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VSA 2020 Session 1

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the residential Vanderbilt Summer Academy program has been canceled for summer 2020. Please click the link below to read PTY’s official statement regarding summer programs.

Review PTY’s Statement Concerning COVID-19 and Summer 2020 Programs

Rising 7th and 8th Grade – June 7-12, 2020

Click on a course title below to jump to a description of that course

Astrobiology: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life*
Bioarchaeology: Methods and Applications*
Energy5: Electrochemical Devices for Energy Applications*
Graph Theory*
Hazardous Chemicals: The Law and the Science*
Molecular Gastronomy: Food, Chemistry and Art Combined*
Of Microbes and Men: Fundamentals in Host-Pathogen Interactions*
The Microbiome in Health and Disease*
Psychology in Action: Decoding Symbols and Their Meanings
Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism
Sustainable Fashion: Issues, Practices, and Possibilities
Writing Poetry & Free Verse

*Tennessee students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in science may be eligible to apply for a competitive full tuition Session 1 scholarship for any STEM class (indicated with an asterisk above). This 2020 scholarship is funded through The Tennessee Space Grant Consortium. Click here for more information.

**Courses and instructors subject to change.

Astrobiology: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Astronomy, Biology

Is our Solar System unique, or do other planets like ours exist? How did life originate on Earth? Has life evolved elsewhere in our Galaxy? Can we detect and communicate with an alien civilization? Astrobiology is a developing, interdisciplinary science with many open-ended questions. Sampling a range of topics, including: the search for extrasolar planets, the origin and evolution of life on Earth, and the search for life on other Solar System bodies, we will focus on making evidence-based predictions about the nature and frequency of life in the Universe through discussion, observation, and calculations.

Dr. Lauren Campbell is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt. Her research centers on modeling stellar orbits in the Milky Way to study the underlying gravitational potential and interaction history of our home galaxy. She is also the Assistant Director of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program whose mission is to increase the number of STEM PhDs awarded to traditionally underrepresented and underserved groups.

Bioarchaeology: Methods and Applications

Archaeology, History

What can a femur tell us about about how an individual lived 2000 years ago? What do the skeletal remains from 500 years ago suggest about society and life in a certain region? Bones are like biographies of ancient societies. Skeletal remains can tell bioarchaeologists how people lived in the past – their actions, their diets, and their roles in society. In this course, you will learn to read those stories through chemical and forensic analysis to better understand the lives of ancient peoples and the world they lived in. You will get hands-on practice with human skeletons in Vanderbilt’s Human Osteology Lab, and learn techniques to construct a “demographic profile” of the deceased. You will learn how our bodies evolved to fit our environment and use the tools of bioarchaeological chemistry to explore the cellular structure of bone to answer questions about diet, migration, and to gain insight into how bones embody lived experiences. If you are ready for challenging, integrative learning, then pick up your trowel, strap on your boots, and get ready to jump into the exciting world of bioarchaeology.

Rosemary Lieske is a Ph.D. candidate studying Anthropology at Vanderbilt University. As a historical archaeologist working in the colonial period, her dissertation research focuses on the power relations among the Spanish, their indigenous allies, and local peoples through spatial organization and access to prestige goods at a Conquest-era site in El Salvador. Rosemary has worked on several archaeological sites and projects in Utah, New Mexico, Tennessee, Mexico, and El Salvador and has a BA and MA from Brigham Young University. Outside of archaeology her interests include cooking, traveling, hiking, and reading novels.

Energy5: Electrochemical Devices for Energy Applications

Chemistry, Engineering, Innovation/Design

Energy is all around us and scientists have come up with cutting edge and exciting ways of developing new devices to manipulate and produce energy. Electrochemistry is the branch of physical chemistry that studies the relationship between electricity and identifiable chemical change. In this course, you will delve into 5 different electrochemical systems that are used for a host of applications, including energy storage, conversion, harvesting and chemical synthesis. You will engage cutting edge research as you consider how these systems are designed, implemented, characterized, and perform. Building on this research, you will construct, test and analyze a simple supercapacitor that is capable of charging and discharging current rapidly, a key component of wireless headphones. This final project will help convey the thought-process that goes into materials-selection as well as analysis of an electrochemical system.

Nicholas Hortance received his Bachelors degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Miami, and is now a 2nd year graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Materials Science (IMS) program at Vanderbilt University. His research focuses on implementing solid-state electrolytes for electrochemical ammonia synthesis.

Graph Theory

Geometry, Logic, Programming Concepts, and Applications

Do you love to solve problems? Do you live for the “Eureka” moment when you find the answer? This course will provide you with the tools and skills to make reaching a solution easier. In this introduction to higher level mathematics, we will focus on discrete structures with applications to problem solving. Proof-based mathematics will help you better outline the steps to reaching a solution, an algorithmic approach to problem solving will help you organize your logic, and reducing complicated problems to finite visual representations will show you how to simplify questions to find their answer. This course will not only provide you with mathematical knowledge, but with critical problem-solving skills that will help you in any discipline.

Blake Dunshee is a Ph.D. student in the Mathematics department at Vanderbilt University. His wide-ranging interests span any subject that can be mathematically analyzed and those that he wishes could be. These include (but are definitely not limited to) graph theory, investing, behavioral economics, sabermetrics, bioethics, and theology. Blake is a sports fanatic as well as a board, card, and lawn game enthusiast. He considers himself living proof that sound strategy can marginally make up for an otherwise mediocre skill set. If he got to choose his own sponsors they would be Investopedia, Spikeball, Dominion, and Les Misérables.

Hazardous Chemicals: The Law and the Science

Toxicology, Law, Ethics, Environment

What happens when a hazardous chemical is released into the environment? How do lawyers and legislators incorporate toxicology into environmental laws and regulations in the US? Are we guaranteed environmental justice? Are communities and populations protected equally? Whether or not you recognize them in your everyday life, hazardous chemicals impact your world through the food you eat, water you drink, and waste you dispose of. Toxicology, the study of poisons and their impact, is one of the most critical areas of research in the 21st century and beyond. In this class, you will explore toxicology and the impact of hazardous chemicals on humans and ecosystems. Using state-of-the-art instrumental analysis techniques, you will explore how remediation of hazardous waste sites is accomplished and develop your own toxicological proposals that address leading legal and ethical questions.

Dr. Linda Phipps is a professor at Lipscomb University and has over 35 years of experience in environmental science and chemistry. She served as the Pretreatment Coordinator for Dallas, TX, where she administered the pretreatment permitting and enforcement program under the Clean Water Act for 180 industrial and 1500 commercial facilities. After receiving her doctoral degree in Physical Chemistry from Vanderbilt University, and a master’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of TX-Dallas, Phipps was a Sr Project Manager for AMEC Environmental and Resource Consultants. Phipps is currently coordinating and teaching Energy Education Camps for K-12 teachers under the USDOE and TDEC. She is responsible for the initial design for Lipscomb’s and Tennessee’s first sustainability graduate/undergraduate program. Phipps has also served as Lipscomb’s Environmental Compliance officer.

Molecular Gastronomy: Food, Chemistry and Art Combined

Chemistry, Food Science

Have you ever heard of dessert spaghetti? What is the science behind creating soup that you can eat with a fork or other foods that have little spheres of liquid that burst in your mouth or foam when you eat them? How can we scientifically explain the various phenomena that combine to create a delicious steak dinner with a side salad and mac and cheese? Molecular gastronomy is the scientific discipline concerned with the physical and chemical transformations that occur during cooking. With television and popular cooking competition programs, unusual dishes comprising of desserts in the form of savory dishes and “caviar” in surprising flavors such as lemon or basil, has captured the world. Many restaurants have at least one molecular gastronomy dish on the menu and home cooks want to attempt such creative delicacies in their own kitchens. In this course, you will critically consider how food and chemistry intersect on a molecular level and how our bodies use our senses to determine flavor. And yes, we will test our hypotheses and theories through cooking!

Margaret Calhoun graduated from the University of North Texas in 2016 with a B.S. in Chemistry with a Certificate in Forensic Science. She is currently a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the department of chemistry at Vanderbilt University. Her thesis work is focused on sensor development for proteins, specifically focusing on MMP-3 for the study of pre-term birth and IL-6 for early sepsis detection. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and annoying her 16-year-old cat, Tiger, that she has had since childhood.

Of Microbes and Men: Fundamentals in Host-Pathogen Interactions

Immunology, Microbiology, Pathology

In 430 BCE, Athens experienced a plague that wrought havoc on the city. It was noted that people who had previously been exposed to smallpox were immune to the new plague, and as a result were able to treat the afflicted. Flash forward almost 2500 years and scientific understanding of disease and immunology has grown by leaps and bounds. Microbiology and Immunology is the science of diseases caused by microorganisms and the host immune response to them. This course will introduce you to the fundamentals of immunology and the variety of host-pathogen interactions that drive evolutionary change. This course will expose you to commonly used microbiology techniques that will allow you to distinguish, examine, and visualize bacteria. You we will have the opportunity to examine morphology, growth rates, and antibiotic sensitivity among commonly encountered bacteria. Additionally, you will learn clinical diagnostic practices to differentiate between groups of bacteria. We will explore the metaphorical arms-race between a pathogen and its host to further understand the individual components of each organism. You will have the opportunity to think creatively about what would make a pathogen successful in any given environment and the counter measures that would be necessary to contain an outbreak. By the end of class, you will gain a deeper understanding, and hopefully appreciate, the complexity of host-pathogen interactions.

Ly Pham graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology. Her research focuses on innate immune defenses within the lungs, specifically how the innate immune system detects and responds to bacterial pathogens. Throughout her graduate training, she has mentored visiting students in her lab and served as a teaching assistant for the medical school and the undergraduate course in Microbiology and Immunology. This year she will be combining her love for science and her years of training to bring together a course that will hopefully encourage students to pursue a deeper understanding of the world around them.

The Microbiome in Health and Disease

Immunology, Public Health

What is a microbiome? Did you know you house an entire ecosystem of bacteria in your body? Multicellular organisms are colonized by a diverse range of microbes that influence physiological homeostasis. This recent area of scientific study promises to change standard practices in medicine, psychiatry, and psychology. Through modeling, experimentation, and discussion learn how microbes communicate with and supply the host with environmental cues and information, and how this impacts overall physical and mental health as you take a journey into the amazing world of the many microbiomes living inside of you! In this course you can learn how and why understanding the microbiome is critical to your well being!

Payam Fathi is a PhD student in the Molecular Physiology and Biophysics department at Vanderbilt University. His current research examines the gut-brain axis focusing on how palatable diets alter neuroendocrine signalling and influence feeding behaviors. Prior to attending Vanderbilt, he conducted research in how alterations in the gut microbiome promote colon carcinogenesis and received his Masters degree in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Psychology in Action: Decoding Symbols and Their Meanings

Psychology. Research, Design

Did you know that when you are reading your favorite book, watching television, or working on a math problem, you are interacting with symbols? Symbols can take many forms, from caveman drawings, scale models, numbers, and even apps and video. But what exactly are symbols? What kind of information do symbols tell us? How do we learn to interpret and make sense of symbols? By taking on the role of a developmental psychologist, you will investigate how the human mind processes and makes sense of the symbols we interact with every day. Through hands-on experiments, scientific investigation, and a visit to Vanderbilt labs to see research in action, you will uncover how symbols are helpful in our lives and learn how psychologists use numbers and theories to draw conclusions and answer important questions. You will then have a chance to test your own hypothesis as you design a study, collect and analyze data, and present your findings. Experience psychology in action as you use your new knowledge to discover new ideas!

Israel Flores is a Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Science at Vanderbilt University. Israel’s current work explores the symbolic development of very young children, specifically how they come to understand and learn from representational artifacts and media (e.g.,pictures, video images, touchscreens, and scale models). In another line of work, Israel is investigating how translanguaging practices such as language brokering can support learning in young students from Spanish-speaking, low income homes. A main focus of this research is to explore the role that technology can take in supporting those navigating multiple languages.

Emily Conder is a Ph.D. Candidate in Developmental Science at Vanderbilt University. Emily is interested in the development of social cognition in early to middle childhood, as well as in adults. Most recently, she has been investigating how overhearing messages about novel social groups might influence children’s intergroup attitudes as well as examining how adults’ moral judgements change based on the presence of mitigating evidence.

Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism

Writing, Public Speaking

Do you want to be a better public speaker? Do you ever wonder 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 so that you can become a more involved and informed citizen, a better public speaker, and a critical consumer of information.

Dr. John P. Koch is a Senior Lecturer and Associate Director of Debate in the Department of Communication Studies. He has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies, with an emphasis in rhetoric, from Wayne State University. His primary research interests include argumentation and debate, citizenship, democratic theory, and presidential rhetoric. Other areas of interest are public memory and the intersection of political culture, rhetoric, and sports.

Sustainable Fashion: Issues, Practices, and Possibilities

Ethics, Fashion

Did you know that 8% of global greenhouse emissions are produced by the apparel/footwear industry? Or that ⅗ of all clothing items will end up in an incinerator or landfill within a year of being produced? In this class we will examine the economic, human, and environmental cost of the current fast fashion industry, and specific eras of the history of fashion, through the lens of sustainability. Over the course of the class, you will conceptualize, produce, and present transformative solutions for pressing local and/or global issues of unsustainable practices related to fashion in order to enact positive change and provide innovative solutions. Be ready for a hands-on experience with in class discussions and problem solving.

Alex Sargent Capps has served on the faculty in the Theatre Department at Vanderbilt University since 2001, where she designs the seasonal production costumes, manages the costume shop, and teaches classes in costume design, fashion history, and fashion sustainability. Alex recently opened a Fiber Arts Center at Vanderbilt’s Wond’ry, a center for innovation and entrepreneurship, with goals including: designing for special needs; working with engineers to assist in creating wearable technologies for research and innovation; and running programming connected to fashion sustainability. Her classes serve as official DIVE, or Design as an Immersive Vanderbilt Experience, courses, aimed at empowering students to be problem solvers who can improve the world around them through engaging as designers and scholars.

Several of Alex’s recent collaborative textile projects are displayed across the Vanderbilt campus. She recently had an exhibit of posters and garments made from recycled textile waste at the Nashville Parthenon. Alex designed and fabricated Mr. Commodore’s costume, which helps to brand Vanderbilt’s athletic department. Alex holds a B.A. in Theatre from Middlebury College, and an MFA in Stage Design from Northwestern University.

Writing Poetry and Free Verse

Creative Writing, Literary Theory

This course will help you find and express your poetic voice, gain confidence in your writing skills, and receive expert feedback about your work. By studying different kinds of poetry through creative and engaging writing activities, group collaboration, analysis, and peer review you will work toward building a comprehensive collection of original poems. We will pay particular attention to free verse and the frontier of poetry beyond meter: found poems, prose poems, list poems, etc. Our focus will be assisting you to find your own voice and platform. The writing skills you learn will not only help enhance your poems, but allow you to engage in scholarly conversations with other classmates and express your ideas in unique ways while having a lot of fun along the way.

Dr. Jan Elaine Harris is an Associate Professor of English and Writing at Lipscomb University. Jan earned her PhD from the University of Alabama in 2008. Six poems from her collection in progress, Voyager, were featured in Waxing and Waning’s Fall 2017 Issue. She has given readings of her work at SCMLA (2017), PCA/ACA (2018), and RMMLA (2018). One of her poems was featured on Spokane’s Public Radio in February 2018. Other poems have appeared in Anthology, Event, and Exposition. When Jan is not teaching or writing, she probably hanging out with her GSPs, Malloy and Astrid.