2018-19 WAVU Courses
Fall 2018 Courses
Writing Place and Space
For many accomplished writers, location is the lifeblood of their work. Their stories and essays show us that place can be as much a character on the page as any human. The inside of a 1972 Volvo can be more significant than the dialogue between driver and passenger. A front porch can embody a character’s self-awakening. When you know how to write well about place, you also make yourself a useful writer for magazine and publishers. In this advanced writing lab, we will explore how to turn writing about location into an employable skill, but more important, how to write to know ourselves and the places we call home, wherever they are.
The Psychology of Vision
You might think that vision acts like a camera, passively capturing our visual surroundings so that we can interact with our world. In reality, vision is an incredibly complex process that only begins in our eyes. In this class you will explore the science of how we see by learning about how our eyes collect visual information and then how our brain processes this information. You will explore how optical illusions (like the infamous dress) arise from tricking our visual systems and how current psychological and neuroscience methods are investigating visual perception. You will also study what happens when the visual systems malfunctions from eye or brain damage.
Strength and Structure in Engineering Materials
If you’ve ever wondered how amusement parks ensure that roller coasters won’t break, or how we know bridges won’t collapse once built, this course is for you! This course will introduce you to the basics of how engineers study and understand materials. You will examine topics such as stress/strain relationships and failure theories, using a circular polariscope to visually display stresses in real time as they affect materials. You will also have the opportunity to visit Vanderbilt Engineering labs, to put your newfound knowledge to the test by stressing materials until they break, and examining how and when the failure occurred.
You may have heard of the fibonacci sequence, but did you know that sequences underlie many mathematical topics and problems? In this course, you will work on some problems that, at first glance, appear completely unrelated. But once you dig a little deeper, you will discover a deep mathematical structure that underlies all these problems. In the process, you will explore recursive functions, permutations, and continued fractions.
Why do people with diseases sometimes switch treatments? Why do some individuals refuse to take meds when they have an infection? Although antibiotics have been widely used since the 1940s to treat bacterial infections, bacteria are able to adapt to these drugs, impacting their effectiveness and threatening the lives of those with otherwise treatable illnesses. With the rise of antibiotic resistance, developing new antimicrobials is a priority. During this course, you will learn how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics and to think like scientists to design their very own antibiotic.
Mood Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment*
Twenty one percent of individuals will meet criteria for a mood disorder during their lifetime, but how are these disorders diagnosed and treated? In this course, you’ll learn about how to answer these questions, and learn more about specific mood disorders such as major depression and bipolar disorder. You’ll also gain exposure to tools that researchers use to study these disorders such as behavioral paradigms, self-report measures, and neuroimaging. In addition to learning about these disorders, you will explore a range of careers that can be pursued within the field of clinical psychology.
*Due to the nature of the material discussed in this class, parents should consider whether this course will be appropriate for their student.
Rhetoric and Writing in the Digital Age
What is effective, persuasive rhetoric? What would writing that employed such rhetoric look like in a paperless world? And to whom should that writing be aimed? This course aims to answer those questions, giving you a brief glimpse into the work of a non-fiction writer in the twenty-first century while also resourcing you to thrive at such a task in such a setting. From brainstorming and research to argumentation and rhetoric, this course will march you through the writing process. As you construct a small essay throughout the day, we will consider both the end and nature of effective rhetoric and writing, discussing a whole host of possibilities and outlets for digital publication as well as strategies for excelling therein.
Living Bones: The Skeleton and Society
Skeletons are formed by the lives they have lived. Activity patterns are visible through wear and muscle attachments, while illness or trauma are visible in lesions and bone alteration – clues used by doctors, forensic anthropologists, and bioarchaeologists to recreate the lived experience. In this course, you will have the opportunity to work with real human skeletons in the Vanderbilt University Osteology Laboratory. In the lab, you will learn to apply the methods used by osteologists to determine age and sex from the skeleton, and will delve even deeper to learn how trauma, health, and even diet (through chemical analysis) can help us understand an individual’s role in society.
Spring 2019 Courses
Infectious diseases are caused by organisms such as bacteria and viruses, and symptoms may differ depending on the organism a person is infected with. It is often up to doctors and members of clinical laboratories to determine what organism is making someone sick, and how best to treat them. In this course, you will learn about a variety of infectious diseases and the organisms that cause these diseases. Using your critical thinking skills, you will perform and review tests to determine the cause of an illness and develop a treatment plan. Whether you are interested in pursuing a medical career, or simply enjoy creative problem solving, this course will help you explore new avenues for those passions.
Natural Disaster Analysis
Natural disasters are a bit of a misnomer. People play a large role in shaping their impact- for better or worse. In this class, you will learn about how various natural disasters form, affect society, and are predicted by scientists. Additionally, you will see via case studies how human intervention can have drastic effects on the consequences of these events and how these lessons can apply to broader concepts in risk management. Using software to analyze geographical data, you will examine the risk of a natural disaster impacting an area of your choosing. Through the use of risk perception surveys, you will see how your own personality and cognitive traits can affect your behavior during these events.
Keys to the Past: Bioarchaeology and the Skeleton
In bioarchaeology, bones are time machines that allow researchers to travel back and reconstruct how people lived in the past—their actions, their diets, and their roles in society. By repopulating the past with real individuals, bioarchaeologists work to answer larger questions about humanity, like why and how empires grow, or how violence starts and spreads. In this course you will learn to apply methods used by bioarchaeologists to determine age and sex, while also learning how to recognize trauma, illness, and even what people were eating. This course will be held in the Vanderbilt University Osteology Laboratory, where students will have the opportunity to handle real human skeletons.
Demystifying Data Technologies
Have you ever wondered how Netflix knows what movies you’ll enjoy or how YouTube suggests just the right music video to watch? We live in the Information Age. Every second, about 798 Instagram photos are viewed; 7,722 Tweets are sent; and 70,420 YouTube videos are streamed. With every click, drag, and tap, you communicate information to companies that analyze your data in an instant. In this lab, you will discover emerging ways that data are organized and processed. Topics to be covered include “Big Data” analytics, algorithms and workflows, and the latest in Graph Database technologies. This much is certain, no matter what you do later in life, the future belongs to those who know how to deal with all that data.
Paleobiology in the Modern Age
When most people think of paleontology, they likely conjure up the image of a dust-covered old man in the desert chiseling away at rocks and brushing away sand to expose an ancient fossil. While field discovery still does typify much of paleontological discovery, today’s greatest and most exciting discoveries are interdisciplinary in nature. This course will offer you an overview of the field of paleobiology, which examines patterns in diversity, ecology, landscape evolution, genetics, and more! We will cover 4 large concepts in paleobiology – taphonomy, paleoecology, diversity, and biogeography- and will conclude the course by working with real paleontologic data.
Philosophy of Pop Culture
What might graphic novels, film, short stories, or video games be able to tell us about the meaning of life? Why we are here? What does it all mean? In this class we will investigate these questions through a critical inquiry into the philosophical themes and ideas as they appear in popular culture. By utilizing careful reading, engagement, reflection, and discussion, we will analyze the ways various media work, tease out their philosophical bases or implications, and explore the extent to which popular forms of media are even capable of doing serious and advanced philosophy.
Creative Writing: The Author’s Process
This practical, hands-on workshop will immerse you in the writing process by developing core content for your very own short stories. You will access exercises fiction authors use to hone their craft, develop complex plot points, identify workshop techniques and revision strategies that will lead to a polished and compelling piece. This writing laboratory will also introduce resources and online platforms designed to help both early and advanced writers take the next step on their literary journey.
What happens when you bounce a laser off a mirror? What if the laser is inside a rectangle made of mirrors? In this course, you will use this simple scenario as the starting point to examine advanced mathematical concepts such as combinatorics, permutations, and distance metrics. If you love math and want to explore topics you won’t see in school, this course is for you!
Medicine and Society
This course provides a survey of health care encounters between providers and patients emphasizing clinical decision making for students who interested in health care professions. You will analyze the biomedical underpinnings, socioeconomic determinants, systems-based factors, practice-based factors, and ethics that affect health, disease, and treatment. You will examine how these factors will affect clinical decision making and daily interactions between physicians and patients. To do this, you will engage in a variety of learning activities including, but not limited to: didactic lectures, case discussions, journal clubs, and simulated patient cases.