Fall 2024 CNS Honors Seminars

The Literature of Science

Josh Roebke 

Mondays 2-3 PM 


Who writes about science and what are they trying to tell us? Poets, journalists, novelists, publicists, historians, and philosophers all write about science, but how do they communicate it differently? Are they even describing the same branch of knowledge? We will read a variety of texts—from tweets to memoirs, essays to poems, and popular 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 some articles, essays, or short book excerpts to debate the merits of different writing styles by either scientists or non-scientists. Basically, we will discuss good writing about science and talk about why it is good and what it means. 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. Join if you love to read and love talking about great writing! 

The College Student: “Who are You?”

Tepera Holman 

Thursday 10-11 am 

WEL 3.310

Many entering college students are faced with new and real challenges for the first time in their lives that goes beyond adjusting to rigorous coursework. College students are transitioning to young adults while developing and changing in ways they do not always understand. In this seminar students will be broadly introduced to theories and research about college student transition and development. The seminar aims to increase awareness of the diversity of college student populations and the variety of student experiences and theories that explain them. 

Health Communication

Mike Mackert  

Thursday 12:30-1:30 pm  

PAI 5.42  

This seminar will focus on health communication and its role in individual and public health, including issues such as public health campaigns, prescription drug advertising, and depictions of health in the media.  

Collaborative Problem Solving

Pam Elias 

Mondays 3-4 pm

PAI 5.42 

Working together proactively regardless of strengths and skills is critical in any workspace.  Find out more about how you work collaboratively to elevate the team and enhance your skills to be a better team member and leader.  This is an interactive class with many class discussions and problem-solving experiences to fine tune the skills of being an effective collaborative problem solver from problem challenges to escape room scenarios.  By the end of the semester, you will have solved many in class team challenges and improved your communication skills. 

The Science of Play

Amy Bryan 

Friday 1-2 pm

PAI 5.42 

Explore the biology of play and its importance to health and well-being across the life course. Discover how play supports learning, develops creativity and resilience, and provides an outlet for emotions and psychological processes. (Re)connect with your playful self and practice using play to enhance self-care and deepen social connections. 

Student Voices/Voces de los Estudiantes

Shelly Rodriguez 

Wednesday 11-12 

PAI 4.08 

The College of Natural Sciences is one of the largest colleges of science in the United States, with a community of more than 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 700 tenure and non-tenure track faculty members, and 1,200 staff. The college is also a major source of future scientists, doctors, mathematicians, technologists, STEM educators, and entrepreneurs. 

As part of CNS and UT Austin, your voice matters. Students in this discussion section will serve as a sounding board and focus group for a variety of college and university initiatives. In this seminar CNS Honors students will have the opportunity to learn about and give input on issues such as: diversity initiatives, college infrastructure, hybrid learning, outreach, and more. This seminar will feature an array of guest speakers selected from college and university leaders looking for student input. This seminar will also be accompanied by optional volunteer activities that engage CNS Honors students with projects and events here at UT and in the community. Sign up and let your voice be heard. 

Our Moon: From Imagination to Exploration

Viranga Perera 

Friday 11-12

PAI 5.42 

In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will explore the diverse connections that humans throughout the globe and over time have had with our Moon. Our goal is to derive new insights that can inform our future exploration of the Moon. This is timely as more countries and private companies ramp up their lunar exploration programs. While we can consider the Moon in a multidisciplinary manner by considering it from the perspectives of art, engineering, film, history, literature, music, mythology, politics, science, and social identities, here we aim to explore interdisciplinary connections to better address questions such as: Who gets to participate in the future exploration of the Moon? How would Earthlings interact with a potential future society of Lunarians? Students will actively ask their own interdisciplinary questions about the Moon and address them by conducting their own research and participating in class discussions. 

Are You A Part of Nature Or Apart From Nature?

Stuart Reichler 

Wednesdays 3-4 pm

PAI 5.42  

As a broad generalization people see themselves as a part of nature or apart from nature.  While the distinction may seem subtle, the decisions we make in relation to people and other species are heavily influenced by this outlook.  We will discuss these two approaches to viewing our relationship to nature, the history of these viewpoints, and the ramifications of each viewpoint.  As a foundation to understanding these outlooks, we will start the semester thinking about our concepts about the nature of nature.  Topics will include wilderness, transcendentalism, urbanization, invasive species, climate change, agriculture, ecology, environmentalism, sustainability, and resilience. 

The Power of Connection

Nina Palmo 

Thursday 10-11 am 

GEA 125 

In May 2023, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released a report calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness and isolation gripping the United States. The report emphasized that the health effects of loneliness are worse than the consequences of physical inactivity and obesity, and that the mortality impact is like smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day. Dr. Murthy argues that we need to take action to improve our health and wellbeing as individuals and as a society. This seminar will explore the research behind loneliness and offer some practical tips for addressing it on a social and individual level. 

Wellness 101: The Honors Student Edition

Brittany O’Malley 

Wednesdays 2-3:30 pm 

PAI 4.28

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. 

Science, Storytelling, and the Past 

Adam Rabinowitz 

Thursday 3-4 pm 

PAI 5.42  

Research in STEM disciplines tends to focus on the present and the future, attempting to solve today's problems or transform the way we will live tomorrow. The past, by contrast, is seen as the domain of humanities disciplines like history. But in recent years, quantitative scientific research has provided new insights into past climate and human history, and humanistic study of the past has started to look for lessons for the future. In both cases, the communication of the results of this research to the public has been prone to oversimplification and misinterpretation, and both pseudoscience and pseudoarchaeology have presented compelling alternative narratives with little basis in fact. Using the Planet Texas 2050 Grand Challenge as a case-study, we will explore how science and humanities come together in the study of the human past, and how climate scientists, archaeologists, and others are working to develop evidence-based stories about the past that connect more effectively with public audiences.  

Living in Rural America

Jane Champion  

Tuesday 10-11 am   

PAI 4.28 

 What is rural? What is it like to live in rural America? Am I rural?   

The term "rural" means different things to different people. It may evoke images of farmland and pastoral countryside. What does it mean to you? How can we preserve the attributes of a rural environment? Rural residents face disparities. Many circumstances influence health within rural communities, including individual health behaviors, community characteristics, environmental factors, healthcare access, and governmental agencies or private and not-for-profit organization services. The issues faced by rural communities differ from those in urban areas. This seminar will address these cultural or social differences, stigma, and norms.  


Living Well

Cortni Oluleye 

Monday 1-2 PM 

PAI 5.42 

This course aims to equip college students with the knowledge and tools necessary to cultivate healthy habits and lead a productive lifestyle while navigating the demands of academia. Drawing from James Clear's "Atomic Habits," students will explore strategies for habit formation, behavior change, and goal achievement, tailored specifically to the challenges and opportunities of college life. 

Mapping the Human Cortex

Alex Huth 

Thursday 4-5 pm 

PAI 5.42 

The human brain is a biological and computational marvel. It can learn, talk, see, touch, smell, taste, think, feel, and listen, while using less energy than a modern laptop. Our brains accomplish these feats through specialization, where each part of the brain focuses only on one or a few tasks. In this course we will take a tour through the human brain in an effort to learn at least a little bit about every single area in the cortex. Because the human cortex is involved nearly every aspect of human life, we will touch on a broad set of topics, including vision, language, audition, touch, decision making, and social cognition. We will also discuss methods for mapping the brain and organizing principles that may be at play.