Fall 2017 Honors Program Seminars

Infectious Diseases
Science of the Times
The History of the Banjo
Improvisation Foundations for the Science Student
The Politics of Speech
Philanthropy in the 21st century—What’s a Billionaire to do With All That Cash?
Art and Medicine
The Literature of Science
Narrative, Theater, and the Illness Experience
The Science of Mindfulness & The Art of Attention: Changing the Brain by Transforming the Mind
Biology of a Few Complex Traits in Humans
Rogue Medicine: Groundbreaking or Quackery?
Energy: Science, Economics, and Policy

Infectious diseases

Unique Number: 47375
Instructor: Saxena, P
Day/Time: Wednesdays 10:00 am-11:00 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.

Science of the Times

Unique Number: 47380
Instructor: Sitz, G
Day/Time: Wednesdays 11:00 am-12:00 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.

The History of the Banjo

Unique Number: 47385
Instructor: Lloyd, A
Day/Time: Tuesdays 2:00 pm-3:00 pm
Location: CLA 0.124
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.

Improvisation Foundations for the Science Student

Unique Number: 47390
Instructor: Pollock, A
Day/Time: Mondays 10:00 am-12:00 pm (seminar meets 9/11-10/23)
Location: PAI 5.42
Seminar Description: As a student, employee, or leader, you need to be able to work well under pressure and adapt to changing circumstances quickly and confidently. People and situations are unpredictable; improv provides tools to respond to the unexpected. This highly interactive seminar will guide you through experiential learning activities, compelling new research, and real-life scenarios designed to take your quick thinking and staying calm under pressure skills to the next level. We will examine the key principles of improv and uncover how applying them in the classroom and the workplace will make you a more nimble and confident communicator, thinker, and leader. One thing is certain in today’s rapidly changing professional world: you can expect the unexpected. Why not rehearse the skills you’ll need to handle it?

The Politics of Speech

Unique Number: 47395
Instructor: Carpenter, Q
Day/Time: Wednesdays 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Location: GDC 2.502
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.           

Philanthropy in the 21st century—what’s a billionaire to do with all that cash?

Unique Number: 47400
Instructor: Laude, D
Day/Time: Wednesdays 2:00 pm-3:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.110
Seminar Description: 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.

This seminar asks you to examine the various philanthropic styles of the uber-rich while asking some pretty important questions about what their impact on the 21st century should be. Who should pay for a mission to Mars, Musk or NASA? Who should address humanitarian crises, Bill Gates or the United Nations? Should the Koch brothers cure cancer, or the NIH? Should there even be 2000 billionaires? Or is this ever widening income gap that will keep most millennials from buying a house (okay, maybe a tiny house) something that the Democrats should address if they ever regain power. (That last statement about the Democrats should read with a sarcastic emoticon.)

Art and Medicine

Unique Number: 47405
Instructor: Rather, S
Day/Time: Thursdays 3:30 pm-4:30 pm
Location: DFA 2.506
Seminar Description: Many U.S. medical schools (including Dell Medical School at UT) have partnered with museums to develop circumscribed museum-based courses for medical students, designed to sharpen powers of observation, build empathy, foster teamwork, enhance cultural sensitivity, and promote wellness. In this seminar, participants will become acquainted with the rationale for and practices of museum/med school partnerships, as well as with purposes and practices of art history that are generally peripheral to those programs. (By the end of the semester, we might ask ourselves whether the two can find common ground.) The seminar will meet both in the Blanton Museum and the classroom, in consideration of a wide range of works of art and of diverse “source” materials, including YouTube videos; websites; short articles in newspapers, magazines, medical journals; primary texts; and excerpted examples of scholarly art historical writing.

The Literature of Science

Unique Number: 47410
Instructor: Roebke, J
Day/Time: Thursdays 2:00 pm-3:00 pm
Location: MEZ 1.204 
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.

Narrative, Theater, and the Illness Experience

Unique Number: 47415
Instructor: Hurwitz, C. (listed as Searle, D)
Day/Time: Wednesdays 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Location: JES A215A
Seminar Description: In this course, students will use techniques from narrative medicine, poetry and theatre to explore the illness experience. The course will incorporate reading, writing, and performance.

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, and plays as writing prompts for students to write about the illness experience. The course will 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, William Shakespeare, Anton Chekov, poems by William Carolos Williams, Raphael Campos, Anne Sexton, and Kenneth Patchen, and anonymous medical narratives from case reports and other medical publications.

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

Unique Number: 47420
Instructor: Schnyer, R
Day/Time: Thursdays 11:00 am-12:00 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.

Biology of a few complex traits in humans

Unique Number: 47425
Instructor: Saxena, I
Day/Time: Wednesdays 11:00 am-12:00 pm
Location: BEN 1.102
Seminar Description: Complex traits are governed by multiple genes and the environment, and they exhibit a continuous range of phenotypes in the population. Many complex traits that may be of interest to most individuals happen to be common such as height, body mass index, and intelligence, or they may be diseases, for example, diabetes 2 and hypertension. Historically, studies of complex traits have been exercises in statistics and much of the analyses allowed determination of the genetic and environmental contributions to the total phenotypic variance. In the last few years, genomics has led to the identification of many more regions in the genome that influence complex traits. In this course, functions of a few genes and proteins that have a role in the expression of traits such as human height, intelligence, diabetes 2, and hypertension will be discussed. The goal is to come up with some understanding of the biology underlying a few complex traits.

Rogue Medicine: Groundbreaking or quackery?

Unique Number: 47430
Instructor: DeLozanne, A
Day/Time: Wednesdays 3:00 pm-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.


Unique Number: 47435
Instructor: Roberts-Miller, P
Day/Time: Wednesdays 4:00 pm-5:00 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.

Energy: Science, Economics, and Policy

Unique Number: 47440
Instructor: VandenBout, D
Day/Time: Wednesdays 1:00 pm-2:00 pm
Location: WCH 1.108
Seminar Description: 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.