Spring 2024 CNS Honors Seminars
American Healthcare System: A Transplant Perspective
Monday 4-5 pm
The United States spends more than comparable countries, and yet has worse health outcomes. To make matters worse, there are pervasive disparities that impact patients along the entire continuum of disease, undermining equity and access to care. This seminar will give a general perspective on US healthcare from practitioners, researchers, and policy makers, using solid organ transplantation as a model.
Thesis Seminar – Physical Sciences and Life Sciences
Wednesday 3-4 pm
This course is designed for Dean’s Scholars and Option 1 Health Science Scholars currently writing their theses. In this course, you will be writing your Honors thesis in one of the physical sciences or life. You will turn in different sections of your thesis throughout the semester to receive comments and edits from me and your peers. Basically, you are in this class to hone your thesis and I am here to help you.
Thesis Seminar – Life Sciences
Wednesday 4-5 pm
This course is designed for Dean’s Scholars and Option 1 Health Science Scholars currently writing their theses. In this course, you will be writing your Honors thesis in one of the life sciences. You will turn in different sections of your thesis throughout the semester to receive comments and edits from me and your peers. Basically, you are in this class to hone your thesis and I am here to help you.
Monday 3-4 pm
Courts have long struggled to resolve 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.
The Evolution of American Higher Education
David Vanden Bout
Tuesdays 9-10 am
This class focuses on American higher education, with an emphasis on universities. We'll explore into various topics like university structure, what's taught (curriculum), who’s taught (the students), by whom (the faculty), the world of research and scholarship, and the universities' role in our society.
Making: An Intersection between STEM, Design, and The Arts
Wednesday 11 am – 12 noon
In today’s world many areas of knowledge with contrasting toolsets must converge to create new products and solve complex societal problems. STEM, design, and the arts offer complementary but unique toolboxes to observe, explain, and engage with the world. However, none of these areas alone will be able to solve the problems of the future. Enter making.
AI: Reshaping the Future of Science and Education
Tuesdays 10-11 am
Learn about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potentially transformative impact on science and education. This course will offer an overview of the AI foundations, neural networks, and machine learning, and explore their current applications in scientific research and education. Through case studies, hands-on projects, and critical discussions, students will investigate AI's role in data analysis, personalized learning, and automated assessments. We will also explore ethical considerations of AI. At the end of the semester, students will be able to conceptualize, and potentially implement, AI tools that advance scientific research or educational outcomes.
Transhumanism is closing in—maybe you (or your daughter) really will live forever
Wednesdays 2-3 pm
Every six years I trot out a new book on futurism, books like Kurzweil's Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near, as we discuss transhumanism. Transhumanism is the concept that human beings can evolve beyond their current physical and intellectual limitations—effectively achieving immortality. Long the domain of science fiction writers, advances in artificial intelligence and biology have made the notion of transhumanism a very real question with many thought-provoking lines of argument. In this seminar, we will talk about that future. There are a lot of ways we will do this—from exploring what science and technology will permit with respect to the biological and AI advances, to the philosophical consequences of transhumanism, to your predictions of the social, cultural and political world that will result from our achievements/follies. Some of what you will read for the seminar will be the work of thoughtful and respected scientists, some the work of brash visionaries and ideologues, some the work of crackpots. Distinguishing the future reality from future fiction will be an essential part of the course.
Tuesdays 2-3 pm
We will discuss key scientific and popular articles; discuss relevant concepts covered in the many books written on Vaccines. One such book is: A Vaccine Race by Meredith Wadman. This book discusses the history and lessons learned from designing vaccines from the beginning of vaccine design. We will discuss case studies that enhance our understanding of the molecular basis, genetics, design of vaccines on society, including the history, effectiveness and the role of anti-vaccine mind set.
Our focus will be on new technologies that have exploded since CoVid-19 pandemic started in early 2020. The new technologies include vaccines that are nucleic acids. We will also discuss vaccines that contain sub-components of the pathogen (proteins, capsules), along with those that have the inactivated pathogen or an attenuated pathogen to evoke an immune response.
The seminar will cover both the new and the historical ways of designing vaccines. With Covid-19 still prevalent, we’ll use lessons learned when designing and administering vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of CoVid-19 and from the vaccine that have been with us since 1950s.
Wellness 101: The Honors Student Edition
Wednesdays 2-3:30 pm
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. In this seminar, students will learn to practice strategies for cultivating and maintaining positive mental health and well-being in college and beyond, 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 wellness-related strategies and topics that can be carried and expanded upon through their education and career.
Design Justice: From Theory to Practice
Fridays 11 am – 12 noon
In a rapidly changing world where design permeates every aspect of our lives, the concept of design justice has emerged as a powerful force for change and inclusion. In this seminar, we will embark on a weekly journey to unpack, analyze, and apply the principles of design justice. Design justice is more than just a buzzword; it is a paradigm shift that calls for equitable, inclusive, and sustainable design solutions. Our seminar will delve into the foundations of this concept, exploring its historical context and evolution. We'll examine how design justice has emerged as a critical lens through which we evaluate the impact of design on marginalized communities. We'll discuss real-world case studies that highlight the consequences of design choices on social justice, the environment, and human well-being. This seminar will be an opportunity to be part of a community of thinkers, creators, and change-makers dedicated to reshaping the way we approach design. Whether you're an aspiring designer, an advocate for social justice, or simply curious about the intersection of design and equity, this seminar will empower you to make a difference in your field and beyond.
Facets of Food
Wednesdays 4-5 pm
Food is central to our lives in many ways: biologically, culturally, economically, socially, environmentally, and more. In this seminar, we'll discuss some of the main ways in which food shapes our lives, as well as how science and policy can improve human experience around food.
Rogue Medicine: Groundbreaking or Quackery?
Arturo De Lozanne
Wednesdays 2-3 pm
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.
Leadership, Growth, and Positive Impact
Thursdays 1-2 pm
No leadership title? No problem. Everyone is a leader in their own life, regardless of if they have been given a formal title. This class is designed as a series of highly interactive workshops that will empower you to enact positive change in the world. We will combine self-discovery, skill development, and real-world application to help you become a confident and empathetic leader. We’ll start by focusing on discovering who you are as a leader through self-assessments, activities, and peer to peer discussions before moving on to how you work best with others. We’ll wrap up the class by making sure your change-maker toolbox is full, and you know where you want to go next on your leadership journey. By the end of the spring semester, you'll have a deeper understanding of yourself, enhanced leadership abilities, and the tools to make a positive impact in your community, workplace, and beyond.
Science, Innovation, and Struggle During the Industrial Revolution
During the Industrial Revolution, science and innovation were mired in ruthless capitalism and human inequality and often dangerous. Proponents and opponents clashed in a struggle to safely, equitably, and profitably modernize the country. This course explores that process.
Big Questions in Science
Recently, Quanta Magazine has featured a series of podcasts (audio with also written transcriptions) by interdisciplinary scientist Steven Strogatz, raising “big questions” in science and interviewing researchers who are investigating them. Examples include: How and why do we dream? Will the James Webb Telescope discover another Earth? How could life evolve from cyanide? What is quantum field theory and how is it failing? Why is inflammation a dangerous necessity? For this course, students absolutely must listen to (or read) one assigned podcast each week before the class hour. Then, in class, we will continue that topic’s discussion, especially exploring what are the commonalities and differences in the scientific methods of different fields and speculating on what further advances may occur. Every student will be expected to contribute orally in every class, and all perspectives will be welcome. Come prepared to learn, talk, and contribute.