Fall 2018 Honors Program Seminars 

Communication Strategies for the Pre-Health Professional
Biotechnology and Society
Mindfulness & The Art of Attention
Narrative, Theater, and the Illness Experience
Infectious Diseases
The History of the Banjo
#LeanIn: Gender and Expectation in Academic & Professional Life
To edit or not to edit: The many sides of genome editing
The Politics of Speech
Science of the Times
“How will your children go to school?”
Rogue Medicine: Groundbreaking or quackery?
The Literature of Science




Communication Strategies for the Pre-Health Professional: Difficult Discussions

Unique Number: 46785
Instructor: Ring, D; TA: Donthula, D
Day/Time: Mondays 3:00-4:00 pm
Location: PAI 5.42
Seminar Description: Training for healthcare professionals has long emphasized technical knowledge and assumed that communicating expertise would come naturally. It is increasingly clear that nontechnical skills (e.g. effective communication strategies, emotional intelligence, cultural humility, etc.) are also important to help people get and stay healthy. In this seminar, students interested in health professions can begin to learn and practice helpful communication strategies. Guest speakers from various clinical and professional backgrounds will help train pre-health professionals in effective communication. This seminar will involve group dialogues and practical exercises that cover topics ranging from difficult conversations and how to maintain joy, meaning, and purpose in the work.

Biotechnology and Society

Unique Number: 46790
Instructor: Barrick, J.
Day/Time: Mondays 4:00-5:00 pm
Location: NMS 1.120
Seminar Description: Advances in biological technologies may be outpacing our ability to fully understand their ramifications for society. We will examine some of these developments by discussing recent scientific papers, talks, and news coverage. Content will be roughly half understanding the science and half discussing the relevant ethical issues.

Mindfulness & The Art of Attention: Changing the brain by transforming the mind

Unique Number: 46795
Instructor: Schnyer, R
Day/Time: Tuesdays 10:00-11:00 am
Location: NUR 3.156A
Seminar Description: Mindfulness—often described as the process of attending to whatever is arising in the present moment, in a particular way, on purpose and without judgement—has gained great popularity in the past decade and has been increasingly integrated into contemporary society from education to private industry, to health care.  Mindfulness involves self-regulation of attention and orientation of experience, which enables the cultivation of a different relationship with ourselves and the challenges we face.  In this seminar, while developing a mindfulness practice, we will explore the neural and behavioral effects of mindfulness, the cultural, historical and philosophical foundations, and its modern application.

Narrative, Theater, and the Illness Experience

Unique Number: 46800
Instructor: Hurwitz, C.
Day/Time: Tuesdays 1:00-2:00 pm
Location: PAI 5.42
Seminar Description: 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.

Infectious diseases

Unique Number: 46805
Instructor: Saxena, P
Day/Time: Wednesdays 9:00-10:00 am
Location: WCH 1.108                       
Seminar Description: 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.

Seminar Format: We will discuss key popular and scientific articles, case studies that enhance our understanding of the molecular basis, genetics and impact of Infectious diseases on society.

Students will be given the opportunity to learn more in depth about each of these aspects over the semester. Starting early-semester students will present their findings in a 15-20 minute power point presentation to the class. Presentations should be such that someone with a high school education can comprehend the main concepts and ideas presented. Each week one to two students will present their findings and the other students will participate in discussion. Every student will have the opportunity to read and discuss all the articles and work in detail on one of the infectious diseases for the presentation.

The History of the Banjo

Unique Number: 46810
Instructor: Lloyd, A
Day/Time: Wednesdays 1:00-2:00 pm
Location: PAR 310
Seminar Description: The banjo is the quintessential American instrument. We will examine the evolution of the banjo, and banjo music, from its African origins to modern factory-made instruments. Content includes the transitions of form and function that mirror contemporary political, economic, industrial and social movements over 400 years.  Students will have the option of learning to play the banjo outside of class at a basic level with loaned banjos.

#LeanIn: Gender and Expectation in Academic & Professional Life

Unique Number: 46815
Instructor: Gonzalez-Martin, R
Day/Time: Wednesdays 10:00-11:00am
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description: 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.

To edit or not to edit: The many sides of genome editing

Unique Number: 46820
Instructor: Saxena, I
Day/Time: Wednesdays 11:00 am-12:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description: The ability to make directed changes (additions, deletions, and substitutions) in the genome of any organism is genome editing. The techniques for making these changes have reached a stage where they are much more precise, efficient, and easy to implement. These developments are allowing researchers to address a wide range of fundamental questions and potential applications, including human genome editing, that would not have been possible just a few years back. Every new technology comes with its own set of issues, and so is true for genome editing. Many of these issues, including the techniques for genome editing, their applications in humans and other organisms, the possible risks associated with genome editing, the ethical concerns, and the societal implications of genome editing will be discussed in this course.

The Politics of Speech

Unique Number: 46825
Instructor: Carpenter, L
Day/Time: Wednesdays 12:00 Noon-1:00 pm
Location: PAI 5.33
Seminar Description: What we say and how we say it becomes currency in a world where image, social media presence and the sound byte define the discourse. Using text from historical and current political speeches, as well as political speeches from Shakespeare and other writers, the seminar will examine the power of words, images and concepts to motivate action and influence opinion.

Science of the Times

Unique Number: 46830
Instructor: Sitz, G
Day/Time: Wednesdays 1:00 pm-2:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description: In this seminar we will read and discuss selected articles on scientific topics that have been published in regular periodicals but are based on recent results from the 'real' scientific literature. Your assignment for this course is to read the selected articles each week and come to the seminar prepared to participate in a discussion. For example, one source is the Tuesdays New York Times Science section. You can read the Times on line for free. Once or twice during the semester you are to lead a discussion of an article of your choosing. The articles to be discussed during a particular meeting (say 2 or 3 per week) will be coordinated through the instructor and announced to the class via email and Canvas no later than the Monday preceding the following Wednesday class meeting.

“How will your children go to school?”

Unique Number: 46835
Instructor: Laude, D
Day/Time: Wednesdays 2:00 pm-3:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description: What I learned and how I was taught in school  in the 1960s was pretty much the same as in the 1060s.  I learned arithmetic, spelling, cursive, and (growing up in California) that Father Junipero Serra was a great man for introducing Catholicism to Native Americans and furthering our Manifest Destiny.  These days I can argue that between the greyness of moral relativism and the continual technologically-driven dissolution of the temporal and spatial constraints of the traditional classroom, that little of what we currently do to educate our children will be relevant or sustainable.  Adding to this uncertainty are our sobering statistics concerning student completion at the K-12 and college level in Texas.  

This seminar explores what education will look like a generation from now.  To what extent will existing brick and mortar models exist, and if they do, what should be taught?  To what extent will technology deliver ways of teaching algebra that make it as fun as World of Warcraft and with far higher success rates than chalkboard learning.  And what will become of the college classroom when the cost to deliver that kind of education is unaffordable to the vast majority of citizens when on-line delivers a much more affordable, efficient, (and maybe even effective?) way to earn a degree.  As always, the seminar is intended to engage students in discussion for which there is no obviously right answer, but where engaging the argument is a good and enjoyable experience.

Rogue Medicine: Groundbreaking or quackery?

Unique Number: 46840
Instructor: DeLozanne, A.
Day/Time: Wednesdays 3:00-4:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description: 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.

The Literature of Science

Unique Number: 46845
Instructor: Roebke, J
Day/Time: Wednesdays 4:00 pm-5:00 pm
Location: MEZ 2.118
Seminar Description: "Who writes about science and what are they trying to tell us? Poets, scientists, journalists, playwrights, novelists, publicists, historians, and philosophers have all been known to opine about science, but how do they communicate differently? Are they even describing the same branches of knowledge? We will read a variety of texts—from blogs to memoirs, essays to poems, and articles to humorous sketches—to discuss the many ways that writers communicate science and the ways they depict real and imagined scientists. Each week, we will read an article, essay, or short excerpt to debate the merits of different styles of writing by either scientists or non-scientists. Basically, we will discuss good writing about science and talk about why it is good. Students will have the chance to lead a discussion about the writing genre that they prefer or the area of science that they like best."


Unique Number: 46850
Instructor: Roberts-Miller, P
Day/Time: Wednesdays  2:00-3:00 pm
Location: PAI 5.33
Seminar Description: In this seminar, we'll talk about demagoguery, and how we might think of the term in ways that make it more than just a "devil term." We'll talk about some famous (e.g., Adolf Hitler) and less famous (e.g., Madison Grant) demagogues, and about what happens in a culture of demagoguery.