Skip to main content

VSA 2015 Session 3

Class Placement

Classes fill quickly! Please consider your course choices carefully. While we will do our best to place you in your first choice class, it may be filled and we often have to place students in 2nd or 3rd choice classes. As you review these course descriptions, please rank-order as many classes as you’d like, knowing that you may not get your first choice. Your deposit becomes non-refundable once we place you in a class that you have ranked. So, only rank classes that you are truly willing to take, and pay for!

View the VSA waiting list policy.

Medicine, Health, and Society

Explore the multi-dimensional world of medical anthropology. Learn how disease, health, and healing are culturally constructed. Students will learn how culture can influence the diagnosis and treatment of disease as well as the formulation of ideas about the human body. We will begin our journey into medicine health and society by examining the differences between Western biomedicine and non-Western ethnomedicine using case studies from various cultures in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Students will participate in projects specifically designed to emphasize newly learned concepts and the cultural differences in medical systems.

– Monte Hendrickson
A great course for anthropologists interested in medicine and doctors interested in anthropology.

Much Ado About Knotting

With applications in genetics, astronomy, and the emerging science of quantum cryptography, it is not hard to see why knot theory is one of the most exciting fields in mathematics today. Students in this course will learn about mathematical knots and use Reidemeister’s Theorem to help them construct simple knot invariants, and apply a bit of their know-how to yet-unsolved problems in knot theory (e.g. the “matchstick problem”). Usually introduced to math and science majors around the second year of college, knot theory is sure to expand even the most mathematical minds.

-Johanna Strömberg
A great course for students who love problem solving and paradoxes.

Prerequisites: Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

Supplemental Application Materials: Transcript

Psychology and Media

Students in this course will learn about psychology by comparing its portrayals in the media (literature, social media, television, and more), to what the scientific evidence actually says. We will explore topics such as psychiatric disorders, developmental disabilities, and acts of violence and abuse. Students will also weigh the positive and negative repercussions of our mass familiarity with mental health issues through the way it is depicted in books, social media, television, music, and other forms of expression.

– Michelle Reising, Ph.D.
A great course for those drawn to the intricacies of psychological fact through the lens of fiction.

The Science of Film

What do you see when you watch Citizen Kane–a masterpiece of storytelling about hubris and loss, or a long series of still black-and-white images flashing past at 24 frames per second? (Trick question, it’s both!) We get so caught up in movies that we often forget how strange they are. This course combines physiology, psychology and neuroscience to find out what’s really going on in films. Students will tackle projects that highlight visual illusions, storytelling, filmmaking and experimental design, and will have the opportunity to write and direct short films based on their studies.

-Lewis Baker
A great course for scientific cinephiles.

Med School 101

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is one of the top hospitals in the country, so it is no surprise that the Medical School is at the forefront when it comes to technology and teaching. Students will work with many of the same computer and other virtual medical simulations as Vanderbilt Medical Students, and they will use Problem Based Learning to analyze and diagnose real medical case studies. Taught by a team of medical students, this course will utilize small group discussions, faculty lectures, lab exercises, and the latest resources and technologies from the Vanderbilt School of Medicine to learn about the the practice, ethics, and social impact of modern medicine.

Please note that VUMC insurance and safety regulations state that students must be 16 years old by July 7 to participate. Programs for Talented Youth has no say in this policy.

Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry. Supplemental Application Materials: Transcripts; 2 letters of recommendation. Please visit the to download the recommendation form.

A great course for students who want to learn about what it means —practically and ethically—to be a doctor today.

Galaxies and the Structure of the Universe

In a universe full of wonder, astronomers use knowledge of light, physics, and statistics to design computer models to try to explain what is observed by telescopes. In this course, we will utilize open access observational data to probe the various types, component parts (gas, dust, stars, supermassive black holes, dark matter, etc.), and locations of galaxies. We will learn what all of this can tell us about the origin and structure of our universe. Using 8-inch telescopes at night, we will investigate first hand some component parts of our own Milky Way Galaxy. This course will culminate with a poster presentation that addresses a research question of your own design.

-Erika Grundstrom, Ph.D.

Special Topics in Mathematics

This course offers a unique opportunity for highly motivated students to expand their knowledge and comprehension of math. Students will push the limits of their understanding through whole-group discussion as well as independent work. Students will leave this class with a sampling of higher-level topics, a deeper understanding of the math they have already learned, and an increased awareness of how math is used in the world today.

-Dawson Gray
A great course for confident mathematicians looking for their next big challenge

Prerequisites: Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

Supplemental Application Materials: Transcript

Forensics and Bioarchaeology

Scientists who study human remains at modern crime scenes (forensics) and ancient burial sites (bioarchaeology) read the stories inscribed in bones to reconstruct the recent and remote past. This fast-paced course will teach students the methods and techniques forensic anthropologists to determine everything from age and gender to geographic ancestry and the cause and manner of death. Students will work with real human bones in Vanderbilt’s Osteology Lab, conduct hands-on experimental research in forensic science, and tour the DNA and isotopic chemistry facilities at Vanderbilt University. By the end of this course, students will be able to weave together multiple lines of evidence – skeletal, chemical, and contextual – to read the stories written in our bones.

-Alicja Lanfear, Ph.D. & Matt Velasco
A great course for budding anthropologist suspicious of crime scene television shows

Agents of Change

So, you want to make a difference in the world? Students in this course (modeled after a popular Vanderbilt freshman seminar) will combine the genius of Aristotelian argumentation with modern research tools and communication techniques to learn how to affect political, economic, and social change. They will select and investigate hot-button social issues from multiple perspectives, and students will learn how to make and defend their case in a cogent and convincing manner. Students can expect to polish their public speaking skills, but more importantly, they will learn how to think critically, argue effectively, and mobilize support for the matters that matter to them.

– Prof. John English
A great course for future lawyers, politicians, community activists, and anyone else who wants to change the world.

Writing Fantasy Fiction

Alice was bored on a hot afternoon–bored with her life, bored with her older sister. She was bored, that is, until she saw a white rabbit carrying a large watch and chain. So begins the modern fascination with the fantastic and the extraordinary, the hero’s quest to find a way out of Wonderland and return home. We love the magic realms of Alice, Harry Potter, and Frodo Baggins and secretly wish we could find them, too. But do we have what it takes as writers to create magical, mysterious worlds ourselves? Join the quest not just to read classic works of fantasy, but also to begin writing a classic of your own. In this course, we will experiment with short stories, novels, and poems. You will produce a portfolio of creative writing that will set them on the path to discover the secret worlds hidden in their imaginations. Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling, beware!

-Jan Harris, Ph.D.
A great course for storyweavers who venture deep into Middle Earth or fly toward futures untold.