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PTY Online Academy Courses

Status: Accepting Registration Requests for Session 3 & Session 4

Session 3 – July 6-17, 2020

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

Biochemistry: The Language of Life (Rising 8th-10th Grade)
Toxicology and Public Health: Exploring the intersections of Chemistry, Biology, and Physiology (Rising 8th-10th Grade)
Rhetoric and Debate (Rising 9th-11th Grade)
Genetics: From Mendel to COVID-19 (Rising 11th-12th Grade)
Treating the Whole Person: A Multidisciplinary Understanding of Healthcare and Social Context (Rising 11th-12th Grade)

Session 4 – July 20-31, 2020

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

Psychology in Action: Decoding Symbols and Their Meanings (Rising 8th-10th Grade)
Journey into the Universe: Planetary Astronomy (Rising 8th-10th Grade)
Moral Leadership: Responsibility and Possibility for All (Rising 11th-12th Grade)
Biology of Cancer: How the Cellular Machinery Goes Wrong and Potential Remedies (Rising 11th-12th Grade)
Web Application Development (Rising 11th-12th Grade)

Interested In This Unique Opportunity?
Click here to submit a registration request for July PTY Online Academy!


July 6-17th: Rising 8th-10th Grade

Biochemistry: The Language of Life

The chemical understanding of life and the methodology in which organic matter interacts are encompassed in the study of biochemistry. Biochemistry provides the road map for how life occurs on earth and for how the body communicates with itself. This science determines the genetic code transfer from generation to generation, the way proteins are produced, how food is digested, and even the process in which cells differentiate to produce a full grown human. Understanding cell signaling pathways and the ability to transmit information from cell to cell, tissue to tissue, and even organ system to organ system, allows scientists to comprehend how it is possible for the body to converse in this biochemical language. You will learn how the interaction of organic material on a fundamental level determines biology. In this course, we will also study how biochemistry can be used as a diagnostic tool in forensic science and disease detection. Lastly, this study will investigate the pharmaceutical mechanisms involved in medicinal chemistries and how treatments are determined by their ability to alter gene transcription, protein expression, and hormone interaction. Overall, you will come away with a better understanding of how it is the body processes chemical information and what these chemical changes mean in both healthy and pathological states.

Toxicology and Public Health: Exploring the intersections of Chemistry, Biology, and Physiology

There are roughly 80,000 synthetic chemicals currently in use in the United States, most of which have yet to be studied for their safety. Synthetic chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, flame-retardants, and plasticizers are all around us- in our furniture, clothing, food containers, and many are causing a wide range of health effects in humans and wildlife. Toxicologists are scientists who use knowledge of chemistry, biology, and physiology to understand how chemicals that we are exposed to in the environment affect our health (or the health of wildlife). In this introduction to the field of toxicology, you will learn how to use toxicology methods to understand how chemicals interact with cellular receptors and organ systems of the body to cause toxicity, how to analyze scientific data like a toxicologist, and how to evaluate the risks of environmental chemicals to the health of wildlife and humans. Course activities will include review of historical toxicology case studies, analysis of cellular and physiological data from known toxic exposures in humans and wildlife, and collaboration with expert groups to solve environmental toxicology mysteries. If you love biology, chemistry, or physiology, and have an interest in environmental issues, this course is for you!


July 6-17th: Rising 9th-11th Grade

Rhetoric and Debate

Do you want to be a better public speaker? Are you curious how someone understands what is true and what is hyperbole? Do you want to explore techniques experts of rhetoric and debate use to effectively research and organize arguments when they have massive amounts of information to make sense of? In this class, you will learn how to conduct research, develop and organize arguments, adapt persuasive appeals to specific audiences, and, perhaps even change minds. Through the use of logical arguments and appropriate evidence, you will learn how to defend your viewpoints, persuade your friends, and influence people. Just like any skill, the art of persuasion takes practice. By exploring specific types of fallacies that can negatively impact your ability to persuade, we will become more aware of the principles great debaters and public speakers use to present their points. We will also analyze arguments in context as we learn basic rhetorical theories and apply them to speeches from history and current events. Become a more involved and informed citizen, a better public speaker, and a critical consumer of information as you learn the art of the persuasive argument.


July 6-17th: Rising 11th-12th Grade

Genetics: From Mendel to COVID-19

Since Mendel’s deciphering of the laws of heredity in the 1800’s, and the discovery of DNA as the genetic material in the mid-20th century, our understanding of the influence of genetics on life has expanded exponentially. In a relatively short period humanity has gone from having no idea as to how traits are passed down to knowing how to manipulate genomes and create transgenic organisms. We will begin our studies with Mendel and learn how he determined that traits are passed from parent to child. Then we will study the work of the pivotal 20th century figures who discovered that the information for traits resides on chromosomes and that DNA is the hereditary material. This history lesson will have us primed to dive into biotechnology and the transformational role that genetic knowledge has had on human health and our understanding of pathogens and the evolutionary process.

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

How do factors like race, gender, sexual identity, religion, environment, and economic status impact one’s health? This course focuses on the need to combine an understanding of the social determinants of health with scientific knowledge in order to maximize quality of health for all people. Course instructors use simulated experiences and case studies to stimulate critical thinking and identify 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 if you are considering a career in healthcare (e.g. nursing, medicine, pharmacy, public health, social work, physical/occupational/speech therapy, policy, or law) then this course will set you on a path of discovery in this amazing field.

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

This class is in partnership with the Vanderbilt School of Nursing.

July 20-31st: Rising 8th-10th Grade

Psychology in Action: Decoding Symbols and Their Meanings

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!

Journey into the Universe: Planetary Astronomy

The history of the universe is written in the sky! In this course you will take on the role of an astronomer to investigate our wide universe. Did you know that astronomers have identified over 4,000 planets outside our solar system and has determined that as many as 55 may be habitable? Come ready to use astrophysics, publicly available data, and the power of statistics to better understand our planet-filled universe. You will learn how to identify and characterize different types of celestial objects and how the study of light is essential to astronomy. We will also take what we know about our own solar system to generate models for studying extrasolar planets. In this way, you will gain firsthand experience in how scientists pose research questions, design studies, and present their findings to their peers. Get ready to contribute your own voice to our global, astronomical dialogue! This course will help you ask and answer questions as wide and diverse as the universe itself.

July 20-31st: Rising 11th-12th Grade

Moral Leadership: Responsibility and Possibility for All

From startups to Fortune 500 companies to government, leaders and their values have been in the spotlight (for good or for ill) recently. What does it mean to be an ethical leader? Should morality be an integral part of leadership style? Can moral leadership be learned and leveraged towards the greater good? In this class, you will reflect upon the relational, interpersonal, and visionary aspects of leadership, and discuss case studies of moral leadership (and missing the mark) across professional disciplines. You will work to theoretically and practically further develop your own moral leadership and work collaboratively to develop proposals for “glocal (global/local),” tangible action on pressing social issues.

Note: This course will include discussion of “hot” topics and potentially controversial issues. Multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed.

This class is in partnership with the Vanderbilt University Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions.

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

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.

Web Application Development

With the increased utility of e-commerce, web application development is becoming more and more critical to business growth and sustainability. In this course, you learn what it means to be a software engineer as you develop and maintain websites. We will study Website design, HTML5, and CSS3 coding and learn how to use content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress. We will also discuss how to consider the context and purpose for web creation as an integral part of design and creation and discuss historical foundations of web design so that you can make informed decisions and better forecast how today’s design trends impact tomorrow’s needs. Drawing on both the technical skills and historical information about web design learned in this class, be prepared to put your new skills into action as you take on the role of a software engineer and with a team to develop your own web application project!