A word about course 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 Waitlist policy.
- Special Topics in Mathematics
- Alzheimer’s Treatment and Research
- Writing Short Stories
- New Problems in Law
- Bioarchaeology: Research and Implications
- Identity in the 21st Century
- Addiction in the Modern Age
- Microscopy of Nanomaterials
- Comparative Electoral Politics
- Mathematics of Cryptography
- Adaptive Engineering
- Med School 101
Special Topics in Mathematics*
Mathematics, Number Theory, Directed Study
This course is for anyone who loves math, and wants to learn more about its varied and fascinating applications. It offers you a unique opportunity to expand your knowledge and comprehension of math. We will work together to push the limits of your understanding through a combination of whole-group discussion and independent work. You will leave this class with a sampling of higher-level topics (such as game theory, probability, number theory, etc.), a deeper understanding of the math you have already learned, and an increased awareness of how math is used in the world today.
*Prerequisites: Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II
Supplemental Application Materials: Transcript
Alzheimer’s Treatment and Research
Biology, Neuroscience, Medicine
Step into the role of a research scientist studying Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects over 5 million Americans. You will gain a greater understanding of this disease and its treatments through hands-on experience, laboratory experiments, and immersion in current scientific research. At the end of the class you will put together a mock grant proposal to address a question you would want answered as a research scientist in this fascinating field of medicine.
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.
New Problems in Law
Law, Psychology, Neuroscience, Statistics
Can you sue a musician who copies a song they don’t remember hearing? How should you punish a once law-abiding citizen who began to commit crimes after suffering a brain injury? Judges, juries, and lawyers are having to wrestle with questions like these as new research in psychology and neuroscience challenges once common assumptions. In this course, you will learn how to bring a case to trial, argue before a judge, file an appeal, and get a little practice at mock legal proceedings, and you will discuss what new insights into the human mind mean for the American legal system today.
Bioarchaeology: Research and Implications
Forensic Anthropology, Biochemistry, History
This course will run you through the rigors of bioarchaeology, an interdisciplinary field that uses the tools of history, science, and anthropology to reconstruct the lives of people in the past. You will get hands-on experience analyzing human bones to establish “demographic profiles” and see what bioarchaeological chemistry can teach us about things like diet, migration, and the other lived experiences of the deceased. You will also consider how bones can embody hidden social inequalities. You will conclude the class by selecting an osteological topic of interest and presenting your research proposal to the class as a whole.
Identity in the 21st Century
Philosophy, Ethics, Politics
What does it mean to be you? To have a self? To be a person? In this class you will consider and discuss complex philosophical questions like these. Critical theories—particularly the unique interdisciplinary tools of Women’s and Gender Studies—will help you to critically analyze the ways people are perceived and perceive themselves in contemporary society. And you will create works of your own that reflect your own critical reading, thinking, and perspective on the formation and meaning of identity in the modern world.
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.
Addiction in the Modern Age
History, Public Policy, Political Science, Psychology
Despite our best efforts, effective addiction treatment continues to elude us as a society. In this class, you will examine the social, political, medical, and policy aspects of laws relating to addiction. Though the focus will be on addictions to psychoactive substances like drugs and alcohol, other compulsive behaviors, such as shopping and gambling, will also be considered. Lectures, readings, and respectful discussions will equip you to deconstruct the subject of addiction, to consider its meanings and stigmas, and propose ways to improve upon existing policies.
Note, this class will involve scholarly research and open conversation regarding the course content of substance addiction, violence related to drug policy, mental illness, and other areas of mature discourse. Students (and parents) should thus carefully consider whether this course is a good fit for them at this time.
Microscopy of Nanomaterials
Nanoengineering, Chemical Engineering, Molecular Chemistry, Biochemistry,
Today, some of the BIGGEST problems in medicine, science, and engineering are solved with the smallest technologies. Nanoparticles are used in everything from computer science to cancer treatments. In this class, you will learn about the many different kinds of nanoparticles being discovered, 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 potential of nanoparticles and gain the skills to develop your own scientific research project.
Comparative Electoral Politics
Political Science, Data Analysis, History
This course will equip you with the tools necessary to master the political process by introducing you to other voting systems around the world, learning how those different systems impact vote choice, representation, party viability, as well as how political actors can (and do!) select and change the rules of the game to their own advantage. This class will require you the use of numbers (lots of numbers), critical and strategic thinking, and a creative approach to the many different rules of the political “game.”
Note: This course will approach elections as scientists, not pundits, and thus students should be prepared for a course that deals with the scientific method, causal inference, and a little bit of (basic) math.
Mathematics of Cryptography
Mathematics, Number Theory, Mathematical Reasoning
Think you can crack the code? We’ll work on series of problems that, upon first glance, seem completely unrelated (or are they?), which will help us develop some of the mathematical machinery used in modern cryptography – we’ll study modular arithmetic, prime numbers, permutations, and a handful of other number theory topics that are all applicable to the RSA algorithm and other public-key encryption schemes. The course will emphasize collaborative problem-solving, mathematical argumentation, and careful thinking instead of rote calculation.
Electrical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Special Education
Adaptive engineers develop special equipment to help people with disabilities learn, play, and live productive lives. This class will develop your mechanical, electrical, and biomedical engineering skills. There will be multiple hands-on activities, research, guest speakers, and field trips. We will also partner with the Technology Access Center to adapt toys for children with disabilities, toys that will help them learn, play, and explore their world! So get ready to get creative and to apply your own problem-solving skills to some of the real challenges engineers face every day!
Med School 101*
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.
Please note that 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.
Supplemental Application Materials: Transcripts; 2 letters of recommendation. Click here to access the teacher recommendation form.