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Fall 2021 CNS Honors Seminars

The NSC 110H seminars below are restricted to Dean's Scholars, Health Science Scholars, and Polymathic Scholars.

Rogue Medicine: Groundbreaking or Quackery?
#LeanIn: Gender and Expectation in Academic & Professional Life
AI, Ethics & Health
Narrative, Theater, and the Illness Experience
Wellness 101: The Honors Edition
Deep Conversations on Randomness in Our Lives
Health Communication
Bob Dylan and Our Lives
Science and Equity
Confluences: The Political Ecology of Water
A Meeting of Art and Science – Viewing Scientific Achievements from the Perspective of the Arts
Emerging Treatments for Cancers and Infectious Diseases
The Science of Monsters
Civil Discourse


Rogue Medicine: Groundbreaking or Quackery?
Arturo De Lozanne
Unique: 47940
Wednesday 2-3pm
BIO 301
You see it on the news and the internet all the time: A courageous doctor exposes the dangers of vaccines; a new natural treatment to [your favorite serious disease] was discovered; eat this, or don't eat this, to improve your health. How are we to make good health-related decisions based on all this information?? We will explore the boundaries between science and pseudoscience in the medical field and the different kinds of abuse done in the name of Medicine.


AI, Ethics & Health
Scott Graham
Unique: 47895
Wednesday 2-3pm
PAI 5.42

Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly common in healthcare contexts. Intelligent machines are now used to diagnose diseases, identify treatment plans, discover new drugs, offset human biases, and even predict death. At the same time, medical futurists anticipate a wide range of new applications from pandemic prediction and 24/7 personal health monitoring to social media integrated psychotherapy. In this seminar, we will explore the current and proposed uses of health AI as well as the ethical ramifications of these new and emerging technologies. 


#LeanIn: Gender and Expectation in Academic & Professional Life
Rachel Gonzalez-Martin
Unique: 47910
Monday 9-10am
PAI 5.42

This seminar offers students a critical discussion of academic and professional life from the perspective of gender, class, race and wider identity politics. We will discuss the lived experiences of academic women to better understand what awaits pre-professionals after graduation.


Narrative, Theater, and the Illness Experience
Craig Hurwitz
Unique: 47950
Wednesday 6-7pm
PAI 5.42
In this course, students will use techniques from narrative medicine, poetry and theatre to explore the illness experience.

Traditional medical culture focuses on disease from an objective and scientific perspective. Although scientific modes of inquiry and discovery allow remarkable improvements in the treatment of disease, these paradigms are inadequate to the task of characterizing the subjective illness experience.

Long before the advent of scientific medicine, humans have turned to art, literature, and narrative to answer the existential questions that illness provokes. What does it mean to be sick? To experience suffering? To experience healing? To contemplate mortality? 

This course will use poems, stories, plays and movies as discussion and writing prompts for students. The course may also include a performative element where students will perform both student written monologues and scenes from published plays.  

Texts are likely to include, but not limited to excerpts from: The Illness Narratives- Arthur Kleinman, Narrative Medicine - Rita Charon, Wit - Margaret Edson, Ikiru - Akira Kurosawa, William Shakespeare, Anton Chekov, Leo Tolstoy, poems by William Carlos Williams, Raphael Campos, Anne Sexton, and anonymous medical narratives from case reports and other medical publications.

 

Wellness 101: The Honors Edition
Sara Corson and Justin Carter
Unique: 47930
T 2-3:30pm
PAI 5.42
The current generation experiences higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety than any prior generation. These issues are further exacerbated by the pressures of college-life and/or expectations of being high-achieving students. Stress is the number one reported impediment to academic performance (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30285563).

Mental health in healthcare has also become a topic of attention in recent years. There is still stigma surrounding mental health issues that creates serious barriers to help-seeking, access, and quality of care. The implications of such stigma have led to poorer patient outcomes, as well as inadequate mental health care and education, extending to even healthcare providers themselves. In this seminar, students begin to learn and practice strategies for cultivating and maintaining positive mental health in college and onwards, as well as ways to approach and help peers and colleagues struggling with related issues. Several guest speakers from various professional backgrounds—including staff from the Counseling and Mental Health Center and Longhorn Wellness Center—will help introduce students to mental health and wellness-related strategies and topics that can be carried and expanded upon through their education and career.

 
Deep Conversations on Randomness in Our Lives
David Laude
Unique: 47935
Wednesday 2-3pm
WCH 1.108

In this seminar we will be discussing how randomness influences our daily lives. Books that we will use to direct our discussions are listed below with brief reviews. In partnership students will identify particular topics of interest to present.  All three books are, in my opinion, wonderful reads. The Drunkard’s Walk is more mathematical (but without equations), Sway is more social science, and Black Swan is more economics and philosophy. 

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Mdlodinow  ISBN-10: 0307275175
From Publisher’s Weekly:  A drunkard's walk is a type of random statistical distribution with important applications in scientific studies ranging from biology to astronomy. Mlodinow, a visiting lecturer at Caltech and coauthor with Stephen Hawking of A Briefer History of Time, leads readers on a walk through the hills and valleys of randomness and how it directs our lives more than we realize.

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Brauman   ISBN-10: 0385530609
From Publisher’s Weekly: Recently we have seen plenty of irrational behavior, whether in politics or the world of finance. What makes people act irrationally? The Brafman brothers—Ari (The Starfish and the Spire), a business expert, and Rom, a psychologist—look at sway, the submerged mental drives that undermine rational action, from the desire to avoid loss to a failure to consider all the evidence or to perceive a person or situation beyond the initial impression and the reluctance to alter a plan that isn't working.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Taleb  ISBN-10: 081297381X
By Chris Anderson of Wired:  Our brains are wired for narrative, not statistical uncertainty. And so we tell ourselves simple stories to explain complex thing we don't – and, most importantly, can't – know. The truth is that we have no idea why stock markets go up or down on any given day, and whatever reason we give is sure to be grossly simplified, if not flat out wrong. Nassim Nicholas Taleb first made this argument in Fooled by Randomness, an engaging look at the history and reasons for our predilection for self-deception when it comes to statistics. Now, in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, he focuses on that most dismal of sciences, predicting the future.


Health Communication
Mike Mackert
Unique: 47945
Thursday 12:30-1:30pm
PAI 5.42
Health communication is the science and art of using communication to advance the health and well-being of people and populations. In this seminar we will explore health communication ranging from the interpersonal level (provider-patient) to mass communication (national ad campaigns) across a range of health issues and populations. We will also discuss how health pervades popular media and new frontiers in health communication resulting from advances in science and medicine.

Bob Dylan and Our Lives
Thomas Palaima
Unique: 47915
Wednesday 9-10am
PAI 5.42
We will listen to and discuss songs of Bob Dylan that comment meaningfully on how we live our lives as human beings and as Americans from the Civil War to the present. This will include discussions of key events, topics and figures in US politics, society and culture such as the civil rights movement, MLK and JFK, our many wars, American and English and Irish folk songs, love and death, and the arts of poetry and songwriting.


Science and Equity
Josh Roebke
Unique: 47905
Wednesday 1-2pm
PAI 5.42
What is equity and what does it mean for science? We will think about the history of inequities in science, their legacy today, and what actions we might take to build a more just science for all. We will read clear and thoughtful essays about the intersections of science with race, gender, class, and sexual orientation, and we will then discuss these ideas in class. Students will help choose the readings that inform our discussions, and will ultimately help build a curriculum for science and equity.


Confluences: The Political Ecology of Water
Donnie Sackey
Unique: 47900

Friday 2-3pm
PAI 5.42
Political Ecology is a method for mapping political, economic, and social factors onto questions of environment. It’s a powerful tool for shifting our attention toward the political nature of ecology that is often deemed apolitical and separates “the environment” from “the social.”

In this seminar, we will examine the political ecology of water. This will be a deep dive into the ways in which our understandings of water are materially and discursively bound up with notions of culture and the production of identity.

Texts will likely include, but are not limited to excerpts from Rivers of Empire, Water and the West, The Organic Machine, and Where Rivers Meet the Sea.


A Meeting of Art and Science – Viewing Scientific Achievements from the Perspective of the Arts

Inder Saxena
Unique: 47890

Monday 11am-12pm
PAI 5.42
Scientists and artists pursue activities that are driven by a number of human qualities, including creativity. Scientists spend much of their time asking questions and finding creative solutions, that in many cases increase our understanding of the world and improve living conditions. Artists express themselves through literature, painting, sculpture, and other creative forms that enhance human experiences. Where do these two human endeavors meet? One place where they come together are in essays written for the last 20 years by Joseph Goldstein to highlight scientific achievements in basic and clinical medical research through the lens of artists like Raphael, Matisse, Picasso, Mark Twain, Balzac, Rodin and many others. This course will look at some of these essays to learn how work by many of these artists can be used to understand scientific breakthroughs in areas ranging from unfolded protein response to DNA damage response to the development of drugs for treatment of cancer.

Emerging Treatments for Cancers and Infectious Diseases 
P
ratibha Saxena

Unique: 47925
Wednesday 2-3pm
WCH 1.110
Infectious diseases affect each and every one of us. Even today a large number of people succumb to infectious agents even after we understand a lot more about infectious agents and how to control them. Infectious agents include viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoans. Antibiotics helped control microbes in mid 1900s but now we are faced with multi drug resistance organisms that are proving difficult to control. While a large number of infectious diseases of the early 1900s are under control, there are many more emerging and reemerging diseases that we all are confronted with on a regular basis.

Some of the infectious diseases we will discuss are Influenza, HIV-AIDS, Zika, Dengue fever, Tuberculosis, Pneumonia (especially caused by multidrug resistant Klebsiella pneumonia), Healthcare associated (HCA) diseases and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This seminar course will discuss basic concepts of these diseases, their clinical presentation and diagnosis, and both current and potential treatments.

The Science of Monsters
David Taylor

Unique: 47920
Monday 2–3pm 
PAI 5.42
What is a monster? Is it the terrifying thing lurking in your closet or under your bed? The word originated to describe something that is malformed or different than ourselves. In this seminar, we will talk about mutants: their genetic basis, their phenotypes, their transformation into literary symbols. There will be a combination of readings from scientific journal articles and gothic literature. Is Dracula an evil blood-sucking vampire or does he just have a slight sensitivity to light?

Civil Discourse
Tonia Guida

Unique: 47885
Friday 3-4pm
PAI 5.42
Civil Discourse centers issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and is designed to empower students with terminology, critical thinking, and empathy tools for engaging in productive conversations around difficult topics. This course also serves as a cohesive foundation for the subsequent DEI Concentration, which can be pursued through a variety of trainings, courses, and events across campus.