Spring 2018 Honors Program Seminars 


The Science of Mindfulness & The Art of Attention: Changing the Brain by Transforming the Mind
Infectious Diseases
Bench Science
From Laboratory Bench to the Smart Phone: Communicating Research in the Life Sciences to the General Public
Domestication of Animals: Genetics, Evolution, Behavior, and Ethics
Health Communication
How to Present an Effective Talk
What to Do About Technological Addictions
Recent Developments and Challenging Questions: A Seminar on Science and Mathematics
DS Thesis Seminar
The Mathematics of Baseball


Unique Number: 46990
Instructor: Schnyer, R.
Day/Time: Tuesdays 12:30 pm-1:30 pm
Location: PAI 5.33
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.


Unique Number: 46995
Instructor: Saxena, P
Day/Time: Wednesdays 9:00 am-10:00 am
Location: PAI 5.42
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.


Unique Number: 47000
Instructor: Roberts, B.
Day/Time: Wednesdays 3:00 pm-4:00 pm
Location: GDC 2.502
Seminar Description: Courts have long struggled with resolving cases with competing scientific – natural and social – claims. While there have been efforts to eliminate the use of “fake science” from the courtroom, the issue has not gone away. Because courts play such an important role – often having the last say – in resolving contested public policies it is more important than ever to understand this critical intersection of science and policy. In this seminar we look at some celebrated cases that have challenged the courts’ ability to handle science-based claims, consider the difference in evidentiary standards in law and science, and think about ways to encourage and improve the use of science in the law.


Unique Number: 47005
Instructor: Saxena, I.
Day/Time: Wednesdays 11:00 am-12:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.108                       
Seminar Description: Hundreds of research articles are published in scientific journals every day, with a majority of these articles targeted to a very specific section of the scientific community, and yet many of these articles mention a much wider significance of the research in terms of its basic and applied value. Research in the life sciences provides answers to a number of fundamental questions about the structures, processes, and interactions in the living world, and although many of the results may add information to something that is known, in some cases completely unexpected findings and novel results are obtained. Some of these unexpected findings or novel results may be publicized in the media and this is about as much of the scientific activity that many in the general public come across. At the same time, there may be some very interesting experiments and results that do not come to the attention of the general public.

In this course, recent scientific articles that enhance our understanding of a fundamental biological structure or process, or those that may have an application to human health will be discussed. Furthermore, each student will select a specific research article and present it in a format where it can be disseminated and understood by the general public. Every student will have the opportunity to read and discuss all the articles and work in detail on one article for the presentation.


Unique Number: 47010
Instructor: McClelland, B.
Day/Time: Wednesday 10:00 am-11:00 am
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description: Humans have had a long mutually beneficial relationship with domestic animals.  We will be reading an article from the popular press each week and discuss questions such as: How do animals become domesticated? Why can some animal species become domesticated and others not? What is the evidence for domestication in the fossil record? How do domesticated animals differ genetically and behaviorally from wild ancestors? Is it ethical to raise domestic animals for human consumption? The discussions will be thought-provoking, entertaining, and enlightening. 

Health Communication

Unique Number: 47015
Instructor: Mackert, M.
Day/Time: Thursday 11:00 am-12:00 pm
Location: CMA 5.190
Seminar Description: 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. 


Unique Number: 47020
Instructor: Pollak, G.
Day/Time: Wednesday 1:00 pm-2:00 pm
Location: CLA 0.124
Seminar Description: As the name suggests, this is not a topic oriented course, although we could focus on a particular topic if the class would like to do so.  Rather the focus is on learning some rules and methods for presenting a talk that is clear, understandable and one that will be remembered by the audience.

Here is how the course will proceed.  I have written a short set of “rules” that I want everyone to follow when they present their talks.  The set of rules is posted under Modules in Canvas and is titled “Some Pointers on How to Present an Effective Seminar.”   In the first class period, I will go over the rules and explain why each is important.  I have also selected an article that I will present in the second class period, in which I will illustrate each of the rules, and point out how each applies during the various parts of my talk.  The article is titled, Expanding the primate body schema in sensorimotor cortex by virtual touches of an avatar, and is also posted under Modules in Canvas.  Everyone should read the article before the second class meets. 

In the subsequent weeks, each student will present at least one talk.  I have posted a set of articles under Modules in Canvas and each student is assigned an article he or she will present.  If any student feels they would prefer to present an article that is not on the list, that is also acceptable, but please consult with me first.  Instead of an published paper, you might want to present some results of the research that you are conducting.  The idea here is that the presenter will receive constructive comments on how he or she could improve the presentation.  If time permits, those comments should then be incorporated into the second presentation of the same article that the student will present later in the semester.

I am hoping that the class will be fun and that everyone will learn skills so that you will be confident that the talks you present in the future will be well received.   


Unique Number: 47025
Instructor: Roberts-Miller, P
Day/Time: Tuesdays 2:00 pm-3:00 pm
Location: CBA 4.340
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. 


Unique Number: 47030
Instructor: Laude, D
Day/Time: Wednesdays 2:00 pm-3:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.110 
Seminar Description: In this seminar we will build a syllabus around the book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter. When things get so bad that electroshock therapy is a popular cure for children on their mobile devices and laws are being proposed to ban underaged mobile device use after midnight, you have to figure society is still trying to figure out how to handle these screen addictions.  Or are they?  Is this just old people hysteria?  Is society actually going to be the better now that unlimited data is a real thing?  We might even try a couple of screen-free days just to see whether it is possible to go cold-turkey as a way to prove you are not actually addicted.  The topics will be created by the class should make for an enjoyable semester. 

Recent Developments and Challenging Questions: A seminar on science and mathematics

Unique Number: 47035
Instructor: Vick, J.
Day/Time: Thursdays 2:00 pm-3:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description:  The seminar I am proposing for the spring semester of 2018 will concentrate on major results and the questions that arise from their application to new problems.  Here are some examples:

  • The use of the genome editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas9 to strengthen the immune system;
  • Neurophysiology --mapping a massively ambitious new model of the brain;
  • The recent proofs of Fermat’s last theorem and the Poincaré conjecture;
  • Feynmann’s double slit experiment as a step toward quantum mechanics; and
  • The use of number theory in cryptography.

The weekly session will focus on an idea, a question or multiple related questions, and a shared discussion.  Frequently we will include a video or a related document.  Our purpose here is to provide a framework for our understanding of complex ideas and to observe excellent expositors who may become role models for our future.  The responsibility for leading the discussion will be assigned to two to four students for each new topic considered.

Attendance is expected, and role will be taken at each meeting.  Students will be evaluated on the extent and quality of their participation.  The class is only offered on a CR/F basis.  No tests or final exam will be given. 

DS Thesis Seminar

Unique Number: 47040
Instructor: Hillis, D.
Day/Time: Wednesdays 4:00 pm-5:00 pm 
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description: This seminar will help students prepare to write their DS honors thesis. Restricted to students working on their honors theses in Spring 2018. 

The Mathematics of Baseball

Unique Number: 47045
Instructor: Mauk, M.
Day/Time: Thursdays 4:00 pm-5:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description: There is an emerging trend in baseball to use extensive mathematical analyses for everything from rating players, to positioning fielders and even determining the batting order.  This provides an interesting way to look into the use of mathematical analyses and statistics in everyday life.   We’ll use this as a vehicle to think about statistics, big data and how the influence they might have on different aspects of our lives.