Teaching DIscovery Day 2017 banner image


Since 2016, the College of Natural Sciences has held an annual Teaching Discovery Day to showcase teaching excellence college-wide and encourage discussion amongst faculty regarding best practices and new ideas in science education.

On September 20, 2018, award-winning and innovative CNS faculty will once again open their classrooms for observations. All faculty are invited to visit showcase classrooms, guided by a faculty docent. Afterwards, teams are invited to engage in discussions over coffee or lunch.

Registration for this special event will open in August.

A previous year's showcase classrooms are below. You will review course details below, then fill in a registration form to sign up for your chosen showcase tour. All courses are first-come, first-served with limited capacity, so you are encouraged to sign up early when registration opens. After you submit your registration, you a confirmation message and email will be generated. If you do not receive a confirmation, please try re-submitting or reach out to events@cns.utexas.edu for assistance.


 Paired Courses


Preview showcase courses below. Click on each course name for more details.

BCH339F: Foundations of Biochemistry David Hoffman 9:00 AM 10:00 AM CLA 0.126 Natasa Pavlovic

This course covers many of the major concepts in biochemistry. Topics include amino acids and protein structure, nucleic acids, enzymes, lipids and membranes, energetics, catabolism and anabolism of carbohydrates and lipids, nitrogen metabolism, and photosynthesis. The course is intended for students who are pursuing a degree in Biochemistry. Prerequisites are general chemistry and at least one semester of organic chemistry. The topic on September 13 will most likely be protein structure.

M408D: Sequences, Series and Multivariable Calculus Timothy Perutz 9:00 AM 10:00 AM CLA 0.130 Natasa Pavlovic

The specific mathematical aims of the course are as follows: (i) To learn techniques of integration, including integration by parts and trigonometric substitutions. (ii) To learn the basics of differential equations. (iii) To learn to work with infinite sequences and series, applying tests to establish their convergence or divergence. (iv) To learn the basics of multivariable calculus (partial differentiation and multiple integrals). Much of this material is highly applicable, part of the working toolkit for physicists, engineers, economists, those who use statistics, and computer programmers. It is also relevant to other sciences, including chemistry and some parts of the biomedical sciences (e.g. epidemiology). On Sep. 13, we will be working through techniques of integration.

CS312: Introduction to Programming Mike Scott 9:00 AM 10:00 AM GDC 2.216 Chris Sullivan

This is a first course in computer programming. The purposes of the course are to learn fundamental computer science concepts including algorithm development, problem decomposition, data types, variables, parameters, decision making, iteration, arrays, and 2D arrays. By the end of the course students are expected to be able to implement programs consisting of several programmer defined data types and several hundred lines of code employing non trivial algorithms. Topic for the day on September 13 is Iteration for loops and nested loops.

MNS307: Introduction to Oceanography Dong-Ha Min 9:00 AM 10:00 AM CAL 100 Jen Moon

The primary goal of this course is to foster an appreciation for the ocean, its precious resources and complex ecosystem, and fundamental mechanisms governing different processes. Additionally, by enhancing their knowledge of ocean, through lectures and hands-on labs, students will develop critical thinking skills about the important marine and environmental issues facing our society including climate change, natural disasters, overfishing, and water pollution. This course is primarily designed for non-science majors as an introductory and multi-disciplinary exploration of the marine environment. 9/13/17 Lecture schedule: Earth Structure and Plate Tectonics; Earth Interior; History of a theory: Continental drift; Evidence for a new theory: seafloor spreading; Plate tectonics (next class: Motion of the plates)

NEU330: Neural Systems I Michael Mauk 10:00 AM 11:00 AM BUR 212 Dee Silverthorn

This is an introduction to neuroscience that serves as a gateway course for all neuroscience majors. We introduce basic concepts of neural signaling, information processing and neural plasticity. The September 13 lecture covers electrical signalling in neurons.

M329F: Theory of Interest Jennifer Austin 10:00 AM 11:00 AM RLM 5.116 Alan Campion

This course covers the mathematical theory of interest with applications to investments and corporate finance. Topics include accumulation of interest in discrete and continuous time, nominal and effective interest, present and future values, annuities and variable cash flows, yield rates, amortization schedules, loans, valuation of stocks, bonds and other securities, and the assessment of corporate financial performance using standard financial models. The material is chosen to help prepare students that are taking the Financial Mathematics Exam, also referred to as Exam FM by the SOA (Society of Actuaries) and Exam 2 by the CAS (Casualty Actuarial Society).

UGS303: Effective Thinking Calculus Michael Starbird 10:00 AM 11:00 AM UTC 3.132 Mark Daniels

The enduring impact of all courses can be to instill effective habits of mind that last a lifetime. This course is a combination of a Signature Course about Effective Thinking and a first semester calculus course. Students will learn how to understand deeply, how to learn from mistakes, how to raise questions, and how to change their minds through their engagement with puzzles, paradoxes, and mathematics. The class format will include lots of interaction and class activities--hopefully enjoyable for the students and for visitors.

CS439: Principles of Computer Systems Alison Norman 11:00 AM 1:00 PM UTC 3.124 Sarah Eichhorn

This course is an introduction to computer systems software---low-level software abstractions with an emphasis on the connection of these abstractions to underlying computer hardware. Key abstractions include threads, dynamic memory allocation, protection, and I/O. On September 13th, we will be learning how a single-processor system schedules applications so that it is responsive to the user and appears to be running more than one application at a time. After introducing some common algorithms and why you might choose one or the other, we’ll reinforce the concepts through dance.

BIO315H: Advanced Introduction to Genetics Shelley Payne 11:00 AM 12:00 PM WEL 2.110 Steven Vokes

This is a freshman biology and genetics course for students in honors programs and those who have placed out of introductory biology. This two-semester course covers basic genetics in the context of the big ideas in biology and prepares students for upper-division biology courses. The course is team taught by Shelley Payne and Ruth Buskirk. During the week of Discovery Teaching Day, we will be discussing molecular aspects of genetics, including the genetic code and mutation and repair.

CS314H: Data Structures: Honors Calvin Lin 11:00 AM 12:00 PM GDC 5.302 Jeff Barrick

Officially, this course is about data structures. Unofficially, this course also discusses programming methodology, and as one of the first Turing Scholars Honors courses, it attempts to get students to think, to engage, and to challenge themselves. In this particular class, I will likely be talking about software testing.

PHY301: Mechanics Vernita Gordon 11:00 AM 12:00 PM PAI 2.48 John Markert

This course is calculus-based mechanics for science majors, including physics majors. In the past, I have taught this course using Peer Instruction. In Fall 2017, I will be teaching two sections of PHY 301, one using Peer Instruction and one using traditional lecture. The goal is to determine whether the teaching method used has an impact on long-term outcomes for students, such as persistence in a science major and graduation from UT Austin. Visitors will be observing the interactive Peer Instruction version of the course.

PHY315: Wave Motion and Optics Richard Fitzpatrick 11:00 AM 12:00 PM PAI 4.42 John Markert

The purpose of the course is to develop a comprehensive understanding of oscillations and waves in physical systems: e.g., the oscillation of mechanical structures, sound wave propagation through solids and fluids, electromagnetic wave propagation around electric circuits, through transparent dielectric media, and though the vacuum. On Teaching Discovery Day I will probably be discussing the theory of coupled oscillations in mechanical systems: e.g., the oscillation of coupled pendula.

M339J: Probability Models with Actuarial Applications Joel Nibert 11:00 AM 12:00 PM CPE 2.206 Mark Max

The major course goal is for students to be able to carry out every step of the modeling process- selecting a model, estimating its parameters, adjusting for insurance coverage modifications, refining and repeating. The course combines three disciplines- probability, statistics, and mathematical techniques and terminology for short-term insurance actuaries. In September, we will be thinking about probability, specifically how to describe the distribution of a random variable. Possible topics for the day of the visit are moments, tails, or measures of risk.

BIO311C: Introductory Biology I K Sata Sathasivan 11:00 AM 12:00 PM GSB 2.124 Anita Latham

Introductory Biology I covers cell and molecular aspects of freshmen biology. I will be teaching biological molecules on this day explaining how the structure of molecules relates to their function and cover practical applications related to them. This instructional method is blended learning with short lecture followed by in-class-activities facilitated by a classroom response system, Squarecap, which identifies the students who need real time help and provide immediate feedback in addition to collecting attendance.

BIO371L: Experimental Physiology Peter English 12:00 PM 1:00 PM GDC 4.302 Martha Maas

This course focuses on developing experimental design skills and critical thinking skills. Lecture on Sept 13 will be about the constraints placed on students in an upcoming lab about photosynthesis, which will be the first lab that students design themselves. This will be the beginning of a push to demand tighter control of language and knowledge. This includes, for example, where the matter in plants, specifically firewood, originates. I will ask a clicker question on this material most of the way through lecture and students will typically choose water, sun, air, and soil in equal numbers. This mirrors results from the "A World of Their Own" program and points out the failure to really understand concepts rather than just know individual facts. This is a concept that we call "approximate knowledge" in our course. By the end of the semester students will have higher standards and be able to design quality experiments, but at this point in the semester they are just beginning to come to terms with the idea that they even have approximate knowledge - and they tend to be surprised about it. Faculty are welcomed to attend the lab associated with this lecture the following week (Wednesday, Sept 20, 1-5p, in PAI 3.06).

BIO311C: Introductory Biology I Debra Hansen 12:00 PM 1:00 PM GSB 2.124 Michael Drew

Intro Bio I is geared toward freshman CNS students. In this class students gain a basic understanding of the cellular processes. We begin with basic biochemistry and work up through the structure of cells and cellular processes of membrane transport, respiration, photosynthesis, cell division, and meiosis. The class is organized into three main headings: Structure and Function, Energy Transformation, and Transmission of Genetic Information. As well as learning content-specific material, throughout the semester students practice communication skills, critical thinking skills, teamwork, and empirical and quantitative skills. In this particular class we'll be continuing the exploration of important biological macromolecules. We will have gone over the basic structure of proteins and will be exploring how the structure and function of proteins are interrelated.

CH372C: Peer Mentors in Research and Teaching Stacy Sparks 12:00 PM 1:00 PM WEL 2.110 Fatima Fakhreddine

CH372C prepares our Chemistry Peer Learning Assistants (PLAs) for their leadership and teaching roles in our general chemistry classrooms. Each PLA volunteers in a general chemistry classroom as part of the course, answering student questions and initiating discussion on the concepts during active learning segments of the course. Each Monday, CH372C class time is spent focusing on discussions of pedagogy, ethics, and leadership. Each Wednesday is spent ensuring PLAs are prepared for the general chemistry content. Visiting faculty will witness groups of students working together to review the upcoming content for the week, each group facilitated by a Sr. PLA, a paid undergraduate with experience in the program. Sr. PLAs are mentored to model good questioning techniques, encourage discussion among PLAs, and to help PLAs predict and prepare for student questions. The instructor moves among groups, observing, answering questions, and jumping in as needed. Visiting faculty will be encouraged to sit in on the individual groups, to better observe the group dynamics and preparation.

NOTE: This course will be paired with Cynthia LaBrake’s class that utilizes PLAs (see below). This is a great tour option for instructors who work with Peer Learning Assistants or are interested in doing so in the future.

CH301: Principles of Chemistry I Cynthia LaBrake 1:00 PM 2:00 PM BUR 106 Fatima Fakhreddine

This is a large enrollment service course taught using active learning techniques and supported by undergraduate learning assistants. The goal of the course is to introduce STEM majors to the fundamentals of thinking like a chemist. Specifically, we aim to help the students begin to view the natural world through the lens of a chemist; that is to think on the micro (atomic) level while making observations at the macro level. On this particular day, we will be taking a look at the ideal gas law and how we can use the law to help make quantitative predictions about gas phase chemical reactions. The students will be guided to use algebra and the definition of molar mass to derive a formula relating the mass density of a gas to the molar mass of the gas. Then, the students will use the ideal gas law to make quantitative predictions about gas phase chemical reactions.

NSC110H: Energy: Science, Economics, and Policy David Vanden Bout 1:00 PM 2:00 PM WCH 1.108 Janice Fischer

What drives alternative energy research agenda? What factors contribute to rising energy costs? Why aren’t more renewable energy technologies being implemented across the US? How does the US compare to other countries in projected energy sustainability? Throughout this seminar, we will investigate critical questions pertaining to energy issues and discuss the complex economic and political problems impacting the science of renewable energy.

NSC 110H courses are seminars for CNS honors students. Capped at 15-20, these courses are a learning-for-learning’s sake opportunity in which faculty lead high-caliber students in discussions and debates on topics of their choosing.

BIO301E: Problems in Modern Biology Ruth Buskirk 1:00 PM 2:00 PM BUR 116 Terry O'Halloran

BIO 301E is designed for Plan II honors students who are not concentrating in the life sciences. Through case studies, working example problems, and class discussions we study human biology and applications to society. In mid-September we will be transitioning from evolutionary biology to population ecology topics.

M302: Introduction to Mathematics Amanda Hager 1:00 PM 2:00 PM WAG 101 Dan Knopf

This course is intended primarily for general liberal arts students seeking knowledge of the nature of mathematics as well as training in mathematical thinking and problem solving. Put another way, half of the course is a tour of how mathematicians use and research math, and half of the course is dedicated to improving students' critical thinking and problem solving skills. On September 13, we will be visiting game theory by playing a game called Fibonacci Nim. Students will be presented with the rules and encouraged to play a few rounds with a partner. I will claim that Player 1 can always win this game, and that part of game theory is figuring out that optimal or winning strategy. We will spend the rest of the class working towards that optimal strategy. Themes will be systematically testing cases, looking for patterns, making and proving conjectures, and simplifying complicated problems in order to gain insight.

NSC001S: Freshman Research Initiative Aptamer Stream Gwendolyn Stovall 1:00 PM 2:00 PM CMA 3.134 Sally Ragsdale

Please join us for a Freshman Research Initiative Aptamer Stream small group meeting! Over the next semester, we’ll participate in “1-min Research Updates,” a “Hot Seat” activity, and an “Elevator Talk.” Do these activities make you think about science communication? If so, then you would be correct in thinking that this 2nd-semester of a yearlong class offers a heavy helping of science communication. Students work on developing, practicing, and reviewing science communication skills. Each week, this 1-hr small group meeting complements the 8-hrs of lab research and 1-hr large group meeting. Led by peer mentors, this small group meeting involves:

  • Consolidation of ideas ("1-min Research Updates," "Elevator Talks," etc.)
  • Construction of arguments; connection between techniques and applications (scientific report)
  • Cooperative research troubleshooting
  • Dissection of relevant journal articles ("How to read ...," journal clubs, etc.)
  • Peer review in various forms (such as notebooks, reports, practice talks, etc.).
TXA214L: Product Development Laboratory 214L Eve Nicols 1:00 PM 4:00 PM GEA 212 Chris Jolly

Students develop skills to visually communicate their product development proposals. Through presentation and discussion, observation and verbal ability is practiced. Students are asked to consider the practical application of their product proposal.

BIO377: Freshman Research Initiative Virtual Drug Screening Stream Josh Beckham 1:00 PM 2:00 PM GEA 127 Arturo De Lozanne

The fall course for the Virtual Drug Screening stream will be a continuation of the practices which began in the Spring. The ultimate goal is for students to apply their biochemical knowledge and skills directly to their project on finding small molecule inhibitors against infectious disease enzymes. In the beginning, we will start on genetic cloning techniques. Once students have cloned a gene into a suitable vector, students will express it in competent cells in order to produce protein for enzymatic analysis. As the semester progresses, students will become increasingly more independent. The veteran summer students will have a head start on this process and will be able to commence work where they left off. Consequently, it is expected that there will be a dissemination of knowledge and techniques from these students to those that are returning from the spring class. The weekly class meetings will be more like a research group meeting with a few slides and then alternating Journal Club and Technical presentations each week. For journal club, students will present on a paper of interest to the stream. Then students will work on answering questions in a group. The technical presentation will be by a student covering a procedure relevant to our research.

CH 320M/CH 328M: Organic Chemistry I Brent Iverson 2:00 PM 3:00 PM BUR 106 Volker Bromm

This is the first semester of Organic Chemistry lecture. The focus of the first semester is on providing students with a fundamental understanding of the structure, bonding and reactivity of organic molecules that will enable them to predict molecular properties and behavior of the more complex molecules they will encounter in subsequent courses and ultimately in their health-related careers. The course introduces a number of novel pedagogical approaches to help students learn and understand (as opposed to memorize) the material. In the latter half of the semester, the students must apply this understanding to increasingly complex problems that require higher levels of critical thinking and analysis than many of them have ever experienced in a science course. I refer to this process as "catching the wave," an analogy to surfing.

NSC110H: Philanthropy in the 21st Century - What's a Billionaire to do with All That Cash? David Laude 2:00 PM 3:00 PM WCH 1.110 Marci Gleason

NSC 110H courses are seminars for CNS honors students. Capped at 15-20, these courses are a learning-for-learning’s sake opportunity in which faculty lead high-caliber students in discussions and debates on topics of their choosing.

There has never been more money in the hands of fewer and fewer people. While the world wide debt now tops 200 trillion dollars, more than 2000 billionaires have about 8 trillion dollars to play with. So how should they spend it besides building underground bunkers to ride out the apocalypse? Gates wants to save the world and Buffet wants everyone to tag along. Musk wants to do stuff one might mistake for April Fools jokes and Bezos, the second richest guy in the world (with a bullet), seems to be mostly concerned with destroying all the shopping malls in America.

CS354R: Game Technology Sarah Abraham 2:00 PM 3:00 PM GDC 5.302 Uri Treisman

This course focuses on the technological aspects of game development covering algorithms in graphics, artificial intelligence, networking, and sound. It emphasizes tools and algorithmic techniques that are critical components of game development, since good game programmers are primarily problem solvers, who know how to acquire a mental model of a complex software environment and solve technical problems in a timely manner. The lecture on September 13th will introduce the Ogre graphics engine and the basics of graphics engine architecture.

M408: Differential and Integral Calculus For Sciences Bill Wolesensky 2:00 PM 3:00 PM CPE 2.214 Caitlin Casey

Successful students leave this course understanding the interplay between calculus and science. The focus is on computational calculus, and learning how to create and analyze mathematical models that arise from natural phenomenon.

SDS302: Data Analysis for the Health Sciences Kristin Harvey 3:00 PM 4:00 PM FAC 21 Maggie Myers

This is a large (200 seat) introductory statistics class. The majority of students in this class are entering freshman. This course is designed to help students learn the basics of data analysis, including the descriptive and inferential statistical procedures that are commonly used in health science research. The class on September 13th will include a discussion of how to compare and contrast numerical distributions, as well as an introduction to standardization and z-scores. The class time involves the introduction of content through guided practice and examples and student practice using a class response system (Squarecap).

BCH369: Fundamentals of Biochemistry Gail Grabner 3:30 PM 5:00 PM UTC 2.102A Cynthia LaBrake

This course is focused on major topics of biochemistry for non-major students. Enrollment is typically for pre-health majors in several fields -- most notably medicine and dentistry. Topics and examples include those that are therefore medically related. The course functions with a blended model -- providing pre-recorded video lectures that are assigned for review prior to lecture. The lecture period is primarily for problem solving techniques to help in the application of the material previously reviewed -- though there is some lecturing, as well. I anticipate that we will cover aspects of protein structure on Teaching Discovery Day.




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