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Fall 2019 CNS Honors Seminars 

Biotechnology and Society
Rogue Medicine: Groundbreaking or Quackery?
#LeanIn: Gender and Expectation in Academic & Professional Life
Narrative, Theater, and the Illness Experience
Introduction to Medical Humanities and Disability Studies
Economic Inequality – What's a Billionaire to do With All That Cash?
Arguing with Conservatives 
Domestication of Animals: Genetics, Evolution, Behavior, and Ethics
How to Present an Effective Talk
Communication Strategies for the Pre-Health Professional: Difficult Discussions

Demagoguery   
What Makes Us Human?
Emerging Treatments for Cancers and Infectious Diseases    
Science of the Times
CRISPR: Science or Science Fiction?

 

Biotechnology and Society
Jeffrey Barrick
Unique: 45705

Mondays 4-5pm
MBB 1.210
Advances in biological technologies are outpacing our understanding of their ramifications for society. We will discuss recent scientific breakthroughs and their ethical implications through student-led presentations that draw on sources ranging from news coverage and policy reports to company websites and journal articles.

 

Rogue Medicine: Groundbreaking or Quackery?
Arturo De Lozanne
Unique: 45700
Wednesday 3-4pm
PAI 5.33
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.

 

#LeanIn: Gender and Expectation in Academic & Professional Life
Rachel Gonzalez-Martin
Unique: 45655
Monday 2-3pm
PAI 5.33

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: 45660
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.

 

Introduction to Medical Humanities and Disability Studies
Travis Lau
Unique: 45680
Monday 2-3pm
WCH 1.108
Throughout the history of medicine, narrative has been at the heart of how practitioners determined diagnoses, theorized treatment, and conceived of care. Such narratives took many forms from the case study to the patient history, which continue to shape the dynamic between physician and patient. Scholars of the medical humanities and bioethics have rightly called for a more patient-centered narrative practice that revalues the experience of individuals navigating the medical establishment. Narrative approaches to medicine have also been increasingly integrated into the medical training of future clinicians. This course considers what is at stake in medical storytelling by turning to personal narratives from both sides of the medical encounter. In our transhistorical examination of both non-fictional accounts and fictional literary sources, we will explore together the following questions: What kinds of medical stories do we tell and how do we tend to tell them? What is it like to experience illness and disability with potentially chronic or fatal conditions? What is it like as a medical professional to treat (or even fail to treat) such individuals? What is it like to be a caregiver and witness? 

  

Economic Inequality – What's a Billionaire to do With All That Cash?
David Laude
Unique: 45690
Wednesday 2-3pm
WCH 1.108
There has never been more money in the hands of fewer and fewer people.  While the worldwide debt is nearly 250 trillion dollars, over 2000 billionaires have about 10 trillion dollars to play with. So what should be done about this?  This seminar examines 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?  On the political and social front, is there sufficient enthusiasm for the arguments made by Bernie and AOC to turn the tax codes upside down?  Or will revolution be the answer as fewer and fewer have more and more?


Arguing with Conservatives 
Mark Longaker
Unique: 45650
Wednesday 1-2pm
PAI 5.33
Conservatism has a rich history, so rich that conservative principles often lead to conflicting arguments about what governments should do and how citizens should behave. Present-day, self-styled conservatives often repeat classical ideas in order to promote radical political programs. And while they invoke specific political forebears – such as Edmund Burke and John C. Calhoun – modern conservatives would never endorse the monarchy that Burke favored or the slavery that Calhoun advocated. These inconsistencies lead us to wonder, Is there a philosophical core to conservatism? Is there a commonly "conservative" argument, or just a bunch of people claiming that they want to go back to the good old days? In this class, we'll read and discuss excerpts from classical and modern conservative writers, exploring the rhetorical aspect of conservative politics. What does it mean to argue like a conservative? How do conservatives disagree with one another? We will also draw connections to current events and contemporary arguments. What would a classical conservative say about #MeToo, states' resistance to follow federal environmental laws, or constitutional originalist judges?


Domestication of Animals: Genetics, Evolution, Behavior, and Ethics
Blinda McClelland
Unique: 45710
Monday 10-11am
WCH 1.108
Humans have had a long mutually beneficial relationship with domestic animals.  We will be reading an article from the popular press or academic journal 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.
 

How to Present an Effective Talk
George Pollak
Unique: 45665
Wednesday 1– 2pm 
PAR 310
Limited to 10 students
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.   

 

Communication Strategies for the Pre-Health Professional: Difficult Discussions 
David Ring
Unique: 45747
Monday 3– 6pm
PAI 5.42
Note that this is a 3-hour, graded class (NSC 323).
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 the health professions can begin to learn and practice helpful communication strategies. Guest speakers from various clinical and professional backgrounds will help introduce pre-health professionals to aspects of effective communication using group dialogues and practical exercises. Students can preview the complete syllabus here.
 


Demagoguery
Patricia Roberts-Miller
Unique: 45685
Wednesday  2-3pm
PAI 5.33
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.

 

What Makes Us Human?
Inder Saxena
Unique: 45695
Monday 11am-12pm
WCH 1.108                       
The human species is one of many species that inhabits this planet. Although there is a common evolutionary origin to all life forms, and common features exist between the different groups of organisms, certain characteristics distinguish each species from all others. In this sense, each species is unique, but it is the uniqueness of the human species that is of interest to most. This question of what makes us human has been addressed by thinkers, writers, evolutionary biologists and many others in the past. With the availability of genome sequences of not only modern humans, but also extinct species such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, one can now make much better comparisons and approach this question at a much higher biological resolution.

This course will view the question of what makes us human from a variety of perspectives, including literary, cultural, social and biological. Topics to be discussed in the course will be made known at the beginning of the semester and each student will make a presentation on one of the given topics. In every class meeting, students will be given an opportunity to express their opinion in a discussion on the topic of presentation.

"Our dream is to one day uncover the essence of what makes us human."

- Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder, in an announcement pledging support for the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.


Emerging Treatments for Cancers and Infectious Diseases 
Pratibha Saxena
Unique: 45645
Wednesday 2-3pm
BUR 128

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.

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 PowerPoint 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
Greg Sitz
Unique: 45670
Wednesday 1-2pm
WCH 1.108
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.


CRISPR: Science or Science Fiction?
David Taylor
Unique: 45675
Monday 2-3pm
WCH 1.110
This is an honors-level seminar designed to introduce you to the biology, applications, and ethics of CRISPR-based gene editing. This course will provide a survey of many topics related to CRISPR. You will learn to read, interpret, and discuss primary scientific literature articles, non-fiction science chapters, and science fiction chapters in depth. By the end of this seminar, you should be able to judge for yourself if the hype around CRISPR is science or science fiction.