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VSA 2019 Session 3

Course Placement

VSA Courses are academically rigorous immersive classroom experiences taught by faculty and Ph.D. students at Vanderbilt and the larger Nashville community. Please consider course choices carefully. In the application process you may rank-order as many of the courses as you like. Rank thoughtfully to ensure you will enjoy your VSA experience!

Your deposit becomes non-refundable once you are placed in a class that you have ranked. Please also refer to the VSA Waitlist policy for further information. If you have additional questions about course placement or the VSA Waitlist policy, please email

Courses printed in red are full and not accepting applications for the waitlist. Courses printed in blue are full but still accepting applications for the waitlist. Courses printed in gold have limited availability. Courses printed in green are available.

Rising 11th and 12th Grade – July 7-26, 2019

Biology of Cancer: How the Cellular Machinery Goes Wrong and Potential Remedies.

Computational Thinking, Programming, and Cybersecurity

Geology in the 21st Century

Gold, God, and Glory in the Making of the Modern World

Med School 101

Microscopy of Nanomaterials

Perfect Shuffles, Permutations, and Decimal Expansions

Policy Making and Quantitative Analysis

Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism

Sensors and Big Data Analysis

Treating the Whole Person

Writing Short Stories

Biology of Cancer: How the Cellular Machinery Goes Wrong and Potential Remedies – Waitlist Closed

Biology, Chemistry, Cellular Engineering & Imaging

Cancer knows no race, ethnicity, region, or socioeconomic status. It is a global issue that affects families and populations across all seven continents. One of the most interesting facts about cancer is that it does not originate from an outside source. Rather, cancer is our cells malfunctioning and continuing to replicate at an exponential pace. If we can better understand the mechanisms that cause these cancerous cells to begin to malfunction, we can explore tools and therapies to treat the disease. This understanding of tumors on a cellular and genetic level, therefore, is vital to future cancer studies. In this course, you will learn what the disease of cancer means, how it affects the body on a micro and macro level, potential areas of treatment, and connections between populations and cells of origin. We will review current therapies already in usage and identify which aspects of the disease they are treating as well as the method’s efficacy. By the end of the course, you will be able to begin to offer your own proposals on how to approach the disease as well as offer suggestions on future directions in therapy research.

Joseph A Weinstein-Webb

Computational Thinking, Programming, and Cybersecurity – Waitlist Only

Algorithms, Logic, Systems Design

As more and more of our daily lives take place online, and technology finds its way into everything we do, cybersecurity becomes increasingly critical. In order to protect computer systems and the networks they rely on, we must be aware of both the threats against them and the defenses that keep them secure. This course will begin with an overview of computational thinking and an introduction to programming and computer science. With this foundation and context, students will use a robotics platform to demonstrate how networked cyber-physical systems may be vulnerable and how revised design can increase security. Students will have the opportunity to compete in completing tasks with these robots while other students attempt to overcome their defenses.

Note: As the course includes an introduction to programming in general, no prior programming experience is assumed, expected, or required.

Gordon Stein

Geology in the 21st Century

Geology, Environmental Science, Statistics

How does the geological record inform our understanding of current and future climate change? How can geology help us solve the crisis of ever dwindling energy resources? Geology is undergoing a revolution in the new millennium as technological advances and global interconnectedness enable exciting new approaches to both old and new problems. As an effect of this shift, geologists are asking increasingly interdisciplinary questions of relevance to climate scientists, oceanographers, policy makers, and other experts to work together and make informed decisions. In this class, you will, through the lens of computer programming, statistical analysis, and geological theory, study the Earth as an interconnected system with inputs and outputs affecting all aspects of modern life. From the emergence of complex life to the science and sensation behind natural disasters to the impacts of climate on agriculture, medicine, and human civilization, you will consider how the vast interconnectedness of nature provides answers to a wide range of 21st century questions.

Gregory Smith

Gold, God, and Glory in the Making of the Modern World – Waitlist Only

History, Social Science, Economics

How does the past inform the present? What role does one’s geographic location and culture play in the monetary success of their country? And in shaping their political and religious beliefs? From the Crusades, to the Silk Road, to the process of colonization, humanity continues to be driven by a lust for “Gold,” a religious faith in “God,” and a yearning for “Glory.” In this course we will follow the emergence of trade relations, religious communities, and nation building projects in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. By examining exactly how “Gold,” “God,” and “Glory” became a driving forces for the accumulation of wealth, territorial expansion, and social-consciousness we will learn how our world’s past informs the present and future. Be ready to engage in debates on how modern day capitalism came into existence, and participate in intriguing discussions as to how greed, desire, and faith shape societal behaviors and traditions.

Danyelle Valentine

Med School 101* – Waitlist Closed

Medicine, Biology, Chemistry

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. In this course, you will work with many of the same computer and other virtual medical simulations as Vanderbilt medical students, and 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.

NOTE: VUMC insurance and safety regulations state that students must be 16 years old by July 9 to participate. This policy is non-negotiable.

*Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry – Transcript required

Additional Application Materials: Transcript, one letter of recommendation.

Microscopy of Nanomaterials* – Waitlist Closed

Chemistry, Medicine

Today, some of the BIGGEST problems in medicine, science, and engineering are being solved with some of the smallest technologies. Nanoparticles are used in everything from computer science to cancer treatments.  you will get an introduction into key nanoparticles, their properties, and how scientists synthesize and manipulate them. In addition to lectures and research, this class will involve hands-on learning, laboratory experiences, and state of the art imaging tools to give you a greater understanding of the potential of nanoparticles and gain the skills to develop your own scientific research project.

*Prerequisites: Chemistry – Transcript required

Susan Sutton

Perfect Shuffles, Permutations, and Decimal Expansions: Making Math Real – Waitlist Only

Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics

Have you ever been in a higher level math course and heard or even asked the question, “When will I ever use this?” The new mathematics you will learn in this course will provide a multi-faceted and exciting answer to this question. Physics, computer programming, and cryptography are just a few of the practical applications of the new theories and advanced mathematical techniques that will be explored in this course, all starting from the same humble base: card shuffles. Using the techniques learned in this seemingly simple analysis, you will explore the topics of number theory, permutation groups, and expansion of numbers in various bases and discuss how these relate to real world issues and current innovation.

Jason Brasel

Policy Making and Quantitative Analysis – Waitlist Only

Politics, Statistics, Social Science

What impact do statistics and past history  have on future policy initiatives? What are the unintended versus unanticipated consequences of creating policy? How does one negotiate public opinion and quantitative data into a well crafted policy when the two conflict?  Step into the role of a policy analyst and examine key issues through the lens of social science and economics. Participate in policy debate and support your arguments using both classical and emerging political theory, historical precedent, public opinion, and quantitative analysis.  Be prepared to grapple with current political topics such as healthcare, taxation, education and foreign policy. Utilizing the same quantitative methodologies and statistical coding software as policy analysts, you will leverage theory and technical skill to engage contemporary hot-button policy issues.

Walt Ecton

Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism – Waitlist Only

Writing, Public Speaking

Do you want to be a better public speaker? Do you want to understand how society determines what is true and what is hyperbole? Do you want to be able to effectively research and organize arguments out of the massive amounts of information you are exposed to into something that makes sense? In this class, you will learn how to research, develop and organize arguments, adapt persuasive appeals to specific audiences, and, perhaps even change minds. We will also analyze arguments as we learn basic rhetorical theories and apply them to historical speeches. Be prepared to engage in discussions and critically analyze arguments and texts. Become a more involved and informed citizen, a better public speaker, and a critical consumer of information.

Note: This class will involve scholarly consideration of politics and the public sphere.

John Koch

Sensors and Big Data Analysis –Waitlist Only

Data Analysis, Programming, Social Science

How do city planners decide how to alleviate traffic? How do scientists measure and analyze how air quality is related to issues such as public health and socio-economic dynamics? Data analysis is behind many important decisions that are being made on a daily basis.  In this class, you will explore sensor and data technology, assemble real sensor prototypes and collect and analyze data that answer questions you have. With unique access to large datasets from Vanderbilt and the City of Nashville derived from air quality sensor systems, pedestrian movement detection, and even electric scooter-sharing systems, you will formulate and explore inquiries that affect the very flow of society. Gain hands-on experience with electrical engineering, big data analysis techniques, programming languages, and geographic mapping software as you discover answers to your own questions and gain a behind the scenes look at how data driven decisions are made for city planning.

William Barbour

Treating the Whole Person: A Multidisciplinary Understanding of Healthcare and Social Context – Limited Availability

Nursing, Health, Social Science, Public Health

How do personal characteristics like race, sexual identity, religion, or economic status impact one’s health? This course will focus on the necessity of combining an understanding of social determinants with scientific knowledge to maximize quality of health. Simulated and real life experiences are presented to stimulate critical thinking and novel approaches to how healthcare should be provided while considering individual circumstances and identities. Be ready to discuss health issues from multiple and diverse perspectives. If you are analytical, enjoy challenging assumptions and engaging in data driven discussions, or you are considering a career in healthcare then this course will set you on your way toward ongoing discovery and learning in this amazing field.

Note: This class will involve scholarly consideration of issues relating to race, class, ability, gender, sexuality, etc. Students (and parents) should thus carefully consider whether this course is a good fit for them at this time.

NOTE: VUMC insurance and safety regulations state that students must be 16 years old by July 9 to participate. This policy is non-negotiable.

Taught by Vanderbilt School of Nursing Faculty and Students

Writing Short Stories

Creative Writing, Literature

As aspiring authors know, short fiction can be what William Faulkner called “the most demanding” form of prose. This class will help you to develop the skills necessary to rise to Mr. Faulkner’s challenge. You will explore the short fiction genre through critical reading of classic and cutting-edge examples from authors such as Flannery O’Connor and Michael Chabon. Daily writing and review will help you refine your craft. You will conclude this class, having completed several of your own short stories that evince your stronger skills of critical analysis, and that more clearly convey your own voice, rhythm, and style.

Jan Harris