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Vanderbilt Summer Academy 2023 Courses

Applications are currently being accepted as part of the general application window.
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Course Availability Key:

full, no longer accepting applications
full, waiting list only
available, limited space
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PTY is currently processing all applications received during our priority window, which ended January 13, 2023. Therefore, course availability is not currently known for Summer 2023 courses.

We are continuing to accept applications as part of the general application window for all courses. Applications received during the window are time-stamped and reviewed based on order of receipt. Students who apply in the general application window will be placed after all eligible students from the priority application window have been placed. For more information about the application process, click here.

Course availability will be updated on a weekly basis beginning on March 16, 2023. However, availability can change quickly during peak application times, and availability in certain experiences may not always be accurately reflected on this page during peak times. If your content area of interest is currently listed as “waiting list only,” click here to learn more about the waiting list process. Please contact our office at 615-322-8261 or pty.peabody@vanderbilt.edu if you have questions about availability or the length of the waiting list for a particular course.

Click here to learn more about the asynchronous component of VSA 2023 courses for rising 11th/12th grade students.

Course Listings

Select one of the age groups below to view courses:

**Note: For all VSA courses, multiple perspectives (both popular and unpopular) will be examined and discussed for the purpose of building critical thinking skills and understanding or critiquing multiple viewpoints and data as well as incorporating and responding to classmates’ views and ideas. The ideas, readings and discussions are not necessarily the expressed views of the instructor, PTY, or VU. While we encourage students to engage in the orderly and civil exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, we expect that they will do so in a respectful way so that all participants feel welcome and safe.

**Courses and instructors subject to change.

 

Rising 7th/8th Grade (1 Week: June 18 – June 23, 2023)

Choose a course title below to view the description and instructor information. Courses are subject to change. Apply Now!

Advocating for Change: An Introduction to Public Policy and Politics

Advocating for Change: An Introduction to Public Policy and Politics
Instructor: Kenton Shimozaki
Public Policy, Advocacy

Have you ever wondered why the government does what it does? Public policy-making is a complex process that involves many participants with different roles, interests, and resources. In this course, you will begin to develop an understanding of how policy is created as well as the political institutions that influence it, and because public policy is not created within a vacuum, you will also examine the conditions, values, and cultural norms that shape policy creation. You will then analyze the impact of policies on improving real world outcomes and in your final project, work to design your own proposal to address a real-world issue.

Kenton Shimozaki is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University. His research interests are focused on K–12 education policy and the politics of education. He earned an A.B. in social studies from Harvard College and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to his doctoral work, he had experience as a classroom teacher and state policymaker.

Astrophysics: Extrasolar Planets

Astrophysics: Extrasolar Planets
Instructor: Erika Grundstrom, Ph.D.
Planetary Science, Observation Bias, 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 5,000 planets outside our solar system and have determined that as many as 61 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.

Dr. Erika Grundstrom loves sharing the wonder of the universe with everyone young and old, and has done so for 15 years with Programs for Talented Youth.  She is the Director of Astronomy Labs and Outreach in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University, and her research combines interests in massive stars, spectroscopy, and astronomy education. She received a PhD from Georgia State University in 2007. Education and outreach have brought her (and often an inflatable planetarium) into schools throughout the Nashville region providing opportunities to develop and teach curriculum for fifth-, sixth-, and ninth-grade students. Outside the classroom, she loves to play with her husband and two young sons, partner dance, play sand volleyball, and travel.

Discrete Problem Solving: An Introduction to Higher Level Mathematics

Discrete Problem Solving: An Introduction to Higher Level Mathematics
Instructor: Blake Dunshee, Ph.D.
Mathematics, Graph Theory

Do you love to solve problems? Do you live for the “Eureka” moment when you find the answer? This class 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, organize your logic, and reduce complicated problems using a variety of tools and finite visual representations to simplify questions to find their answer. This experience will not only provide you with mathematical knowledge, but also with critical problem-solving skills that will benefit you in any discipline.

Blake Dunshee is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Belmont University. His main area of research is topological graph theory, but he also enjoys exploring problems related to game theory, economics, and finance. While in graduate school at Vanderbilt University, he taught courses for Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth focusing on graph theory, discrete mathematics, game theory, behavioral economics, and investing. In his hobbies, he applies similar creative problem-solving strategies to a wide assortment of games, such as chess, tennis, cooking, and spike ball. He is excited to reunite with Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth and share his mathematical curiosity with another group of students.

Electrochemical Biosensors

Electrochemical Biosensors
Instructor: Grace Buckey
Chemistry, Biology

Did you know that biosensors are all around us? From glucose monitoring sensors to pregnancy tests, biosensors are now ubiquitous in medical diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring. In recent years, COVID-19 especially brought to light the ways in which efficient, accessible, and accurate biosensors can impact public health. An electrochemical biosensor is an analytical device that detects changes in biological molecules and converts them into an electrical signal. In this course, you will learn about foundational concepts in chemistry including atoms and their particles, chemical reactions, oxidation and reduction reactions, and biomolecules. We will then apply these key chemistry principles to electrochemical biosensors to explore how they are developed and used in the real world. At the end of the course, you may even develop ideas about how to advance more electrochemical sensors from research settings into clinical testing.

Grace Buckey is a 4th year PhD candidate in the Vanderbilt Chemistry Department. She obtained her BS in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 2019. Her current research focuses on the development of electrochemical biosensors for preterm birth biomarkers. In her free time, Grace likes to drink coffee, spend time outside, and listen to folk music.

Harry Potter: The Science Behind the Magic

Harry Potter: The Science Behind the Magic
Instructor: Olivia Owens
Chemistry, Applied Science

Have you ever wondered if the magic in Harry Potter could be possible for Muggles? Explore the wizarding world of science and find out! In this course, we will discuss what would be scientifically required to make brooms fly, teleport, and more. For example, we will investigate possible chemical compositions of veritaserum (truth serum), love potions, and Felix Felicis (“Liquid Luck”) and discuss how each would chemically alter someone’s cognitive state to provide the desired results. We will also learn how molecular magnetism can be manipulated to levitate objects and how proteins, such as lysosomes, found in pregnant women’s tears have healing effects like phoenix tears. If you were disappointed that you didn’t receive a Hogwarts acceptance letter, this is your chance to become a wizard—a wizard of science! Jump aboard the Vanderbilt Express and get ready to explore the world of wizardry!

Olivia Owens is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry at Vanderbilt University. Her research is focused on developing electrochemical biosensors to aid in the understanding, detection, and prevention of preterm birth. She graduated from the University of Montevallo with her B.S. in 2020. In her free time, Olivia enjoys traveling, thrifting, and spending time with her husband and their (very large) golden retriever, Aubie.

Psychological Science Research: Solving the Human Puzzle

Psychological Science Research: Solving the Human Puzzle
Instructor: Nicolette Granata
Psychology, Research

If someone asked you to work on the world’s greatest, most perplexing puzzle for a living, would you say yes? Psychological science researchers have! What is this puzzle? Humans! Psychological researchers study how humans think, learn, feel, and act. If the human puzzle is intriguing to you, then you may be interested in studying psychology and becoming a psychological science researcher. This one-week, immersive experience will allow you the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of researching within psychological science so that you have the knowledge to develop a mini research proposal on a topic that interests YOU the most – this is what psychological researchers are asked to do in their careers! Together, we will also learn how to view, interpret, and critique others’ research by studying existing scientific literature and studies. We will then use our budding understanding of psychological research to write research questions, form hypotheses, and design a novel study. You will leave this week with a true taste of what life as a researcher could be like while having a lot of fun!

Nicolette Granata is a PhD candidate in Developmental Science at Vanderbilt University. Nicolette also attended Vanderbilt as an undergraduate, graduating with a double-major in Child Development, Psychology, and a minor in Special Education. Nicolette has always been passionate about improving the inclusion and acceptance of children with differences, and she believes research is her tool to do so! Nicolette’s research is focused on children’s concepts of disability, judgments of behaviors produced by persons with disabilities, and how disability labels and acquisition affect how fundamental both children AND adults think persons’ disabilities are to their identity. Nicolette is extremely passionate about teaching, especially in a mentorship style, such as the PTY Mentor Immersion. She hopes her love for learning and passion for creative thinking inspires you to pursue your own scientific goals and dreams. When she’s not thinking science, she’s at various fitness studios around Nashville or spending time with her beloved dog Lola – a COVID-19 quarantine rescue from Nashville Humane Association.

Writing With Fire: Storytelling in Verse

Writing With Fire: Storytelling in Verse
Instructor: Ben Schwartz
Writing, Literary Criticism, Poetry

You have a story to tell! In Writing with Fire: Storytelling in Verse, we will read the work of award-winning young adult memoirists in order to tell our own unique stories as poetry. Featuring the work of acclaimed authors such as Jacqueline Woodson, Thanhà Lai, and David Bowles, this course will expose you to transformational texts and empower you by giving you the tools to shape your own narrative. You will practice the literary vocabulary and analytical thinking needed in high school and beyond while exercising creativity and deepening your understanding of stories, self, and identity. No moment is too small to be a part of a great story!

Benjamin Schwartz is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Vanderbilt University. He holds a BA in American Studies from Brown University, a M.A. in English & Comparative Literature from Columbia University, and a M.A. in English from Vanderbilt University. Before coming to Vanderbilt, he taught Middle School English for three years in Southwestern Connecticut. Ben has been published on teaching in English Journal and Urban Education. His research focuses on humor, hip-hop, and teaching in African American literature.

 

Rising 9th/10th Grade (1 Week: June 25 – July 1, 2023)

Choose a course title below to view the description and instructor information. Courses are subject to change. Apply Now!

Battery Chemistry: Powering the Future

Battery Chemistry: Powering the Future
Instructor: Olivia Owens
Chemistry, Sustainability

In August, the California Air Resources Board passed a plan that requires all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the state to be electric vehicles or plug-in electric hybrids by 2035. A current tech startup founder, is banking on the future of flight being flown by airplanes with yes, batteries. In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on batteries, there is no better time to learn the science behind the magic. In this course, you will learn the battery basics: the underlying chemistry, important design considerations, and how they have evolved over time. After we understand how they work, we will dive headfirst into the limitations that batteries face. Why don’t we have phone batteries that can last a week? What is the lithium-ion battery crisis and how can we solve it? We will discuss what leading experts in the field are working towards, discover the challenges they face, and work together to devise strategies for solving these issues. By the end of this course, you will have an in-depth understanding of how batteries work, be able to discuss the world’s battery crisis and present potential solutions to the class like a chemist!

Olivia Owens is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry at Vanderbilt University. Her research is focused on developing electrochemical biosensors to aid in the understanding, detection, and prevention of preterm birth. She graduated from the University of Montevallo with her B.S. in 2020. In her free time, Olivia enjoys traveling, thrifting, and spending time with her husband and their (very large) golden retriever, Aubie.

Cancer: What Is It, How It Spreads, and How We Treat It

Cancer: What Is It, How It Spreads, and How We Treat It
Instructor: Logan Northcutt
Biology, Cancer Research

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and the world. Although millions of dollars in resources are invested in cancer research each year, scientists are continually seeking new answers to key questions such as “what are the molecular mechanisms of cancer? What are the best treatment options? What is the best method to study cancer?” In this course, we will engage these same questions by first surveying the scientific basics of cancer and its origins in the body. From there, we will learn how cancer spreads to other parts of the body, and evaluate current treatments used to treat cancer. In this course, we will read primary research papers, participate in guided discussions and learn from guest speakers who share their work and research and talk about their experiences in cancer research. At the conclusion of this experience, you will synthesize your learning in a small group presentation.

Logan Northcutt is a 5th-year PhD candidate in the Cancer Biology Program at Vanderbilt University and is co-mentored by Julie Rhoades, PhD, and Marjan Rafat, PhD. Logan studies how the physical factors of the bone microenvironment can cause tumor cells to become more malignant after metastasis. He is a GEM Fellow and Provost Graduate Fellow Recipient. Logan graduated with his BS in Chemistry from Morehouse College. Outside of the lab, Logan enjoys reading, listening to music, mentoring, and working out.

Creative Writing: Free Verse Poetry

Creative Writing: Free Verse Poetry
Instructor: Jan Harris, Ph.D.
Creative Writing, Poetry, Literary Theory

Led by a published author, this writing class will help you find and express your poetic voice and gain confidence and 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 your own original poems. We will pay particular attention to free verse and the frontier of poetry beyond meter, with a focus on finding your own voice and platform. The writing skills you learn will not only help enhance your poems but will also 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.

Jan Elaine Harris’ (she/her) chapbook, Isolating One’s Priorities was published November 2021. Recent poems have appeared in American Writers Review, Yes Poetry, The West Trade Review, HERWords, The Portland Review, etc. Jan earned her MA and PhD at The University of Alabama and is a tenured Associate Professor of Writing at Lipscomb University. She lives in East Nashville with her partner and her two perfect GSPs, Malloy and Astrid-June.

From Chemical Structures and Reactions to Analytical Instrumentation: The Chemistry of Coffee

From Chemical Structures and Reactions to Analytical Instrumentation: The Chemistry of Coffee
Instructor: Grace Buckey
Chemistry

Did you know that organic chemistry gives coffee its flavor? Though many people enjoy coffee, few know of the Maillard reaction, the key chemical reaction that occurs during roasting, giving coffee its classic flavor and color. In this course, you will learn how to draw and interpret organic chemical structures and their functional groups, the specific organic structures that give coffee its flavor and aroma, the reactions that occur during roasting, and how oxidation affects coffee. You will also understand the analytical instrumentation that makes the determination of the chemical profile of coffee possible. The course will culminate in a project that involves roasting your own beans, brewing coffee, testing the acidity, and identifying the acidic compounds.
Note: You do not have to like coffee to take this course.

Grace Buckey is a 4th year PhD Candidate in the Chemistry Department. She obtained her BS in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 2019. Her current research focuses on the development of electrochemical biosensors for preterm birth biomarkers. In her free time, Grace likes to drink coffee, spend time outside, and listen to folk music.

Nanoscience and Engineering

Nanoscience and Engineering
Instructor: Greg Walker, Ph.D. and VINSE Faculty
Engineering, Nanotechnology, Chemistry

Get ready to don your protective coveralls and enter the exciting world of nanoengineering. In this class, you will get an introduction to key nanoparticles and their properties while stretching your creative problem-solving skills to their limits. You can expect advanced lectures, labs, and extensive study with faculty, grad students, and postdocs at the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE). You will also spend significant time in one of Vanderbilt’s newest, biggest, and cleanest cleanrooms.* These experiences will challenge you to see the world the way a nanoscientist does, including how manipulating the smallest of particles might address some of the world’s biggest problems.

NOTE: Be advised that the special lighting, clothing, and atmosphere of the cleanroom may act as a “trigger” for students with anxiety disorders and tactile sensitivities. Please call our office if you’d like to discuss the specifics of the cleanroom further.

*Students must be at least 12 years old by June 1 to participate in this lab-based class.

**Tennessee students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in science may be eligible to apply for a competitive full tuition scholarship funded directly through Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE) for this course. Click here for more information and to apply. If you have any questions, please email the PTY office at pty.peabody@vanderbilt.edu.

Greg Walker is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, holding several appointments at Vanderbilt, including ones in the Interdisciplinary Materials Science Program, the Thermal Engineering Lab, the Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education, and the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. His research interests include the modeling and simulation of nonequilibrium, coupled energy transport in electronics, and energy conversion materials.

Our Digital Lives: Rhetoric, Meaning, and Production in the Digital World

Our Digital Lives: Rhetoric, Meaning, and Production in the Digital World
Instructor: Morgan Beers
Rhetoric, Digital Studies, Pop Culture

Throughout the 21st century, the rise of technology has presented a multitude of possibilities for life outside of one’s typical, physical, social bubble. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns throughout the world, the role of technology in everyday communication and identity formation has reached a new level. This course sets out to examine how digital and media spaces, such as podcasts, commercials, social media sites, video games, digital life simulator space, etc., have impacted how we shape our identities and ways of communicating in our current world. Using the lens of digital rhetoric, we will interact with and examine various forms of multimodal and digital texts to better understand how the authors create meaning and how we, as the audience, interpret said meaning outside of the constraints of written, academic texts. You will utilize rhetorical analysis to engage with various forms of multimedia and multimodal readings to build a rhetorical toolkit for engaging, analyzing, and producing multimodal projects, which will then be used to produce your own multimodal projects relating to a singular theme of your own choosing. Possible topics include the changing nature of digital communication during COVID-19, social media and psychology, digital community organizing, the creation of a digital self in video games, etc. If you are interested in rhetoric and persuasion, digital spaces (internet, video games, etc.), or marketing, this might be the course for you.

Morgan Beers is a 4th year PhD student in Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy at The Ohio State University. Her research areas include Digital Media Studies and Technical Communication. As a digital rhetorician, Morgan is interested in examining how meaning is created within and through digital spaces with particular attention to how such meaning-making holds larger implications for social justice, online communities (particularly minority communities), and the circulation of mis/disinformation. Some of her past and current projects include “Tumblr’s Adult Content Filter and Algorithmic Oppression,” “The Role of Social Media Misinformation during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” and most recently, a pilot study entitled, “COVID-19 and the Circulation of News Information on Social Media.” Morgan has worked with Vanderbilt’s Programs for Talented Youth in various positions over the past 5 years, including Vanderbilt Summer Academy and PTY’s Online Academy. Morgan received a BA in English Literature and Writing from Lipscomb University in 2018 and an MA in English Literature from The University of Alabama in 2020.

Thinking about Thinking: Introduction to Neuroscience

Thinking about Thinking: Introduction to Neuroscience
Instructor: Emily Harriott
Neuroscience, Biology

Have you ever thought about how you think? Then this course is for you! In this course, you will learn all about the brain from a Vanderbilt graduate student studying neuroscience. We will begin the course by learning more about neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain. After discussing the foundations of brain anatomy and function, we will explore the brain networks involved in specific activities like language and reading. We will also examine different methods that scientists use to study the brain, such as electrophysiology and neuroimaging. To further expand our knowledge of the brain and neuroscience, we will conduct a sheep brain dissection and collect behavioral data to conduct a group experiment. By the time this course ends, you will have a newfound appreciation for your brain and how it allows you to learn and move — and maybe even develop a lifelong interest in neuroscience.

Emily Harriott is a 2nd year doctoral student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. Before coming to Vanderbilt, she received her bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders and Neuroscience from Northwestern University. She hopes to use neuroscience to better understand how we develop language and learn to read, leveraging these findings to help children with language and reading disorders. Outside of the lab, Emily enjoys running, dancing, and listening to live music.


Rising 11/12th Grade

PTY is offering multiple programs for rising 11th/12th grade students in Summer 2023. Click on the link below for course listings for each program.

VSA 1-Week (June 18-June 23) VSA 1-Week (June 25-July 1) VSA 2-Week (July 9-21)

Mentor Immersion (Virtual)

 

Rising 11th/12th Grade (1 Week: June 18 – June 24, 2023)

Choose a course title below to view the description and instructor information. Courses are subject to change. Click here to learn more about the asynchronous component of VSA 2023 courses. Apply Now!

Advocacy and the U.S. Policy Process: Negotiation and Change from Creation to Implementation

Advocacy and the U.S. Policy Process: Negotiation and Change from Creation to Implementation
Instructor: Kathryn McGraw
Public Policy, Advocacy, Political Theory, Economics

Public policy, from local government to the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court, shapes our lives in visible and invisible ways. In this course, we will study how policymakers interact with advocates, from grassroots organizers to national networks, in all five stages of the policymaking process. How do advocates shape policymakers’ understandings of public opinion and research? How does politics intersect with policymaking? How do policymakers and advocates confront conflicting ideological frameworks? In this class, you will step into the role of a policy advocate, drafting a strategy informed by our study of political theory, political history, and economics to achieve your desired policy outcome. You will deepen your understanding of policy issues while joining the debate over what policies should advance and how to most effectively advocate for change.

Please note, that students will be asked to select a topic that they are passionate about for their final project. Students are asked to be respectful of other’s ideas while also sharing in professional discourse as appropriate. It is through a scholarly lens that students analyze their inquiry and also learn how to share ideas in diverse public settings. The instructor will not be responsible for limiting a student’s options in topics unless it goes against Vanderbilt’s discrimination policies or there is an identified safety risk. Please note that students may have different perspectives and passions that impact their topic selection, and some students may select topics that exhibit a perspective different from your student.

Kathryn James McGraw is a PhD student in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. Her research interests center on K-12 education policy and educational equity, including discipline and behavior management, teacher preparation and development, and accountability design. Before her doctoral studies, Kathryn taught high school English in Jackson, Mississippi, and served as assistant principal for the Mississippi Teacher Corps, an alternate-route teacher certification program. She earned BAs in Public Policy, Economics, and Southern Studies and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction with a Secondary English specialization from the University of Mississippi. She is a national board-certified teacher.

Creative Writing: Free Verse Poetry

Creative Writing: Free Verse Poetry
Instructor: Jan Harris, Ph.D.
Creative Writing, Poetry, Literary Theory

Led by a published author, this writing class will help you find and express your poetic voice and gain confidence and 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 your own original poems. We will pay particular attention to free verse and the frontier of poetry beyond meter, with a focus on finding your own voice and platform. The writing skills you learn will not only help enhance your poems but will also 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.

Jan Elaine Harris’ (she/her) chapbook, Isolating One’s Priorities was published November 2021. Recent poems have appeared in American Writers Review, Yes Poetry, The West Trade Review, HERWords, The Portland Review, etc. Jan earned her MA and PhD at The University of Alabama and is a tenured Associate Professor of Writing at Lipscomb University. She lives in East Nashville with her partner and her two perfect GSPs, Malloy and Astrid-June.

From Microscopy to Medicine: The Pathology of Disease

From Microscopy to Medicine: The Pathology of Disease
Instructor: Kai Bracey
Microscopy, Medical Imaging, Biology

From Cancer to Parkinson’s, every disease has distinct identifying features in our bodies that make up its “fingerprint.” Pathology is a branch of medical science that is primarily concerned with the cause, origin, and nature of disease. The work of pathology involves the examination of tissues and organs to study and diagnose disease based on that disease’s corresponding “fingerprint.” Pathologists, therefore, use powerful microscopes to identify, diagnose, and guide treatment for patients. In this course, you will be introduced to various scientific instruments and learn how these instruments enable scientists and doctors to view, identify, and classify cells. In addition to lectures and research, this class will include hands-on learning and laboratory experiences. By the end of the course, you will be able to visualize different cell types, understand how samples are acquired, learn the current limitations of microscopy, and consider where the future of imaging is headed.

Kai Bracey is a PhD student in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University. His research is centered on pancreatic beta-cell structure and insulin secretion. Kai graduated from Hampton University with his BS in 2014 and his master’s degree from Fisk University in 2016. Kai has trained numerous students in lab techniques and has been a special lecturer at both of his prior institutions. When Kai is not staring down a microscope, he enjoys playing basketball, cooking, and woodworking. Kai also has an ever-growing collection of Jordans (his wife may say he has a shoe problem).

Microscopy of Nanomaterials

Microscopy of Nanomaterials
Instructor: Susan Verberne-Sutton, Ph.D.
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. In this class 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

Dr. Susan Verberne-Sutton earned her bachelors of science degree in chemistry from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana in 2000. She then was awarded her master’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis in inorganic chemistry from the University of California, Davis in 2004 where she also completed a semester-long internship with a start-up electronics company, Kovio, Inc., in Sunnyvale, California. Verberne-Sutton then taught general chemistry courses at Southeastern Louisiana University before moving to Nashville, Tennessee. She then worked as an analytical chemist for Environmental Science, Inc. in Mount Juliet, Tennessee where she operated ICP-OES instruments for ultra-low detection of trace metals. She then became an instructor of chemistry and undergraduate laboratory coordinator at Tennessee State University (TSU) where she coordinated all undergraduate teaching laboratories and wrote new laboratory manuals with web enhancement for general chemistry classes in addition to teaching general chemistry courses. Verberne-Sutton was then asked to join the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs at TSU where she purchased, installed and trained researchers on $2M+ of analytical equipment in the Nanoscience and Biotechnology Core Facility. While in this role, she held several short courses on the instrumentation and team-taught a virtual course, Introduction to Nanotechnology, with CNMS at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Upon deciding to complete her PhD, she joined the Garno research group at Louisiana State University in 2012. Dr. Verberne-Sutton’s research focused on the development of a new sample stage for photocurrent measurements using scanning probe microscopy; this stage was used to investigate photoactive polymers for dye-sensitized photovoltaic materials. While at LSU, Verberne-Sutton has authored four first-author and five co-authored manuscripts. She mentored several undergraduate students, one of which received a poster award at a NOBCChE conference. She presented posters at two national and one regional ACS meeting, gave an oral presentation at a national ACS meeting and was invited as a colloquium speaker at Southeastern Louisiana University. Dr. Verberne-Sutton joined the Department of Chemistry at Vanderbilt in August of 2014 as a Senior Lecturer and teaches Forensics Chemistry, Introduction to Analytical Chemistry, Surface Science and General Chemistry where she focuses on improving metacognition of undergraduates in upper-division courses.

Pharmacology: Drug Discovery in Diabetes

Pharmacology: Drug Discovery in Diabetes
Instructor: Ariel Thorsen
Biomedical Engineering, Molecular Physiology

Are you interested in exploring how medicine and science work together to improve the lives of patients? Would you like to propose a novel drug for a disease that affects more than 30 million Americans?

In this course designed for future physicians, researchers, or future physician-scientists, you will learn to view diseases as physicians do–through the lens of cellular-level changes that result in systems-level illness. With that working lens, you will be introduced to the molecular basis of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes where we will explore the mechanisms behind existing treatments for Type 2 diabetes and experimental treatments for Type 1 diabetes. As you will come to understand through course content, the stakes for physicians and scientists who study diabetes are high. Type 2 diabetes is currently the leading cause of non-traumatic limb amputation, cardiovascular disease, and end-stage renal failure, and individuals with Type 1 diabetes continue to be at high risk for hospitalization from diabetic ketoacidosis. After you learn about existing treatments and diabetes pathophysiology, you will work to propose a novel drug for diabetes treatment and then present how your proposed treatment would act to intervene in disease progression.

Ariel Thorson is an MD/PhD student at Vanderbilt Medical School. She attended Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate where she graduated cum laude with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. She is pursuing a PhD in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, where she is studying how lipid metabolism in diabetes modulates cardiovascular disease risk. Her clinical interest is pediatric endocrinology. Ariel is passionate about teaching, mentorship, diabetes research, and pediatric patient care. She previously served as a pre-med advisor and tutor in biology, physics, chemistry, calculus, and biochemistry at Vanderbilt Tutoring Center.

Science Communication & Immunology: Writing for Your Audience

Science Communication & Immunology: Writing for Your Audience
Instructor: Elizabeth Wescott
Science Communication, Science Writing, Biology

Are you interested in a career in medicine, science, or a STEM-related field? Are you passionate about your future scientific research making a difference in our world? If so, science communication will be a critical skill that will both enhance your career (securing research funding) and broaden your impact (shaping public opinion and policy). In this course, you will begin to develop your science communication skills and toolset through the context of immunology. Since immunology, perhaps more than any other scientific discipline, has recently been front and center in the public spotlight, it serves as a critical science communication case study that can be applied across multiple content areas. In this course, you will learn to outline and describe several major categories of human immune responses, detail key cells and their functions and behaviors in the immune system, and interpret data and visuals about immune responses. With this working knowledge of the discipline, you will both critique existing journal articles related to immunology, as well as produce writing samples and graphical representations of the immune response of your choice targeting various audiences (specialist and non-specialist).

Prerequisites: Biology (Transcript Required).

Elizabeth Wescott is a PhD candidate in Molecular Pathology and Immunology studying breast cancer and immunotherapy. She is interested in the many cells of the immune system and how they communicate with each other. She is also passionate about communicating her science to others in her family and community and empowering them to ask questions and understand complex topics. She graduated from Davidson College in 2016 with her Bachelor of Science and an Honors Thesis and then spent two years working on HIV vaccine research at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. She started at Vanderbilt in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in 2018 and joined Justin Balko’s lab in 2019, where she is currently trying to finish up her PhD research project. Elizabeth loves education and mentoring and hopes to pursue similar roles after graduation. In her free time, she’ll be with her husband and her daughter playing or baking.

Water Quality and Public Health: An Introduction to Field Research in Environmental Science

Water Quality and Public Health: An Introduction to Field Research in Environmental Science
Instructor: Greg Smith, Ph.D.
Ecology, Field Research, Public Health

Water is critical for human life. You interact and ingest water every single day and don’t think twice. How do you know, however, that the water you are drinking is clean when pollution is leading to a variety of problems associated with global human health? Ensuring you and future generations have access to safe water is the job of environmental scientists working in the specialized field of water quality. In this course, you will have the opportunity to work as an environmental field scientist, analyzing the health of the water in Middle Tennessee! In your research, you will consider questions, such as ‘How do scientists measure/quantify the level of contamination in a water source?’ and ‘How do we treat contaminated water?’, as well as ‘What are the impacts on human health?’ You will collect data from field surveys and experiments, use descriptive and inferential statistics to analyze your results, and present your findings to your peers like a research scientist. In your final project, you will write and present to your class a mock white paper to the TN Department of Environment and Conservation detailing your research findings and offering recommendations for potential new laws and regulations. Expect to leave this course knowing how to describe and analyze data sets from the environmental sciences and leave with a newfound appreciation for the work of field research and for the processes that govern and shape the natural waters around us.

Greg Smith is the instructor of Interdisciplinary Science and Research at John Overton High School in Nashville, TN. He earned his Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Vanderbilt University in 2019, where he relied on concepts and techniques from geology, ecology, and chemistry to understand the dietary habits of extinct megafauna (large mammals like elephants, camels, and bison). Now, he leverages his diverse scientific background and passion for education to teach high school students how to be scientists! His students carry out independent research projects, give presentations at national science competitions, and get their hands dirty working with multiple business partners outdoors in the beautiful area surrounding Middle Tennessee. In his free time, Greg enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and yoga with his wife, Lauren, and his two children, Harvey and Gwendolyn. Greg loves teaching and hopes to inspire future generations of scientists to follow their dreams!

Rising 11th/12th Grade (1 Week: June 25 – July 1, 2023)

Choose a course title below to view the description and instructor information. Courses are subject to change. Click here to learn more about the asynchronous component of VSA 2023 courses. Apply Now!

Biology of Cancer: An Introduction to the Origin and Treatment of Cancer

Biology of Cancer: An Introduction to the Origin and Treatment of Cancer
Instructor: Sabrina Van Ravenstein
Biology, Chemistry, Medical Research

Cancer, a global and social phenomenon, is an intriguing set of diseases that originates from malfunctioning cells within the body. Cancer cells can form harmful tumors and other malignancies. What then causes a “normal cell” to transform into a cancer cell? In this course, you will learn how cancer originates at genetic and cellular levels. You will also explore a variety of treatments for cancer, ranging from traditional radiation/chemotherapy treatment to more modern techniques, such as immunotherapy and mRNA cancer vaccines. By the end of the course, you will have an emerging understanding of the origins of cancer disease, how it is researched, and how it is treated.

Due to the nature of this course, a previous course in biological science is highly recommended.

Sabrina Van Ravenstein is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University. She studies how chemotherapeutic drugs affect DNA replication. Her other research interests include cancer and the molecular mechanisms behind DNA damage and DNA replication. For fun, Sabrina loves yoga and exploring all the restaurants and parks that Nashville has to offer.

From Microscopy to Medicine: The Pathology of Disease

From Microscopy to Medicine: The Pathology of Disease
Instructor: Kai Bracey
Microscopy, Medical Imaging, Biology

From Cancer to Parkinson’s, every disease has distinct identifying features in our bodies that make up its “fingerprint.” Pathology is a branch of medical science that is primarily concerned with the cause, origin, and nature of disease. The work of pathology involves the examination of tissues and organs to study and diagnose disease based on that disease’s corresponding “fingerprint.” Pathologists, therefore, use powerful microscopes to identify, diagnose, and guide treatment for patients. In this course, you will be introduced to various scientific instruments and learn how these instruments enable scientists and doctors to view, identify, and classify cells. In addition to lectures and research, this class will include hands-on learning and laboratory experiences. By the end of the course, you will be able to visualize different cell types, understand how samples are acquired, learn the current limitations of microscopy, and consider where the future of imaging is headed.

Kai Bracey is a PhD student in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University. His research is centered on pancreatic beta-cell structure and insulin secretion. Kai graduated from Hampton University with his BS in 2014 and his master’s degree from Fisk University in 2016. Kai has trained numerous students in lab techniques and has been a special lecturer at both of his prior institutions. When Kai is not staring down a microscope, he enjoys playing basketball, cooking, and woodworking. Kai also has an ever-growing collection of Jordans (his wife may say he has a shoe problem).

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law
Instructor: Kaleigh Ruiz, J.D.
Legal Studies

While the law impacts every citizen on a day-to-day basis and shapes the governing rhythm of American life, few truly understand what “the law” is and how it is actually practiced. In this course, you will embark on an intensive overview of legal studies through engaging foundational topics that are often at the core of the 1L (first year) law school experience. These critical topics include criminal law, torts, contracts, property, and constitutional law. By the end of the course, you will begin to develop an emerging understanding of the major areas of law, learn how to read a legal case, and begin to think like a lawyer. If you are considering a career in law, politics, government, or want to get a sense of a law school approach to education, this is the course for you!

Kaleigh Ruiz is a PhD student studying judicial politics in a joint program with Vanderbilt University and Tilburg University in the Netherlands. She graduated from law school at the University of Chicago, where she held leadership positions on the Law Women’s Caucus, Latinx Law Student Association, and International Law Society. When not busy researching or teaching, Kaleigh enjoys hiking beautiful landscapes, curling up with a good book, and hanging out with her cat, Penny.

Mathematical Physics: An Introduction to Special Relativity

Mathematical Physics: An Introduction to Special Relativity
Instructor: Brian Luczak
Mathematics, Physics

What would happen if we boarded a rocket ship moving closer and closer to the speed of light? Do our physical notions of time, length, and simultaneous events break down? In the early 1900s, physicists such as Albert Einstein pondered these questions, but it was with the help of some clever mathematics that he was able to accurately describe the theory of Special Relativity. In this course, we will develop these mathematical tools and focus on the intricate connections between math and physics. How does math help us explain our physical theories? And in turn, how do our physical theories lead to new questions in mathematics? By the end of the course, you will use these tools to explain a new physical phenomenon and design a futuristic experiment to test your results.

Prerequisites: Precalculus, Physics (Transcript Required). Having dedicated calculus experience is a bonus but not required.

Brian Luczak is a 4th year Ph.D. student in Mathematics at Vanderbilt University. He previously graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Tulsa, and he enjoys teaching in activities such as the Tulsa High School Math Circle and Nashville Math Club. His research is in partial differential equations and mathematical physics, and he is excited to make these topics accessible to students with a variety of backgrounds. In his free time, Brian loves cooking and finding the next great Nashville hangout spot.

Microscopy of Nanomaterials

Microscopy of Nanomaterials
Instructor: Susan Verberne-Sutton, Ph.D.
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. In this class 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

Dr. Susan Verberne-Sutton earned her bachelors of science degree in chemistry from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana in 2000. She then was awarded her master’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis in inorganic chemistry from the University of California, Davis in 2004 where she also completed a semester-long internship with a start-up electronics company, Kovio, Inc., in Sunnyvale, California. Verberne-Sutton then taught general chemistry courses at Southeastern Louisiana University before moving to Nashville, Tennessee. She then worked as an analytical chemist for Environmental Science, Inc. in Mount Juliet, Tennessee where she operated ICP-OES instruments for ultra-low detection of trace metals. She then became an instructor of chemistry and undergraduate laboratory coordinator at Tennessee State University (TSU) where she coordinated all undergraduate teaching laboratories and wrote new laboratory manuals with web enhancement for general chemistry classes in addition to teaching general chemistry courses. Verberne-Sutton was then asked to join the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs at TSU where she purchased, installed and trained researchers on $2M+ of analytical equipment in the Nanoscience and Biotechnology Core Facility. While in this role, she held several short courses on the instrumentation and team-taught a virtual course, Introduction to Nanotechnology, with CNMS at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Upon deciding to complete her PhD, she joined the Garno research group at Louisiana State University in 2012. Dr. Verberne-Sutton’s research focused on the development of a new sample stage for photocurrent measurements using scanning probe microscopy; this stage was used to investigate photoactive polymers for dye-sensitized photovoltaic materials. While at LSU, Verberne-Sutton has authored four first-author and five co-authored manuscripts. She mentored several undergraduate students, one of which received a poster award at a NOBCChE conference. She presented posters at two national and one regional ACS meeting, gave an oral presentation at a national ACS meeting and was invited as a colloquium speaker at Southeastern Louisiana University. Dr. Verberne-Sutton joined the Department of Chemistry at Vanderbilt in August of 2014 as a Senior Lecturer and teaches Forensics Chemistry, Introduction to Analytical Chemistry, Surface Science and General Chemistry where she focuses on improving metacognition of undergraduates in upper-division courses.

Neurological Disorders: When Things Go Awry in the Brain

Neurological Disorders: When Things Go Awry in the Brain
Instructor: Leah Mann
Neuroscience

The brain is an amazing organ, which acts as the control center of the human body. When everything in the brain is functioning properly, it works like a finely tuned machine. When aspects of the brain stop working, however, things can go very wrong. In this course, you will learn about some of the most prominent brain disorders and diseases plaguing today’s population. You will study the etiologies, symptoms, and treatments associated with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, schizophrenia, and many more. You will develop proficiency in actively reading, questioning, and comprehending scientific literature and in thinking critically about the many pros and cons of various treatment options. At the end of the class, you will be given the opportunity to utilize your new knowledge and skills to research one disease not covered in class. You will then create a faux case study of a patient with this disease, detailing the symptoms and differential diagnoses (including the diseases we discussed in class), and suggest a novel treatment.

Leah Mann is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Vanderbilt University. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from Brown University and was fortunate to work in several language development labs during her undergraduate years. Leah’s research interest shifted during her graduate studies, and since joining the Cognitive and Movement Disorders Lab, has focused upon Parkinson’s disease and the role of dopamine in non-motor symptoms. Leah participated in a community health advocacy program at Brown, preparing lesson plans and teaching health topics to elementary and middle school students. She was an undergraduate teaching assistant for a Human Cognition class and is presently a graduate teaching assistant for a fundamentals of neuroscience course. In her free time, Leah enjoys baking, hiking, and artistic lettering. Leah is eager to share her experience and knowledge with science-loving participants in the Summer Academy.

Stem Cells, Gene Therapy, and Surgery: Retina Regeneration and Therapies to Restore Vision in People with Degenerate Eye Disease

Stem Cells, Gene Therapy, and Surgery: Retina Regeneration and Therapies to Restore Vision in People with Degenerate Eye Disease
Instructor: Greg Konar
Vision Science, Phototransduction

Have you ever heard of vision science or engaged the research of vision scientists? Vision science is an interdisciplinary study of visual systems and perception and incorporates many disciplines, including optometry, ophthalmology, molecular genetics, neuroscience, and physiological optics. One of the major areas of research for vision scientists is blindness. Millions of people live with either partial or complete blindness across the world. This impacts their day-to-day functioning and directly impairs their ability to live independently or without the assistance of others. In this course, you will learn about foundational concepts in vision science including functional retina anatomy, phototransduction, and binocular vision. You will also learn to read primary research in the field and then evaluate the two current primary strategies scientists are proposing to restore vision to the blind: gene therapies and stem cell therapies. Both approaches offer elegant solutions but are not without their challenges and drawbacks. At the end of the course, students will work in groups to develop and present a scientific poster focusing on one of these therapies.

Greg is a 3rd year PhD candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences co-mentored by James Patton and Tonia Rex. His dissertation research focuses on the role of senescence in retina regeneration in zebrafish and mice. He is originally from Massachusetts and did his B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. Outside of research, he is an avid baker and bowler and recently threw his first perfect game in bowling. Fun fact about Greg- he is a certified Wilderness First Responder and used to volunteer in Search and Rescue missions on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire!

 

Rising 11th/12th Grade (2 Week: July 9-21, 2023)

Choose a course title below to view the description and instructor information. Courses are subject to change. Click here to learn more about the asynchronous component of VSA 2023 courses. Apply Now!

Battery Chemistry: Powering the Future

Battery Chemistry: Powering the Future
Instructor: Olivia Owens
Chemistry, Sustainability

In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on batteries, there is no better time to learn the science behind the magic. In this course, we will learn the battery basics: the underlying chemistry, important design considerations, and how they have evolved over time. After we understand how they work, we will dive headfirst into the limitations that batteries face. Why don’t we have phone batteries that can last a week? What is the lithium-ion battery crisis and how can we solve it? We will discuss what leading experts in the field are working towards, discover the challenges they face, and work together to devise strategies for solving these issues. By the end of this course, you will have an in-depth understanding of how batteries work, know how to build your own potato battery, and be able to discuss the world’s battery crisis and potential solutions like a true battery chemist!

Olivia Owens is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry at Vanderbilt University. Her research is focused on developing electrochemical biosensors to aid in the understanding, detection, and prevention of preterm birth. She graduated from the University of Montevallo with her B.S. in 2020. In her free time, Olivia enjoys traveling, thrifting, and spending time with her husband and their (very large) golden retriever, Aubie.

Becoming a Policy Analyst: Studying the Development, Implementation, and Effects of Public Policy

Becoming a Policy Analyst: Studying the Development, Implementation, and Effects of Public Policy
Instructor: Dillon McGill
Public Policy, Advocacy

American public policy is about identifying, negotiating, and solving public problems. Decisions made by policymakers and politicians have far-reaching consequences, from the price of gas, who gets to vote, to the quality of water we drink. How are policies made? What evidence do policymakers use as they make these decisions? In this course, you will take on the role of policy analyst to uncover how public policy decision-making occurs, the role implementation plays in delivering the promises of a policy, and why the effects we observe are sometimes not what were originally intended. Using theories from sociology, political science, and economics, and using real-world data, you will explore domestic policy issues in education, immigration, housing, health, and more. Empowered by your new toolkit, you will then conduct quantitative analysis on a policy-relevant topic of your choosing to author a policy brief aimed at elevating a problem and persuading decisionmakers.

Please note, that students will be asked to select a topic that they are passionate about for their final project. Students are asked to be respectful of other’s ideas while also sharing in professional discourse as appropriate. It is through a scholarly lens that students analyze their inquiry and also learn how to share ideas in diverse public settings. The instructor will not be responsible for limiting a student’s options in topics unless it goes against Vanderbilt’s discrimination policies or there is an identified safety risk. Please note that students may have different perspectives and passions that impact their topic selection, and some students may select topics that exhibit a perspective different from your student.

Dillon McGill is a doctoral student in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University, where he studies the effects of school choice policies and school finance reforms on school, educator, and student outcomes. He holds a B.A. in Sociology from Pepperdine University and a Master’s in Educational Policy from Arizona State University. Prior to Vanderbilt, Dillon lived in Phoenix, Arizona, where he worked to improve educational systems through his work in school improvement consulting, leadership development, and instructional coaching for the Arizona Charter Schools Association and Teach for America. When he’s not studying public policy, he can be found exploring the numerous state parks of Tennessee, visiting his family’s farm, or experimenting in the kitchen.

Creative Writing: Free Verse Poetry

Creative Writing: Free Verse Poetry
Instructor: Jan Harris, Ph.D.
Creative Writing, Poetry, Literary Theory

Led by a published author, this writing class will help you find and express your poetic voice and gain confidence and 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 your own original poems. We will pay particular attention to free verse and the frontier of poetry beyond meter, with a focus on finding your own voice and platform. The writing skills you learn will not only help enhance your poems but will also 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.

Jan Elaine Harris’ (she/her) chapbook, Isolating One’s Priorities was published November 2021. Recent poems have appeared in American Writers Review, Yes Poetry, The West Trade Review, HERWords, The Portland Review, etc. Jan earned her MA and PhD at The University of Alabama and is a tenured Associate Professor of Writing at Lipscomb University. She lives in East Nashville with her partner and her two perfect GSPs, Malloy and Astrid-June.

Electrochemical Biosensors

Electrochemical Biosensors
Instructor: Grace Buckey
Chemistry, Engineering

Did you know that biosensors are all around us? From glucose monitoring sensors to pregnancy tests, biosensors are now ubiquitous in medical diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring. In recent years, COVID-19 especially brought to light the ways in which efficient, accessible, and accurate biosensors can impact public health. An electrochemical biosensor is an analytical device that detects changes in biological molecules and converts them into an electrical signal. In this course, you will learn about the working principles and fundamentals of biosensors via biorecognition elements, transducers, signal production, and signal output. We will explore how biosensors are developed which will culminate in a project where you will design your own biosensor. At the end of the course, you may even develop ideas about how to advance more electrochemical sensors from research settings into clinical testing.

Grace Buckey is a 4th year Ph.D. Candidate in the Chemistry Department. She obtained her BS in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 2019. Her current research focuses on the development of electrochemical biosensors for preterm birth biomarkers. In her free time, Grace likes to drink coffee, spend time outside, and listen to folk music.

Electrical Engineering, Sensors, and Control

Electrical Engineering, Sensors, and Control
Instructor: Will Barbour, Ph.D.
Engineering, Data Science

Sensors are embedded in so many systems that we interact with, that we can take for granted how much we rely on them. A normal garage door system can have up to 10 different sensors and a car can have nearly 100! Sensors are also used to collect large amounts of data about the world for research purposes, as well as performing complex control over many systems that we rely on. Analyzing this sensor data can help us make important decisions about our lives, cities, and environment. In this class you will 1) learn about sensor and data technology, 2) learn and practice electrical engineering through circuits labs, 3) assemble real sensor prototypes, and 4) program microcontrollers to control physical systems. You will get hands-on experience with electrical engineering, programming, and controlling physical systems with your own software.

Prerequisite: Previous coding experience in any language through a formal or informal course. If you have completed a formal course at your school, a transcript is required. If you have completed an informal course (such as an online bootcamp), a certificate of completion is required.

Dr. Will Barbour is a research scientist at the Institute for Software Integrated Systems at Vanderbilt University. His teaching and research interests focus on advanced computing techniques applied to transportation systems; examples include big data analytics, machine learning, optimization, and artificial intelligence. He currently works on the I-24 MOTION testbed, seeking to establish a nationally-recognized study area for automated vehicle technologies on an open roadway in Tennessee. Will’s other domain interests include pedestrian and cyclist accessibility, public transit planning, and transportation policy and equity. Dr. Barbour received his Ph.D. in civil engineering from Vanderbilt University, an M.S. degree in sustainable and resilient infrastructure systems from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a B.S. in Biosystems Engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has previously worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and CSX Transportation.

Exploring Music City: Fandom and the Making of Nashville

Exploring Music City: Fandom and the Making of Nashville
Instructor: Robert Fry, Ph.D.
Music History, Ethnography

Nashville is identified worldwide with musical sound. Considering this association, locations of creativity, performance, preservation, and production have become sites of interest for a growing number of fans interested in both the history and the performativity of Nashville’s music scene. In this course, you will have a unique opportunity to explore the history of Nashville’s music and the importance of music fandom. You will learn the basics of ethnographic research methodology through an immersive educational experience within the Vanderbilt and Nashville music communities. In addition to classroom discussions, the class will include guest lectures and class trips to music landmarks and sites throughout the city. Through this immersive experience, students will gain a deeper understanding of Nashville as a musical place and the role we, as music fans, tourists, and listeners, play in the production and presentation of Music City.

Robert W. Fry is senior lecturer in music history and literature at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music in Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches courses in global music, jazz, blues, music in the American South, and music tourism. His research focuses on music tourism and the role of fan culture in the production of a musical place, which he writes about in his book, Performing Nashville: Music Tourism and Country Music’s Main Street, part of Palgrave Macmillan’s Leisure Studies in a Global Era series.

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law
Instructor: Kaleigh Ruiz, J.D.
Legal Studies

While the law impacts every citizen on a day-to-day basis and shapes the governing rhythm of American life, few truly understand what “the law” is and how it is actually practiced. In this course, you will embark on an intensive overview of legal studies through engaging foundational topics that are often at the core of the 1L (first year) law school experience. These critical topics include criminal law, torts, contracts, property, and constitutional law. By the end of the course, you will begin to develop an emerging understanding of the major areas of law, learn how to read a legal case, and begin to think like a lawyer. If you are considering a career in law, politics, government, or want to get a sense of a law school approach to education, this is the course for you!

Kaleigh Ruiz is a PhD student studying judicial politics in a joint program with Vanderbilt University and Tilburg University in the Netherlands. She graduated from law school at the University of Chicago, where she held leadership positions on the Law Women’s Caucus, Latinx Law Student Association, and International Law Society. When not busy researching or teaching, Kaleigh enjoys hiking beautiful landscapes, curling up with a good book, and hanging out with her cat, Penny.

Med School 101

Med School 101
Instructor: Vanderbilt School of Medicine Medical Students
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 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 practice, ethics, and social impact of modern medicine.

Prerequisites: Biology, Chemistry (Transcript Required)

*NOTE: VUMC insurance and safety regulations state that students must be 16 years old by July 10 to participate. This policy is non-negotiable.

Additional Requirements: Enrolled students may have select observational experiences in a hospital setting through the Vanderbilt Observational Services program. As Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is a distinct organization that is separate from Vanderbilt University, VUMC develops separate polices on health and safety requirements for Observers and specifically concerning COVID-19 vaccine and booster requirements. All enrolled students must have documentation of the full primary series of COVID-19 vaccines (with an FDA-approved/emergency use authorized or WHO-approved vaccine) or have an approved exemption. Enrolled students, once eligible, must also receive the COVID-19 booster or have an approved exemption (which, for the booster, currently includes an exemption from providing documentation of the booster vaccine).Vanderbilt Observational Services typically also requires a TB test for all Med School 101 students.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center also has materials and short trainings for enrolled students to complete in addition to the PTY Required Forms needed to participate in VSA. Some sections may duplicate PTY’s required paperwork. However, full completion of both sets of paperwork is required for participation in Med School 101.

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

Modern Methods of Cancer Research

Modern Methods of Cancer Research
Instructor: Kennady Bullock
Biology, Pharmacology

Cancer remains a leading cause of death in the United States, however our understanding of this complex set of diseases continues to deepen every day through the efforts of researchers. Beginning with an introduction to the basics of what makes a cancer cell a cancer cell, this course will explore the laboratory techniques utilized by researchers to uncover the secrets of tumor cells and to develop novel treatment strategies. You will learn about the methods used by scientists today to advance our understanding of various topics including the molecular origins of cancer, the clinical detection of tumors, and the development of new therapies. By the end of this course, you will have a practical understanding of the scientific method as well as the tools to conceptualize your own research project.

Kennady Bullock is a PhD student in Vanderbilt’s Pharmacology program. She previously served as a teaching assistant for Vanderbilt’s undergraduate, Introduction to Biological Sciences laboratory course. Her current research is focused on the development of novel combination therapies that will make triple negative breast tumors more responsive to immunotherapies. Her research also involves the development of patient-derived organoid models that allow for efficient testing of drug combinations, and she is interested in developing better model systems that will allow pre-clinical findings to have more relevance to clinical applications.

Nanoscience Meets Neuroscience: Decoding Mental Health Disorders

Nanoscience Meets Neuroscience: Decoding Mental Health Disorders
Instructor: Laurel Bellocchio
Neuroscience, Psychology

What happens in our brains when we suffer from a mental health disorder? Why do some medications work for some people, but not for others? There are thousands of publications about mental health research, but there is still so much we don’t understand. While there are many factors that influence how we behave, we are interested in diving deep to the molecular level, specifically the nanoscale. This course will be an overview of (1) how the exciting and fast-moving field of nanoscience technology works in biological applications, (2) what we know about diagnosing and treating an array of mental health disorders, and (3) the intersection of these two areas of research and the work that has been done to answer these previous fundamental questions. By the end of this course, you will also have learned a variety of translatable scientific skills, including reading and interpreting scientific literature, critical thinking skills for novel problems, and speaking about scientific topics with others of a variety of backgrounds. This class will encompass topics from a variety of science and engineering disciplines, giving you a truly interdisciplinary experience.

Laurel is a 3rd year graduate student in the Chemistry Department at Vanderbilt University. Her research, under Dr. Sandy Rosenthal, utilizes nanoscience technology to better characterize mental health disorders on a molecular level. Specifically, she is interested in serotonin-linked mental health disorders (major depressive disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and anxiety disorders); part of her research includes understanding how membrane lipids interact with serotonergic transporters and receptors via lipidomics and super resolution microscopy techniques. She graduated from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry with a mathematics minor. Mental health outreach is very important to her, as she has volunteered with NAMI Allegheny County and NAMI Davidson County. Laurel is also a Neurodiversity Inspired Science and Engineering (NISE) graduate fellow, which is a fellowship funded by the NSF and the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and baking, reading, watching sports, and spending time with her puppy Stella.

Netflix and Phil: Modern Political Theory and Comparative Politics

Netflix and Phil: Modern Political Theory and Comparative Politics
Instructor: Rho Townsley
Political Theory, Philosophy, Pop Culture

How would an Aristotelian critique the value system of the society in the Divergent movies? What arguments would Socrates, Nietzsche, and Foucault have about the show The Good Place, or perhaps the Marvel Universe? How might recent turns in feminist and decolonial theory challenge a classical interpretation of modern media and pop culture? In this course, you will be introduced to the arguments and philosophies of canonical political theorists who have had a radical impact on the nature of political thought, government, policy, and society. You will learn how to critically read primary texts in their historical and political contexts and begin to acquire a sense of the development of political thought across history. You will build a framework for analysis through reading, concept mapping, lively debate, and interactive projects such as creating your own ideal society and forming your own constitutions. You will later apply this framework to evaluate, and critique clips from modern tv shows and/or movies that we will watch and write film analyses on. At the end of the week, we will all apply our new understandings in a collaboratively created and curated final project. This project might be a short critical paper, a short audio or video recording, a presentation, a performance, a tik tok video, a collection of philosophical memes that you create, or an individual philosophical media analysis based on the work of a particular political theorist who calls to you. At the end of this course, you will be able to employ modern analytical and philosophical frameworks to analyze the everyday – specifically, contemporary culture and entertainment. If you are interested in a career in politics, law, or media, or you are potentially interested in graduate work in political theory, pop culture analysis, or philosophy, this is the course for you!

Rho Townsley is a 5th year PhD Candidate in Political Theory and Comparative Politics here at Vanderbilt. She holds an M.A. in Social Justice and Human Rights and an M.A. in Political Science and was a teacher for eight years before joining the Vanderbilt Community. She has pedagogical training in creative and interactive teaching methods and is committed to creating classes that are engaging, educational, relevant, and exciting. Rho loves to travel and has lived and taught in Ethiopia, South Korea, and Vietnam. While oversees, her favorite courses to teach were Creative Writing, Politics and Art, and Debate. She enjoys the Nashville music community and hiking in the Smokies when not busy with her studies.

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

Treating the Whole Person: A Multidisciplinary Understanding of Healthcare and Social Context
Instructor: Kanah Lewallen, DNP, AGPCNP-BC, GNP-BC
Social Science, Public Health

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 to maximize the 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 and 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.

Kanah Lewallen, DNP, AGPCNP-BC, GNP-BC is an Assistant Professor in Nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN). Dr. Lewallen instructs graduate nurse practitioner students as they complete clinical coursework. She provides didactic teaching focused on the care of the older adult. She enjoys providing content in engaging ways by using technology and simulation, bringing excitement to the classroom. Dr. Lewallen also works as a Nurse Practitioner caring for older adults and works with the Vanderbilt Center for Quality Aging researching the older adult population. In her life away from Vanderbilt, Dr. Lewallen enjoys spending time with her husband, 4-year-old daughter, 9-month-old son, and 2 Siberian huskies.

Tumors vs Immune Cells: An Introduction to Tumor Immunology

Tumors vs Immune Cells: An Introduction to Tumor Immunology
Instructor: Stephanie Medina
Cancer Biology, Immunology, Biochemistry

The body’s immune system includes various chemicals and proteins that can assist in recognizing and neutralizing harmful substances and disease-causing changes in the body. Did you know your immune system can even use certain body organs and cells to protect you against some cancers? The study of interactions between the immune system and cancer cells is a rapidly growing field of research that aims to understand how we can use the body’s own natural defenses to fight cancer cells. In this course, we will discuss the basics of cancer biology, how immune cells recognize and eliminate cancer cells, and finally, how cancer cells can evade immune cells by tricking them into not killing them. By the end of this course, you will have a foundational understanding of how cancer and immune cells interact and how this is being used to develop novel treatments for cancer. You will then apply what you have learned to research a specific type of cancer of your choice to analyze its interactions with the immune systems, identify the potential outcomes in patients, and suggest future therapeutic approaches targeting these tumor-immune interactions.

Stephanie Medina is a 3rd-year Ph.D. Candidate in the Cell and Developmental Biology. She has a Bachelor in cellular and molecular Biochemistry. Her current research focuses on studying glioblastoma and its mechanisms of immune evasion through interactions with tumor-associated macrophages. For fun, Stephanie loves to do Arts, crafts, and DIY projects.

Water Quality and Public Health: An Introduction to Field Research in Environmental Science

Water Quality and Public Health: An Introduction to Field Research in Environmental Science
Instructor: Greg Smith, Ph.D.
Ecology, Field Research, Public Health

Water is critical for human life. You interact and ingest water every single day and don’t think twice. How do you know, however, that the water you are drinking is clean when pollution is leading to a variety of problems associated with global human health? Ensuring you and future generations have access to safe water is the job of environmental scientists working in the specialized field of water quality. In this course, you will have the opportunity to work as an environmental field scientist, analyzing the health of the water in Middle Tennessee! In your research, you will consider questions, such as ‘How do scientists measure/quantify the level of contamination in a water source?’ and ‘How do we treat contaminated water?’, as well as ‘What are the impacts on human health?’ You will collect data from field surveys and experiments, use descriptive and inferential statistics to analyze your results, and present your findings to your peers like a research scientist. In your final project, you will write and present to your class a mock white paper to the TN Department of Environment and Conservation detailing your research findings and offering recommendations for potential new laws and regulations. Expect to leave this course knowing how to describe and analyze data sets from the environmental sciences and leave with a newfound appreciation for the work of field research and for the processes that govern and shape the natural waters around us.

Greg Smith is the instructor of Interdisciplinary Science and Research at John Overton High School in Nashville, TN. He earned his Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Vanderbilt University in 2019, where he relied on concepts and techniques from geology, ecology, and chemistry to understand the dietary habits of extinct megafauna (large mammals like elephants, camels, and bison). Now, he leverages his diverse scientific background and passion for education to teach high school students how to be scientists! His students carry out independent research projects, give presentations at national science competitions, and get their hands dirty working with multiple business partners outdoors in the beautiful area surrounding Middle Tennessee. In his free time, Greg enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and yoga with his wife, Lauren, and his two children, Harvey and Gwendolyn. Greg loves teaching and hopes to inspire future generations of scientists to follow their dreams!