on the dust particle. Other molecules followed their example. Now Walter had a stranger on his other side who had also aligned himself to Walter’s bonds. As the air froze, more and more water molecules clumped along the dust particle. A crowd of oxygens and hydrogens was forming in perfectly aligned hexagonal structures. Unperturbed, Frank and Walter chatted away.

Crystalline hexagons were forming all across the sky. Their agglomerate became heavier.

Gravity doesn’t appreciate anything above a certain mass to be airborne. Unless it has wings.

The snowflakes started to fall.

Frank knew when the pull of the earth started to take effect, instead of going up, their particle started to go down. He paid it no mind. It had not been his first time as a snowflake. Instead, he kept on asking his friend about his travels. Where had he gone after spending a year in a rose? Was the rose he was part of given to anyone interesting? Walter was even older thank

Frank, he had the wealth of millennia of stories with a young spirit! Always ready for the next adventure.

Their snowflake meandered downwards, taking them towards earth at a steady pace. Walking in the air. Floating in the moonlit sky.

In the descent, the snowflake started to take a more unique form, modified by its encounters along the way. Frank was knocked by a nitrogen molecule and slightly turned away from Walter. It was disappointing as it put an abrupt end to a thrilling conversation. However, he knew the life of a water molecule was filled with the unexpected. He sighed comfortably after the catch-up with his friend. Lulled by their slow descent.

The world below was getting closer.

White and silent. Trees already covered by a dusting of other iced water. Snowflakes, so similar and so different from Frank’s own.

Frank was happy. He had met an old friend. What other gift could he ask for?

It was a peaceful night.

Before they landed he glimpsed a lit window. A family sitting together. A tree lit up inside.
They slid slowly on the ground. Cushioned by more of their brethren. Their bonds fitting together with other water molecules like the embrace between loved ones.

Bonded in unique crystalline forms, Frank interlinked with other waters to cover a piece of the world.

In their carpet of white, they dreamed, a silent night.

hero jill muti
Chapter 01: News from the Board of Trustees | Welcome to St. Stephen's

Welcome Head of School-Elect Jill Muti

The St. Stephen’s community looks forward to welcoming Head-Elect Jill Muti when she arrives in Rome later this summer.

For the last eighteen years, Ms. Muti has been the Head of Ashley Hall, a Pre-K-12th-grade independent school for girls serving 685 students. In this capacity, she has managed the budget, staffing, and all aspects of student life and has had hands-on leadership in virtually every dimension of the School's program, including strategic planning and development. 

Chapter 02: War in Ukraine | A Comment on Our Times, Cortile 2022 Highlights

The Fight for Ukraine: A Journey to the End of the Night

It was a day after Russia invaded when Alex texted.

Now a successful attorney, my good friend is Ukrainian. In childhood, he was a refugee, encamped in Italy before being relocated to Texas. “Remember that thing you wrote about whether individuals shape history?” he asked. I had to admit that I did not. “I do,” he said.

By Jen Hollis - Teacher of IB History
ukraine facts
Chapter 02: War in Ukraine | A Comment on Our Times

Ukraine Facts at a Glance



In March of 2014, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed a region of Ukraine called Crimea, which Russia believed belonged to them. It was annexed through a Crimean parliament vote, followed by a 97% win referendum. The annexation, however, is still widely disputed by Ukraine and the International Community. (NPR)  It remains the only time a European nation has used military force to seize territory since World War II.

By Aslan Stephenson ‘25
Chapter 02: War in Ukraine | Putin's Mind, A Comment on Our Times, Cortile 2022 Highlights

Opinion - Putin’s Mind: A Psychological Assessment

With Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine,

Russia's rise towards autocracy hit a new high. Putin has threatened any country attempting to intervene with dire consequences, which some fear may include the use of nuclear weapons, during this full-scale military invasion.

By Emma C. Jansen ‘24
when will it end
Chapter 02: War in Ukraine | A Comment on Our Times

When Will It End?

A chill ran down my spine on February 24th as I watched the invasion of my home country in absolute horror.

Many said it wouldn’t happen. It did. Our president, Volodymyr Zelensky, appealed to the Russian people in a last-ditch effort to stave off the inevitable in those early morning hours in late February.

By Unnamed SSS Student
Chapter 03: Around School | Boarding Activities

Boarding: Holiday dinner & weekend activities

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Lago Albona bording2
Chapter 03: Around School | Fall Trips, Boarding Activities

Boarding: Lago Albano & Fall trips

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Field trip&CAS2
Chapter 03: Around School | Service, Field Trips

Field Trips & CAS

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Chapter 04: Technology Today | Blockchain, Technology

The Blockchain

Generation Z is growing up in a technologically advanced world.

Even though we are supposed to know the latest technology and advancements, many things you read about are still unclear and confusing.

By Emma C. Jansen ‘24
love of bitcoin
Chapter 04: Technology Today | Love of Crypto, Technology

For the Love of Crypto

Cryptocurrency is one of the world’s greatest inventions.

However, there is a lot of false information about it. For many, it remains mysterious and something not well understood. Because of that, many people choose to stay away from it, believing they will lose a lot of money. But is that really the case?

By Matteo Torralba ‘24
Chapter 04: Technology Today | NFT, Technology

I’ll Have an NFT, Please

In the last couple of months, interest in NFTs has skyrocketed.

If you haven’t heard of or know anything about this latest craze, the concept is relatively simple. NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, which is essentially a virtual or digital collectible (e.g., art). If you are to buy a particular NFT, that means you are the only certified holder of it. It’s a pretty cool phenomenon.

By Francesco Saviotti ‘23
Chapter 04: Technology Today | New Technologies

New Technologies on the Horizon

Blockchain technology offers many exciting possibilities in various industries–from finance and law to music and fashion,and we’ve read a few use cases in this chapter. Below, you’ll find a few more technologies that are my top picks I believe we should keep an eye on for the impact each has the potential of having on human welfare.

By Francesco Saviotti ‘23
Chapter 05: The Dr. Helen Pope Lyceum | The Lyceum, Classics

The Aventinus Minor Project: An Educational and Community Archaeology Project

Learning about human societies - past, present, and future.


By Inge Weustink - Director of the Lyceum, Classics Teacher
Chapter 05: The Dr. Helen Pope Lyceum

Scientific Methods in Archaeology Lessons

During the last week of March, the 9th- and 10th- graders engaged in a presentation followed by an interactive session related to archaeology and the sciences.

By Esme Lundius ‘10 - St. Stephen’s Activities Coordinator, Boarding Department
Chapter 06: Creative Writing | The Arts, Creative Writing

Celebrating the Core Value of Creativity

Creative Writing Teacher Moira Egan is extremely pleased to introduce these pieces by students in the Spring Semester’s Creative Writing Classes.

A wide and wonderful gamut is represented here, including works inspired by works of literature or students’ artwork, the classic yet fun form of ovillejos, and beautiful translations from the Hindi and Chinese.

eric mayer
Chapter 07: Interview with Outgoing Head of School Eric Mayer

Eric Mayer

Outgoing Head of School

By Natalie Edwards '14 - City of Rome I, Core 9 Teacher and member of the Boarding Faculty
new technologies
Chapter 08: Our Life Online | Digital St. Stephen's

Technology for Good

In this online event, we discussed and provided insight into how St.Stephen’s alumni benefit from an adaptive aptitude towards building technologies that truly solve problems, beyond the financial gain.

Chapter 08: Our Life Online | Gaming, Technology

The Wonderful World of Gaming

In gaming, there are several social and emotional advantages.

Although online games are a form of entertainment, with the support and guidance of parents, they can help children develop creativity, cultivate relationships with friends, and improve strategic thinking.

By Francesco Saviotti ‘23
healthy mind
Chapter 09: Sports | Exercise Critical for a Healthy Mind

Why Exercise is Critical for Maintaining a Healthy Mind

Exercise, be it aerobic or anaerobic, is generally perceived as a positive activity to partake in; yet what does the science say when it comes to its effects on mood, mental health, and general well-being?

By Alexander Carbon ‘22
Chapter 09: Sports | Sports Program at School

Sports lens

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ice skating
Chapter 09: Sports | Ice Skating is a Passion

The Fire Inside Me

I frequently question what people are passionate about.

And, I mean like insanely in love and an ardent passion towards a sport, music, subject, person, or anything; a kind of passion that lights a fire inside you.

By Clotilde Citrani ‘23
true to myself
Chapter 10: Mental Health | Surrounded yourself with Healthy People

To Thyself Be True

The importance of surrounding yourself with healthy people is knowing you are fine just by yourself if you don’t find them

By Emma LeGalle ‘23
mental health
Chapter 10: Mental Health | Impact on Mental Health, The Pandemic

The Impact of the Pandemic on the Mental Health of Adolescents

Psychologist Erik Erickson in his theory of psychosocial development, posits that between the ages of approximately 12 and 18, adolescents search for a sense of self and personal identity and explore their independence.

By Luisa Nannini - LCSW Health and Wellness Counselor
Chapter 11: Service Tributes | In the Spirit of Service

Supporting the Children of Idjwi

“Providing a meal at school is a simple but concrete way to give poor children a chance to learn and thrive.” WFP

By Dr. Helen Pope - Former St. Stephen’s Teacher and Director of the Dr. Helen Pope Lyceum
Chapter 11: Service Tributes | In the Spirit of Service

The House Whose Name is Love

La Casa di Andrea

By Annie Jacquet - Teacher of French and Supervisor of the Reach Out Student Club /Associazione Andrea Tudisco
Chapter 12: The Arts Collective | Book Corner

The Giver by Lois Lowry

HarperCollins Edition 2014

The novel, The Giver, is a fantasy intended for young audiences. It is an exciting story full of twists and turns. But above all, especially in these times, it pushed me to reflect on the pain brought by war and human brutality.

By Vittoria Giusti ‘22
Chapter 12: The Arts Collective | Book Corner

The Plague by Albert Camus

My English class has been reading and studying the novel The Plague by Albert Camus.

Throughout the book–centered around disease, sickness, and consequent suffering–we observe the plague's ‘chillingly rapid’ progression throughout the city and its psychological, social, and emotional effects on those living through it.

By Benedetta Bosco ‘22
Chapter 12: The Arts Collective | Photography, The Arts, Digital St. Stephen's

Liana Miuccio's Photoclasses

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Chapter 12: The Arts Collective | What Students are Watching

Film review: Promising Young Woman (2020)

IMDB Rating: 7.5

‘Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?’