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Vanderbilt Summer Academy 2024 Courses

Applications are being accepted for all VSA sessions on a rolling, time-stamped basis.

Select courses are full with waiting lists. These courses are labeled with the [Status: full, waiting list only] label below. All unlabeled courses currently have open seats. Please contact our office at 615-322-8261 if you have questions about current course availability.

Click here to learn more about the asynchronous component of VSA 2024 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

Rising 7th/8th Grade (1 Week: June 9 – June 14, 2024)

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

Agents of Change: Strategies for Societal Transformation

Agents of Change: Strategies for Societal Transformation
Instructor: Rachel Underwood
Political Science, Advocacy, Public Policy

Embark on a captivating exploration of societal transformation through an interdisciplinary lens in this dynamic course. You will examine the mechanisms driving social change at a national level, dissecting grassroots movements, organizational dynamics, and institutional strategies pivotal in shaping our world. With this foundational knowledge, you will begin to unveil the intricate interplay of organizational, structural, cultural, and political forces influencing social change. With an emphasis on the use of policy, you will gain insights into the connection between advocacy and policymaking, unraveling the profound impact of diverse advocacy approaches in steering policy decisions. Throughout this course, you will equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to understand the multifaceted factors catalyzing social change, explain the symbiotic relationship between advocacy and policymaking, and analyze and evaluate current advocacy initiatives using robust theoretical frameworks.

Rachel Underwood is a 6th year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University. Rachel Underwood received her bachelor’s degree in art education from Florida State University, with a concentration on Photography and a minor in French. Broadly speaking, her research examines political and moral frames of homelessness in the United States. Rachel’s master’s thesis centered the experience of identity reclamation amongst women living in a supportive housing program. Her current work uses mixed methods and a combination of political economy and social movements theory to investigate social outcomes of discourse and framing on the experience of homelessness. Rachel is also dedicated to “desire-based” storytelling and the dissemination of research through alternative channels, such as digital media. She has been selected as a Meharry-Vanderbilt Community Engaged Research Core (CERC) Community Scholar (2018-2019), a Public Scholar with The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, & Public Policy (2019-2021), and a Mellon Graduate Fellow in Digital Humanities (2020-2021). She is currently an instructor with the Certificate in College Teaching program at Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching (2021-2022) and served as the President of the Sociology Graduate Student Council (2021-2022).

Computational Thinking and Machine Learning

Computational Thinking and Machine Learning [Status: full, waiting list only]
Computer Science, Machine Learning

If you’ve ever wondered how computers nowadays can learn and make decisions on their own, this class is your gateway to understanding the magic behind the algorithms! In this course, you’ll delve into the fascinating realm of machine learning: a field where computers don’t simply follow written instructions, but instead learn from data to automatically improve and reach superhuman performance. In this course, we’ll make use of a powerful block-based programming environment called NetsBlox, which allows anyone of any experience level to jump right in after a brief introduction. But this class isn’t just about coding; it’s about empowering you with the tools to solve real-world problems using artificial intelligence. Together, we’ll explore classic machine learning problems and build algorithms to solve them. By the end of the course, you’ll not only have a grasp of the fundamental concepts of machine learning and the algorithms that power them, but also the ability to create your own intelligent applications!

Some previous programming background is recommended. The course comes with 2-3 hours worth of pre-work to help prepare students.

With support from faculty and staff affiliated with VU’s Computer Science department in the School of Engineering

Decoding the Human Genome

Decoding the Human Genome
Instructor: Michael Betti
Biology, Genetics

Have you ever wondered what makes you you? Along with the environment we live in, each person on Earth has a unique genome that influences many of the traits that make us who we are, ranging from the way we look, how we behave, and our risk for certain diseases. In this immersive, one-week course, you will receive an introduction to the elegant organization and inner workings of the human genome. You will engage questions such as, “Even though every cell in your body contains the same genome sequence, why does a heart cell look and behave so differently from a brain cell?” Additionally, you will explore the fundamentals of genetic research and explore how different study designs can help us learn about both rare and common diseases, as well as survey different technologies that exist to read and even modify DNA sequences. Finally, you will have the opportunity to examine and discuss some of the ethical questions that genetic researchers are sometimes faced with and what measures can be taken to ensure that the research will be beneficial to society while minimizing the potential for misuse.

Michael Betti is a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate in Human Genetics at Vanderbilt University. His current research is broadly focused on developing novel machine learning-based methods that improve our ability to interpret how variations in the human genome affect disease risk at the population level. Michael is particularly interested in working toward increasing the diversity of genetic studies, which have historically included mostly European ancestry samples so that the insights gained from genetic research and their implications on human health can be shared more equitably across populations. Prior to beginning his graduate studies at Vanderbilt, Michael graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Alabama, where he was also part of two College Football Playoff National Championships as a member of the Alabama football team’s sports medicine staff. After graduation, he worked for two years as a Research Assistant on the ENCODE Project, a large, 18-year, international effort funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute to characterize all the functional elements in the human genome.

Engineering the Human Body: From Health to Disease

Engineering the Human Body: From Health to Disease
Instructor: Hannah Waterman
Biology, Biomedical Engineering

Have you ever wondered how the human body works? Or how scientists use different models and technology to study it and the diseases that impact it? In this course, you will learn about the wonders of human biology and how scientists and engineers are trying to mimic the body in the lab to advance our knowledge in medicine. You will gain a better understanding of the human body, cell biology, and useful engineering skills including mathematics, device design, and device prototyping. You will also learn how to make practical tools and build simple machines modeling multiple organs in the body in order to answer fundamental scientific questions in the lab and your life.

Hannah Waterman is a 3rd year Ph.D. candidate in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt University. She earned her B.S. from Linfield University in 2021 where she completed a double major in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Mathematics. While at Linfield, she performed independent research with Dr. Megan Bestwick where she spent 3 years characterizing the role that the human PPARγ gene plays in the mitochondria and to the extent it is associated with the mitochondrial DNA transcription process. She began her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt later that same year, where she entered through the Quantitative and Chemical Biology Biomedical Research umbrella program. Hannah is mentored by Dr. Alan Cherrington, and her research focus is to determine the underlying mechanisms responsible for the second-meal phenomenon. She specializes in full-body large animal physiology and metabolism, where she simulates meal consumption by performing a variety of complex glucose clamping experiments. Her laboratory specializes in diabetes research as well. Since her freshman year of college, Hannah has been involved in tutoring and TA’ing hundreds of students in math, biology, chemistry, and physics. She loves being a mentor and has a passion for teaching others! When she is not busy with research, she can be found boxing, spending time in nature, serving at her church, or volunteering for community service projects.

Exploring Health: An Anthropological Journey

Exploring Health: An Anthropological Journey
Instructor: Taiye Winful
Anthropology, Biology

Have you ever wondered why some communities seem to be healthier than others? Or why certain health conditions are more prevalent in specific populations? In Exploring Health: An Anthropological Journey, you’ll begin to unravel these mysteries as you investigate how social and biological factors come together to influence health outcomes. Through engaging discussions, hands-on activities, and interdisciplinary exploration, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the world of health examining the impact of culture, society, biology, and individual lifestyles on health, offering you the chance to take a holistic approach to understanding the human condition. By the end of the week, you’ll be equipped with a well-rounded understanding of the complex web of factors that impact health. This course will encourage you to think critically, ask questions, and take an interdisciplinary approach to improving the well-being of yourself, other individuals, and communities.

Taiye Winful is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the Anthropology Department at Vanderbilt University focusing her dissertation and research on exploring the effects of stress on physiological systems, specifically inflammation. Her approach incorporates a biocultural perspective, considering biological, epigenetic, social, and environmental factors. Taiye earned her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology with a minor in anthropology from Loyola University Chicago and completed her master’s degree in anthropology at UNC Charlotte before joining Vanderbilt. She is passionate about introducing individuals to anthropology and its concepts and principles.

Exploring the Human Mind: An Introduction to Psychological Research

Exploring the Human Mind: An Introduction to Psychological Research
Instructor: Abigial Blum
Psychology, Research

Embark on a captivating journey delving into the complexities of the human mind. In this immersive one-week course, you will step into the shoes of psychological science researchers to unravel the mysteries of human behavior, cognition, and emotions. Through engaging lectures, interactive discussions, and hands-on experiences, you will grasp the fundamental pillars of psychology and psychological research, spanning developmental, social, and cognitive domains. Not only will you acquire a robust foundation in scientific inquiry, but you’ll also have the opportunity to craft your own mini research proposal, formulating research questions, constructing hypotheses, and designing an innovative study that mirrors that of seasoned psychological researchers.

Abby Blum is an incoming 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Clinical Psychology Program at Vanderbilt University. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Abby attended Northwestern University, where she graduated with a degree in creative writing and psychology. Throughout her career, she has worked in various research labs, where she has had the opportunity to participate in studies ranging from the early caregiving environment to the development of leadership in adolescents. Her current research interests include caregiver–child attachment and infant mental health. This year, Abby also served as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate “Introduction to Clinical Psychology” course wherein she delivered multiple lectures. She can’t wait to continue leading a course this summer! In her spare time, Abby enjoys exploring new cities, hiking with her dog, and reading fantasy novels.

Urban Transportation & Data Analytics

Urban Transportation & Data Analytics
Instructor: Ishita Dash, Ph.D.
Civil Engineering

If you’re interested in exploring the intricacies of transportation in urban areas, then this course is ideal for you. Centered around the Nashville region, you will delve into transportation systems, encompassing policies, politics, planning, and engineering aspects exploring a diverse array of topics including methodology, process, and design. You’ll analyze how institutional structures impact both the process and outcomes, explore strategies to achieve sustainable transportation, and address the challenges of balancing the environment, economy, and equity, while also considering pattern breaks that might occur. This course goes beyond just understanding the current state of affairs and encourages ways to leverage big data and data analytics. You’ll be challenged to think outside the box when it comes to transportation planning. Get ready for an exciting journey!

Ishita Dash is a postdoctoral research scholar at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University. Her area of expertise is transportation safety, focusing on pedestrian and bicycle safety. Ishita uses machine learning algorithms, computer vision, and data analytics to analyze big data from various sensors, technologies, and cameras. She identifies unsafe travel and its causes to create innovative, efficient, sustainable, and safer transportation systems. Her research has significant implications for policymakers, urban planners, and transportation engineers. Ishita holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from Vanderbilt University, an M.S. in Reliability, Availability, Maintainability, and Safety from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, and a B.S. in Marine Engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India. She has also taught Business Statistics and has created and implemented a data analytics certification and minor program as an adjunct professor at Colorado Mountain College. She has been a guest lecturer and teaching assistant at Vanderbilt University and has also worked as a math tutor at the Accelerating Scholars Program with Metro Nashville Public School. She has over a decade of work experience as a Technical Safety Engineer in the Offshore and Shipping industry.

Rising 9th/10th Grade

PTY is offering multiple programs for rising 9th/10th grade students in Summer 2024. Click on the link below for course listings for each program.

VSA 1-Week (June 9-June 15) VSA 1-Week (July 7-July 13)

Rising 9th/10th Grade (1 Week: June 9 – June 15, 2024)

Choose a course title below to view the description and instructor information. Courses are subject to change. More Information | 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: Shelby Shumard
Public Policy, Advocacy, Political Theory

How do advocates shape policymakers’ understandings of public opinion and research? What role does the media play in politics and policymaking? How does politics intersect with policymaking? 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, you will study how policymakers interact with stakeholders, advocates, and the media in all five stages of the policymaking process. You will step into the role of a policy advocate, creating a strategy informed by our study of governance institutions, political history, and political theory to achieve your desired policy outcome deepening your understanding of policy issues and joining the debate over what policies should advance and how to advocate for change most effectively.

Shelby Shumard is a Ph.D. Candidate in the political science department at Vanderbilt University. Her research interests broadly focus on how state-level politics affect how federal and state policy is implemented, with particular interest focused on exploring education policies. Prior to beginning her Ph.D. studies, Shelby worked in finance at Goldman Sachs and in various roles in education policy at the Tennessee Department of Education and at a national non-profit. She completed her undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University in 2013, earning a degree in public policy studies. When she is not working on her studies, Shelby enjoys spending time outside exploring the parks around Nashville with her husband, dog, and two young children.

Archaeometry: Understanding the Past through Archaeological Science

Archaeometry: Understanding the Past through Archaeological Science
Instructor: Angelina Locker, Ph.D.
Archaeology, Biology, Chemistry, Geology

Have you ever wondered how long ago someone lived? Or what types of foods people ate in the past? Have you ever thought about how people moved around the earth or how they were related to one another? Archaeologists are interested in ancient cultures and study their material remains, such as artifacts, buildings, landscapes, and plant remains, that Ancestors left behind. Pulling from the disciplines of geology, chemistry, and biology, archaeometry is the use of various scientific methods to fine-tune our understanding of people and cultures of the past. In this course, you will explore different methods used by archaeologists to answer the above questions and more. Starting with how we date various materials to how we extract DNA from fossils and ancient humans, you will investigate the various archaeometry methods, interpret various sets of data, and perhaps interact with a fossil or two.

Dr. Angelina Locker is a postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin (Hook ‘em!) and her B.A. from California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Locker is a bioarcheological scientist who specializes in isotope geochemistry and ancient DNA methods to answer questions about migration, diet, and kinship in the past. This means that she works directly with human remains, enabling her to look at the smallest of scales (a single individual) to the largest of scales (cultural populations). While her primary expertise is in Maya archaeology, she also collaborates on research projects in the U.S. Southwest and Peru.

Biological Super Sensors: From Perception to Mechanism

Biological Super Sensors: From Perception to Mechanism
Instructor: Toby McCabe
Biology, Physiology

Have you ever wondered how different organisms perceive and interpret stimuli from their environment? Or how sensory perceptions are encoded and processed at the cellular and neuronal levels thereby influencing behavior and decision-making in those organisms? From the classic 5 human senses to electromagnetic and fire sensing, this course will explore a variety of sensory systems in the natural world. You will learn, from the organismal level to the mechanistic level, about how humans and other animals perceive information from the world. Through lectures, demonstrations, hands-on activities, lab tours, and small group literature review, you will engage with the cellular/neuronal components of sensory intake and processing. Each day, you will have the opportunity to research a sensation and/or organism of interest to delve deeper into this exciting field. At the end of the course, you and your group will present your research to the class and get feedback from your peers.

Toby (he/him) is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University and is generally interested in how our senses combine to form a comprehensive understanding of the world around us. In the past, he received a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Kenyon College. While at Kenyon, he conducted research in an animal physiology laboratory studying renal proteins that allow many insects to transition between aquatic and terrestrial environments. After graduating, Toby joined a neurobiology research lab at Vanderbilt as a Research Assistant where he studied the motor circuits involved in sensing behaviors in fruit flies. When not in the lab, Toby enjoys spending time with his cats and playing ultimate frisbee.

Economics: Does U.S. Trade Affect Your High School Education?

Economics: Does U.S. Trade Affect Your High School Education?
Instructor: Dini Chandra, Ph.D.
Economics

The field of economics is broad. Educational economists, as the name implies, specifically study economic issues related to education in order to better understand how policies and practices in an educational system might impact the economy and how the economy impacts policies and practices in the educational system. An educational economist might explore questions such as — How do U.S. trade priorities impact curriculum at the high school level? What knowledge and skills should all high school graduates possess in order to successfully contribute to the workforce? How do education and training requirements influence wage determinations? How might AI impact the job market in the future curricular focus at the high school level? In this course, you will delve into these questions and more as we explore the skills needed in different countries with different labor forces and investigate the role that competition from other countries plays in U.S. labor force development, which includes U.S. educational design and requirements.

Devaki (“Dini”) Chandra has her Ph.D. in economics from City University of New York. She has worked at the Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) at UC Berkeley for the last ten years during the summer and has taught math as well as Economics in this program. She enjoys teaching because she sees young people as a big part of the solution to the problems we face world-wide. Youth engagement with older generations can lead to practical, as well as innovative, solutions. Different communities and by extension, different countries, can approach a given problem with a solution that satisfies its specific needs. She enjoys teaching PTY students to promote informed citizens on economic issues and teaches math and economics with the aim of engaging youth in how these two subjects affect them, which isn’t always obvious. She recently joined the Vanderbilt community as her husband is the Dean of Basic Sciences at Vanderbilt Medical School.

Exploratory and Graphical Data Analysis

Exploratory and Graphical Data Analysis
Instructor: Gabriella Noreen
Statistics, Quantitative Methods

What factors contribute to academic or athletic success? How can we understand health outcomes or voting patterns in the U.S.? In our data-driven culture, exploratory and graphical data analysis can help us understand patterns and ask fruitful questions to generate hypotheses and theories. These analytical skills also enable us to be thoughtful consumers of the data we encounter in everyday life through social media, news outlets, sports reports, and more. If you are interested in future studies in statistics and data analytics, this course is for you! In this course, you will be introduced to a sub-field of Statistics known as Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA) and accompanying Graphical Data Analysis. You will learn how to utilize these robust tools to answer questions such as those listed above and more. To facilitate this exploration, you will have the opportunity to work on your own data analysis projects via provided datasets and instructions on analysis and graph-making in Excel and RStudio

Gabriella Noreen is a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University pursuing a Ph.D. in Quantitative Methods and a minor in Biostatistics. Her research interests focus on best practices in education and nurturing students’ individuality. Outside of her coursework and research, Gabriella enjoys playing board games, taking walks with her pup, and visiting local coffee shops.

Introduction to Neuroscience

Introduction to Neuroscience [Status: full, waiting list only]
Instructor: Anne Taylor, Ph.D.
Neuroscience, Biology

Have you ever wondered how the brain and the body work together to keep us happy and healthy? In this course, you will explore the fundamentals of neuroscience, including topics such as the chemical control of brain and behavior, motivation, sleep and more! You’ll engage in conversations delving into the organization of the brain, actively participate in dissecting a sheep’s brain, and delve into the intricate realm of neuroscience spanning cellular to systems levels. The course will conclude with a visit to a Vanderbilt neuroscience laboratory allowing you to witness firsthand how these approaches are applied in daily research practices. At the end of the week, you will use your new foundation in how to think and speak like a neuroscientist to devise a hypothetical scientific study including background information, hypotheses, and experimental design.

Dr. Anne Taylor is a post-doctoral fellow in the Center for Addiction Research at Vanderbilt University where she studies alcohol use disorder. She received her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience from Binghamton University in NY in 2017 where she worked under Dr. Christopher Bishop investigating how we can repurpose already FDA-approved compounds for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. In the summer of 2023, she received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Vanderbilt where she studied under Dr. Danny Winder. Her dissertation focused on understanding how alcohol changes neural circuits in the brain. In addition to her research, Anne spends 3 days a week teaching biology and neuroscience courses at Fisk University.

Microbes are Everywhere: Understanding Immunology and Microbiology in Your Body and Home

Microbes are Everywhere: Understanding Immunology and Microbiology in Your Body and Home
Instructor: Elizabeth Wescott, Ph.D.
Biology, Immunology

The immune system is the most complex and intricate system we have in our bodies, involving many different players for proper function, including organs, tissues, cells, vessels, proteins, and other signaling chemicals. While most people may not often think about the immune system, it protects us from the world of microbes we interact with every day. However, not all microbes are bad; some are actually essential for optimal health. In this course, you will critically explore the human immune system and various microbes and pathogens – some helpful and some harmful – while engaging primary scientific research and the latest academic trends in the field of microbiology and immunology. Through participation in lab activities that involve surveying microbes in the environment, you will also learn how science research is done from the ground up: writing a hypothesis, designing an experiment, measuring results, and writing and presenting data. By the end of this course, you will walk away as immunology and public health advocates and change agents for your families and communities.

Dr. Elizabeth Wescott recently defended her Ph.D. in Molecular Pathology and Immunology at Vanderbilt. In the lab, she studied breast cancer and immunotherapy treatments under Dr. Justin Balko. Her research interests include the many cells of the immune system and how they communicate with each other. She is also passionate about communicating science research 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. Dr. Wescott loves teaching and mentoring and hopes to pursue a faculty position teaching biology and immunology courses. In her free time, she’ll be with her husband and her daughter playing or baking.

Unlocking the Biological Clock: Exploring Circadian Rhythms, Sleep, and Health

Unlocking the Biological Clock: Exploring Circadian Rhythms, Sleep, and Health [Status: full, waiting list only]
Instructor: Brittney Covington
Biology, Physiology

In this exciting course, you will delve into the biology of circadian rhythms, exploring their profound impact at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Through surveying a historical timeline, you’ll gain insights into the groundbreaking discoveries that have shaped our current understanding of these biological rhythms. Along the way, you will investigate the intricacies of sleep biology and the various phases of sleep, including the REM and NREM sleep cycles, and how these phases change throughout the stages of life. With this foundation, you will investigate the multitude of diseases and far-reaching consequences linked to circadian rhythms and sleep disruptions, exploring everything from sleep disorders to metabolic issues. Toward the end of the week, you and your peers will work together in small groups to develop a research study testing a specific component related to circadian rhythms and sleep in humans. But fear not, because you will be equipped with research-based strategies to optimize circadian rhythms, enabling you to consider ways to harness the power of light and dark exposure and the concept of time-restricted eating as you develop your research proposal. Join this course to unveil the secrets of the body’s internal clock!

Brittney Covington is an accomplished Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt University, currently in her 5th year of doctoral studies. Holding dual degrees—a Bachelor of Science in English and Biology—from Austin Peay State University, she demonstrated her dedication both in academics and on the tennis court, earning the prestigious title of NCAA Academic All-American athlete during her university years. Currently, Brittney is engaged in novel research in the laboratory of Wenbiao Chen, exploring the intriguing intersection of circadian rhythms and their influence on the timing of beta cell death in a diabetic zebrafish model. Her work has been recognized and presented at various national and international conferences. Beyond her research pursuits, Brittney is a passionate mentor, dedicating time to guiding and inspiring numerous undergraduate students within the lab. Her commitment to making science accessible and fun for everyone underscores her belief in fostering inclusivity in the scientific community. Outside the lab, Brittney enjoys tennis, yoga, rock climbing, and baking!

Rising 9th/10th Grade (1 Week: July 7 – July 13, 2024)

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

Being a Scientist: Exploring Experiments Behind Diabetes Research

Being a Scientist: Exploring Experiments Behind Diabetes Research
Instructor: Jordyn Dobson
Biology, Research

In a country where 11% of the population battle diabetes, understanding its complexities is vital. Diabetes can result in hyperglycemia, which can affect all parts of the body and lead to chronic complications such as cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, and kidney damage. Current research aims to discover early markers of diabetes allowing for preventative measures to be taken and novel therapeutic developments to be explored for enhanced patient treatment. This course will illuminate type 1 and type 2 diabetes, delving into the arsenal of techniques used by scientists in their quest for breakthroughs. By taking on the role of a scientist, you will explore live cell imaging, hormone secretion assays, and cutting-edge methods like blood glucose monitoring in mice, gaining insights into the dynamic landscape of diabetes research. By the end of the course, you will have the opportunity to consider specific research prompts where you will be asked to think like a scientist in your quest to answer them.

Jordyn Dobson is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the molecular physiology and biophysics department. Her research focuses on ion channels in pancreatic beta cells and how they influence insulin secretion. She also currently mentors undergraduate students about research and research opportunities. Jordyn graduated from New Mexico State University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. Outside the lab, she enjoys spending time with her family and dog, going on hikes, and trying new restaurants.

Cracking the Code of Molecular Messages: The Secret Life of Cells

Cracking the Code of Molecular Messages: The Secret Life of Cells
Instructor: Julie Burkett
Biology, Physiology

Secret encoded messages traverse our bodies incessantly. Without this coordinated covert communication network between cells, life would not exist. This course delves into the signaling fundamentals of cellular receptors and intracellular signaling cascades underlying how an electrical pulse becomes a heartbeat, a thought becomes an action, food becomes fuel, an infection becomes a fever, and more. In this course, you will explore different modes of cellular communication that keep your body in synchronicity from your head to your feet and how disease may arise when these molecular message systems are interrupted. In addition, you will gain familiarity with the scientific techniques used to uncover these pathways by exploring scientific literature and applying these skills to investigate what is new in the world of signaling and why so many cell signaling pathways make important pharmaceutical targets. Join this course to develop your knowledge and ability to decode molecular messages and speak the language of the cell!

Julie Burkett is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics at Vanderbilt University. In her research, she uses a variety of techniques and models to investigate the contribution of two related cellular receptors to the pathogenesis of type one diabetes and to understand if these receptors can be targeted for both protection of pancreatic beta cells and reprogramming of an autoreactive immune system to interrupt disease progression. Julie was raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and public health from The College of New Jersey in 2020 before moving to Nashville to start her graduate work at Vanderbilt. She comes from a long lineage of teachers and has always been very passionate about education and getting students excited about science! Outside of lab and school, Julie enjoys hiking, running, snuggling with her kitten, Eloise, and exploring the sights, sounds, and tastes of Tennessee.

Creative Writing: Free Verse Poetry

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

Led by a published author, this course 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. You 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 gain 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 M.A. and Ph.D. 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.

Decoding the Human Genome

Decoding the Human Genome
Instructor: Michael Betti
Biology, Genetics

Have you ever wondered what makes you you? Along with the environment we live in, each person on Earth has a unique genome that influences many of the traits that make us who we are, ranging from the way we look, how we behave, and our risk for certain diseases. In this immersive, one-week course, you will receive an introduction to the elegant organization and inner workings of the human genome. You will engage questions such as, “Even though every cell in your body contains the same genome sequence, why does a heart cell look and behave so differently from a brain cell?” Additionally, you will explore the fundamentals of genetic research and explore how different study designs can help us learn about both rare and common diseases, as well as survey different technologies that exist to read and even modify DNA sequences. Finally, you will have the opportunity to examine and discuss some of the ethical questions that genetic researchers are sometimes faced with and what measures can be taken to ensure that the research will be beneficial to society while minimizing the potential for misuse.

Michael Betti is a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate in Human Genetics at Vanderbilt University. His current research is broadly focused on developing novel machine learning-based methods that improve our ability to interpret how variations in the human genome affect disease risk at the population level. Michael is particularly interested in working toward increasing the diversity of genetic studies, which have historically included mostly European ancestry samples so that the insights gained from genetic research and their implications on human health can be shared more equitably across populations. Prior to beginning his graduate studies at Vanderbilt, Michael graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Alabama, where he was also part of two College Football Playoff National Championships as a member of the Alabama football team’s sports medicine staff. After graduation, he worked for two years as a Research Assistant on the ENCODE Project, a large, 18-year, international effort funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute to characterize all the functional elements in the human genome.

Nanoscience and Engineering

Nanoscience and Engineering [Status: full, waiting list only]
Instructor: Greg Walker, Ph.D. and VINSE Faculty
Nanoscience, Engineering

Get ready to don your protective coveralls and enter the exciting world of nanoengineering. In this course, 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.

Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism

Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism
Instructor: John Koch, Ph.D.
Rhetoric, Communication, Advocacy

The ability to communicate persuasively and advocate effectively for change is key in many disciplines and professions. In this course, you will explore the intricacies of rhetoric and acquire the skills necessary to research, develop, and organize arguments, with specific focus on adapting your persuasive appeals to specific and diverse audiences. By tracing the development and evolution of rhetoric, you will become able to critically analyze historical speeches, identify rhetorical techniques, and enhance your own persuasive appeals. Throughout the course, by engaging in various debates and writing exercises, you will cultivate your critical thinking, research proficiency, and persuasive writing and speaking abilities. The goal is that you will finish the course empowered to more meaningfully and conscientiously influence and positively contribute to our democratic political culture.

Dr. John P. Koch is a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Koch uses a wide range of methods to understand and explain political and policy debates. He is interested in political campaign debates, presidential debates, policy debates, and presidential rhetoric. His research is guided by the question of how we can improve citizenship practices and debates within our political culture. He currently serves as the chair of the National Communication Association’s Committee on International Discussion and Debate. His research has appeared in various publications on academic debate, presidential debates, and presidential rhetoric. He has also been published or quoted in various news publications, including The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and Time Magazine. Dr. Koch also serves as the Director of Debate of Vanderbilt’s internationally renowned and award-winning debate team.

Urban Transportation & Data Analytics

Urban Transportation & Data Analytics
Instructor: Ishita Dash, Ph.D.
Civil Engineering

If you’re interested in exploring the intricacies of transportation in urban areas, then this course is ideal for you. Centered around the Nashville region, you will delve into transportation systems, encompassing policies, politics, planning, and engineering aspects exploring a diverse array of topics including methodology, process, and design. You’ll analyze how institutional structures impact both the process and outcomes, explore strategies to achieve sustainable transportation, and address the challenges of balancing the environment, economy, and equity, while also considering pattern breaks that might occur. This course goes beyond just understanding the current state of affairs and encourages ways to leverage big data and data analytics. You’ll be challenged to think outside the box when it comes to transportation planning. Get ready for an exciting journey!

Ishita Dash is a postdoctoral research scholar at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University. Her area of expertise is transportation safety, focusing on pedestrian and bicycle safety. Ishita uses machine learning algorithms, computer vision, and data analytics to analyze big data from various sensors, technologies, and cameras. She identifies unsafe travel and its causes to create innovative, efficient, sustainable, and safer transportation systems. Her research has significant implications for policymakers, urban planners, and transportation engineers. Ishita holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from Vanderbilt University, an M.S. in Reliability, Availability, Maintainability, and Safety from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, and a B.S. in Marine Engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India. She has also taught Business Statistics and has created and implemented a data analytics certification and minor program as an adjunct professor at Colorado Mountain College. She has been a guest lecturer and teaching assistant at Vanderbilt University and has also worked as a math tutor at the Accelerating Scholars Program with Metro Nashville Public School. She has over a decade of work experience as a Technical Safety Engineer in the Offshore and Shipping industry.

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

Water Quality & Public Health: An Introduction to Field Research in Environmental Science
Instructor: Greg Smith, Ph.D.
Ecology, 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 11/12th Grade

PTY is offering multiple programs for rising 11th/12th grade students in Summer 2024. Click on the link below for course listings for each program.

VSA 1-Week 11th (June 23-June 29) VSA 1-Week 12th (June 23-29)

VSA 1-Week 11th/12th (July 14-20) VSA 2-Week 11th/12th (July 7-19)

Mentor Immersion (Virtual)

 

Rising 11th Grade (1 Week: June 23-29, 2024)

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 2024 courses. More Information | Apply Now!

Astrophysics: Exploration of Dark Matter

Astrophysics: Exploration of Dark Matter
Instructor: KeShawn Ivory
Astrophysics, Astronomy

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “dark matter” but aren’t entirely sure to what it refers. Maybe you’ve even investigated it, and yet, it remains unclear to you why astrophysicists seem to believe so strongly in a form of matter we can’t see. In this week-long deep dive, you’ll examine the history and physics of dark matter, along with discussions of current searches and astrophysical simulations. Using an interdisciplinary approach, you’ll investigate parallels with forms of “dark matter” beyond the realm of astrophysics, from biology to social science. By the end of this course, you will gain a better understanding of dark matter, its scientific foundations, ongoing research endeavors, and its intriguing parallels in other domains, developing a profound appreciation for the mysteries that continue to shape our understanding of the universe.

KeShawn Ivory began studying astrophysics as an undergraduate at Rice University where he also majored in French Studies. During his time at Rice, he pursued summer research projects at Texas Christian University and Harvard University. After graduating in Fall 2018, he was accepted to the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. program and moved to Nashville in 2019. Over the next two years, he took classes at Fisk and Vanderbilt, wrote a master’s thesis on dark matter structure, and finished in 2021 with a master’s degree in physics from Fisk University. Staying on at Vanderbilt, he joined the astrophysics Ph.D. program and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in his third year. His research now explores the relationship between galactic orbits and black hole merger timescales. Beyond academics, KeShawn enjoys singing, cooking, writing, and helping create comfortable spaces for fellow Black astronomers.

Cracking the Code of Molecular Messages: The Secret Life of Cells

Cracking the Code of Molecular Messages: The Secret Life of Cells
Instructor: Julie Burkett
Biology, Physiology

Secret encoded messages traverse our bodies incessantly. Without this coordinated covert communication network between cells, life would not exist. This course delves into the signaling fundamentals of cellular receptors and intracellular signaling cascades underlying how an electrical pulse becomes a heartbeat, a thought becomes an action, food becomes fuel, an infection becomes a fever, and more. In this course, you will explore different modes of cellular communication that keep your body in synchronicity from your head to your feet and how disease may arise when these molecular message systems are interrupted. In addition, you will gain familiarity with the scientific techniques used to uncover these pathways by exploring scientific literature and applying these skills to investigate what is new in the world of signaling and why so many cell signaling pathways make important pharmaceutical targets. Join this course to develop your knowledge and ability to decode molecular messages and speak the language of the cell!

Julie Burkett is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics at Vanderbilt University. In her research, she uses a variety of techniques and models to investigate the contribution of two related cellular receptors to the pathogenesis of type one diabetes and to understand if these receptors can be targeted for both protection of pancreatic beta cells and reprogramming of an autoreactive immune system to interrupt disease progression. Julie was raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and public health from The College of New Jersey in 2020 before moving to Nashville to start her graduate work at Vanderbilt. She comes from a long lineage of teachers and has always been very passionate about education and getting students excited about science! Outside of lab and school, Julie enjoys hiking, running, snuggling with her kitten, Eloise, and exploring the sights, sounds, and tastes of Tennessee.

Exploratory and Graphical Data Analysis

Exploratory and Graphical Data Analysis
Instructor: Gabriella Noreen
Statistics, Quantitative Methods

What factors contribute to academic or athletic success? How can we understand health outcomes or voting patterns in the U.S.? In our data-driven culture, exploratory and graphical data analysis can help us understand patterns and ask fruitful questions to generate hypotheses and theories. These analytical skills also enable us to be thoughtful consumers of the data we encounter in everyday life through social media, news outlets, sports reports, and more. If you are interested in future studies in statistics and data analytics, this is the course for you! In this course, you will be introduced to a sub-field of Statistics known as Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA) and accompanying Graphical Data Analysis. You will learn how to utilize these robust tools to answer questions such as those listed above and more. To facilitate this exploration, you will have the opportunity to work on your own data analysis projects via provided datasets and instructions on analysis and graph-making in Excel and RStudio.

Gabriella Noreen is a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University pursuing a Ph.D. in Quantitative Methods and a minor in Biostatistics. Her research interests focus on best practices in education and nurturing students’ individuality. Outside of her coursework and research, Gabriella enjoys playing board games, taking walks with her pup, and visiting local coffee shops.

How to Change the World: Social Movements and Collective Action Through the Lens of Political Anthropology

How to Change the World: Social Movements and Collective Action Through the Lens of Political Anthropology
Instructor: Kathryn Peters
Anthropology, Politics

How can individuals make a difference in addressing the problems that they view society as facing? This course delves into the intricate dynamics of social movements and collective action by employing the lens of political anthropology. It aims to unravel the mechanisms through which individuals affect change in addressing societal challenges. By drawing upon the rich toolkit of cultural anthropology, you will explore the contextual elements that either nurture or impede collective political action. Through an analysis of various forms of organization, tactics, and barriers encountered by social movements in recent history, and their resultant impacts on societal transformation, you will gain comprehensive insights into the mechanics of effecting change.

Kathryn E Peters is a Ph.D. candidate in cultural anthropology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Her research focuses on how small-scale farmers in rural communities in the eastern region of Paraguay defend and adapt their way of life in response to economic and political systems which often privilege the interests of transnational agribusiness corporations and narcotraffickers. She is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Oklahoma State University and a dual master’s degree in Latin American Studies and Community and Regional Planning from the University of New Mexico.

Introduction to Virology: Understanding the Microscopic Titans

Introduction to Virology: Understanding the Microscopic Titans
Instructor: Brynn Roman
Biology, Virology, Public Health

Viruses are microbes, miniscule in size; however, they wield immense influence on our world. The echoes of the COVID-19 pandemic serve as a stark reminder of viruses’ profound impact on global health. In this course, you will delve into the intricate world of these microbes, unraveling their mysteries, diversity, and the pivotal role they play in various ecosystems. You’ll gain a better understanding of the fundamental nature of viruses, exploring their structure and function, genetic makeup, replication mechanisms, modes of transmission, and the interplay between viruses and their host organisms. You will also be introduced to research methodologies, tools, and techniques employed at the molecular level to better understand how to combat viral infections and develop effective therapeutics. If you’re interested in unlocking the secrets of these microscopic titans and their impact on health, this course is for you!

Brynn Roman is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. Her thesis work focuses on comparing the ways in which different coronaviruses manipulate host cell processes. Specifically, she’s interested in understanding how strain-specific protein interactions contribute to variability in disease severity. Her work utilizes biochemical techniques, chemical biology, and mass spectrometry. Brynn graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and minor in mathematics from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh before coming to Vanderbilt. In addition to research, she’s also passionate about science outreach and enjoys volunteering at the Adventure Science Center and in local schools. When not performing research or talking about science, Brynn loves to try new restaurants, go for hikes, and train her cats to play fetch (but more often than not, they train her).

Neuroscience Meets Nanoscience

Neuroscience Meets Nanoscience
Instructor: Laurel Bellocchio
Neuroscience, Nanoscience, Chemistry

What happens within 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, scientists are interested in diving deep into the molecular level, specifically the nanoscale. In this course, you will explore how the exciting and fast-moving field of nanoscience technology works in biological applications as well as what we know about diagnosing and treating an array of mental health disorders. You will also learn about how these two areas of research intersect in both theory and practice. By the end of this course, you will gain 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 from a variety of backgrounds. The course will encompass topics from a variety of science and engineering disciplines, giving you a truly interdisciplinary experience.

Laurel Bellocchio is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Chemistry Department at Vanderbilt University. Her research, under Dr. Sandra J. 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. Laurel graduated magna cum laude from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry with a mathematics minor. Mental health outreach is very important to her, and as such, 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.

Protein Puzzles: Computational Strategies in Protein Sequence and Function

Protein Puzzles: Computational Strategies in Protein Sequence and Function
Instructor: Jade McDaniel
Biology, Bioinformatics, Chemistry

Do you wish to uncover the secrets encoded in the amino acid sequences of proteins? In this course, you will embark on a journey of discovery unraveling the language of proteins and exploring the connections between sequence and function introducing you to protein biochemistry and cutting-edge computational techniques with an emphasis on sequence-function relationships. Using a combination of lectures and hands-on computer-based exercises, you will gain a strong foundation in the principles of protein biochemistry, investigating the evolutionary basis behind biology diversity and exploring the relationship between biochemistry theory and computational techniques. You will apply commonly used techniques, such as protein sequence analysis, sequence alignment, and molecular modeling, to analyze a protein of interest and predict its functions gaining practical experience in utilizing bioinformatics tools and databases to investigate the sequence-function relationships of proteins.

Due to the advanced nature of this course, a previous course in biology and chemistry is required. Previous coding experience in any language through a formal or informal course is also required. 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.

Jade McDaniel is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. She is originally from Salina, Kansas, but her undergraduate education led her to Toledo, Ohio, for four years. She received her Bachelor of Science in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Toledo in 2019, where she studied the organic synthesis of small molecule anti-cancer drugs. During her tenure as an undergraduate, she interned at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, as well as Bristol Myers Squibb in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Jade moved to Nashville in 2020 to join the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Vanderbilt. She joined the lab of Dr. Allison Walker, where she uses computational and experimental tools to study protein-protein interactions at sites relevant to metabolic diseases, such as the glucagon and GLP-1 receptors. She enjoys teaching students and has experience as a teaching assistant, laboratory mentor, and undergraduate tutor. Outside of the lab, Jade likes to spend time with her three cats and advocates for community cats by educating others about Trap-Neuter-Release and foster programs.

 

Thinking about Thinking: An Introduction to Neuroscience

Thinking about Thinking: An Introduction to Neuroscience
Instructor: Emily Harriott
Neuroscience

Have you ever thought about how you think? Then this course is for you! Led by a Vanderbilt student studying neuroscience, you will learn all about the brain beginning with neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain, and how they communicate with each other. Building on this, you will then explore brain networks involved in specific functions like vision, audition, reading, math cognition, and executive functioning. You will also investigate different methods that scientists use to study the brain, including electrophysiology and neuroimaging. To apply your newfound knowledge of the brain and neuroscience, you will conduct a sheep brain dissection and a group experiment. Learning to read and discuss published research articles will also be covered to provide you with a foundation in understanding and analyzing current research. 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 third-year doctoral candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. Before coming to Vanderbilt, she received her bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and 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 all things active & outdoors, dancing, and listening to live music.

 

Rising 12th Grade (1 Week: June 23-29, 2024)

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 2024 courses. More Information | Apply Now!

AI: Friend or Foe? A Computing Ethics and Artificial Intelligence Seminar

AI: Friend or Foe? A Computing Ethics and Artificial Intelligence Seminar
Instructor: Cazembe Kennady, Ph.D.
Technology, Computer Science, Ethics

Have you ever wondered what ethical considerations should be taken into account when developing and implementing AI? How can flawed models lead to biases and discrimination in AI systems and how can we mitigate these issues? How do we balance the potential benefits of AI tools with the ethical concerns they may raise. In this course, you will delve into the intricate ethical landscape surrounding technology and computing, challenging yourself to constantly evaluate the ethical implications inherent in technological advancements and will be encouraged to continue thinking about the question: “Just because something can be done, does that mean it should be done?” Using case studies, you will examine issues relating to artificial intelligence (AI), and how it can, at times, be trained using flawed models that allow for discrimination. In addition, you will explore examples of AI chat and image generation tools and how they can be used to improve technical and non-technical jobs, while also exploring the potential issues associated with them. Furthermore, this course will include discussions across a spectrum of topics, encompassing the deployment of dark patterns in website and mobile application design, the ethical considerations surrounding virtual reality experiences, and the implications of the Internet of Things in our interconnected world.

Dr. Cazembe Kennedy obtained his Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing in 2020 from Clemson University. His background is in computer science, with research specializing in science education, education policy, active and evidence-based learning, and misconceptions in learning. His current work focuses on immersing faculty, staff, and students into digital tools to assist with their education and research interests and supporting ongoing and upcoming digital projects. This is done through multiple internal and external partnerships. Dr. Kennedy was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Maryland. His academic journey took him to Morehouse College to earn his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. He attributes much of his success to the diverse wealth of life and professional experiences he has had the fortune of engaging in, from playing piano for a choir on Harris Theater stage in Chicago to traveling to over 30 countries before age 30 to being able to attend and work at/with: Historically Black Colleges/Universities, both private and public R1 institutions, smaller private and public institutions with various levels of research efforts, national laboratories, and major government defense contractors. One of his favorite quotes is from a former choir director, who simply said “Life is in the details.” Cazembe believes that those small and seemingly meaningless moments in the grand scheme of things really help shape who we are and our experiences in this life.

Combustion Turbines: The Practical Side of Engineering

Combustion Turbines: The Practical Side of Engineering
Instructor: Meredith Neal
Engineering

Did you know that power outages cost the U.S. economy an estimated $18 billion to $33 billion annually? Or that healthcare facilities can face costs of up to $8,000 per minute of downtime when they do not have power? Electricity drives our society, infrastructure, and economy. Ensuring reliable electrical power, however, is somewhat of an engineering miracle. Key concepts, theories, and principles, such as thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid dynamics, metallurgy, and chemistry, are all applied to real-world machines in constantly changing environments in order to ‘keep the lights on.’ In this course, you will explore these often-complex concepts to investigate the literal powerhouse that makes the world electrified. As part of the experience, we will take a field trip to an operating power plant to see examples of the various processes and machines discussed in class. By the end of the course, you’ll be able to begin analyzing mechanical equipment failures using failure analysis, the science and technique of understanding how materials and products fail, to avoid potential problems and prevent a recurrence. Along with your peers, you will seek to understand the “why” behind machinery design changes. If you are interested in a career in engineering or in exploring how complex theory meets practice in the real world, this is the course for you.

Meredith Neal is a Professional Engineer at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) with a passion for sharing knowledge about large rotating equipment. Meredith graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee. After starting her career in the engineering department of Watts Bar Nuclear, she came to realize her love of Condition Based Maintenance and understanding why machines act the way they do. As the Senior Program Manager for a Combustion Turbine fleet of over 12,000 MW, Meredith helps support and guide TVA to the goal of 70% carbon reduction by 2030. At the age of 35, she was a finalist for TVA’s Engineer of the Year, the company’s highest engineering honor. Meredith enjoys spending time with her husband, a wide range of sports, F1, and voraciously reading fantasy novels.

Evaluating Policy Impact: Metrics & Methods

Evaluating Policy Impact: Metrics & Methods
Instructor: Shelby Shumard
Public Policy, Politics

Have you ever wondered what constitutes an effective policy? How do we determine if a policy is successful or not? In this course, you will have the opportunity to unravel the complexities of policy evaluation in multiple policy areas. You’ll discover the art of discerning policy effectiveness through a blend of theoretical frameworks and hands-on approaches. From education reforms to transportation strategies, you will gain proficiency in evaluating policies using an array of data types, from quantitative metrics to nuanced qualitative assessments, and learn to differentiate between leading and lagging indicators. In doing so, you will equip yourself with the tools to employ evidence in assessing policy outcomes and considering alternatives across diverse political landscapes.

Shelby Shumard is a Ph.D. Candidate in the political science department at Vanderbilt University. Her research interests broadly focus on how state-level politics affect how federal and state policy is implemented, with particular interest focused on exploring education policies. Prior to beginning her Ph.D. studies, Shelby worked in finance at Goldman Sachs and in various roles in education policy at the Tennessee Department of Education and at a national non-profit. She completed her undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University in 2013, earning a degree in public policy studies. When she is not working on her studies, Shelby enjoys spending time outside exploring the parks around Nashville with her husband, dog, and two young children.

Exploring Biomedical Research Techniques: A Guide for Future Scientists

Exploring Biomedical Research Techniques: A Guide for Future Scientists
Instructor: Jacquelyn Spathies
Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, Biomedical Research

Are you considering a future in biomedical research? Are you interested in learning more about what biomedical researchers do and the techniques used to answer their research questions? In this course, you’ll embark on a journey into the realm of biomedical research techniques through exploring commonly used wet lab techniques in cellular/molecular biology and biochemistry. You will gain insight into fundamental techniques, such as western blotting, immunohistochemistry (IHC), polymerase chain reaction (PCR), microscopy, CRISPR, and more, learning how these techniques function, as well as when to apply them based on specific research questions. By the end of the course, you’ll cultivate a scientific mindset with practical skills and knowledge, along with key insights into the life of a biomedical researcher.

Jacquelyn Spathies is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the laboratories of Jeffery Spraggins and Eric Skaar studying gut health and bacteria. Jacquelyn uses imaging mass spectrometry to characterize the molecular composition of the gut and how this chemical landscape is shifted based on environmental exposures such as bacteria. Her research is focused on questions in microbiology, but a big portion of her Ph.D. is to develop the analytical tools and skill set needed to survey, isolate, and characterize molecules produced by the host and its effect on bacterial infection and expansion throughout the gut. Prior to starting graduate school at Vanderbilt, Jacquelyn graduated from Eastern Illinois University with her bachelor’s in biology. She then worked for the federal government at the NIH for two years doing research related to the pandemic, where she worked to characterize the rate of undiagnosed or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 throughout the United States. The results from this project indicated that there were an estimated 17 million undiagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infections as of summer 2020 in the United States. This work was recognized by the NIH when she and others on this project were awarded the NIH Directors Award for establishing one of the first serological assays of SARS-CoV-2. Outside of the lab, Jacquelyn is a huge fan of outdoor rock climbing and dance, specifically acrobatic arts. She has worked with children of all ages as a coach, nanny, and teacher throughout the past ten years.

Inflammation: A Double-Edged Sword

Inflammation: A Double-Edged Sword
Instructor: Amanda Ruelas
Biomedical Science, Immunology

Have you ever wondered about the role inflammation plays in the body? Or how it contributes to specific diseases and impacts the overall health and well-being of an individual? Inflammation, an essential bodily defense mechanism, stands as a pivotal force in both preserving health and driving diseases. Not only does inflammation provide a critical response mechanism that our tissues use to fight against infections and promote tissue repair, but when excessive and unregulated, it can also lead to the development of deadly diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, chronic pancreatitis, and chronic kidney disease. In this course, you will delve into the intricate landscape of inflammatory responses, uncovering the delicate balance between its protective role in combating infections and its potential peril when dysregulated. This course offers a comprehensive exploration of the molecular mechanisms governing inflammation, shedding light on its initiation, regulation, and implications in various diseases. If you’re interested in a career in biomedical engineering, pharmacology, or other health-related field, this course is for you!

Amanda Ruelas received her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a minor in Biochemistry at the University of Arizona in 2021. During her undergraduate career, Amanda worked in Dr. Nadja Anderson’s lab, where she optimized and sent out materials to conduct experiments, such as bacterial transformations and gel electrophoresis, to high school biology labs throughout Arizona. In this lab, she also heavily participated in scientific outreach and gave science demonstrations to local schools, sparking her passion for scientific outreach and teaching. Amanda then began working in Dr. Curtis Thorne’s lab during her last two years of undergrad, where she worked with colon cancer cell lines to characterize a novel kinase, CLK3. Amanda continues her studies in the DelGiorno Lab at Vanderbilt University, where she is studying the role of acinar to ductal metaplasia-derived tuft cells in pancreatic injury, specifically the mechanism(s) tuft cells utilize to protect the pancreas during injury. In her free time, Amanda enjoys keeping up with the latest fashion trends, listening to true crime podcasts, and cuddling with her cat, Tigger.

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law [Status: full, waiting list only]
Instructor: Kaleigh Ruiz, J.D.
Legal Studies, Political Science

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 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 Ph.D. student studying how judges make decisions in Vanderbilt’s Political Science department. 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 performing with local theatre groups.

Neurological Disorders: When Things Go Awry in the Brain

Neurological Disorders: When Things Go Awry in the Brain [Status: full, waiting list only]
Instructor: Leah Mann
Neuroscience, Psychology, Biology

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 explore some of the most prominent brain disorders and diseases plaguing today’s population, including 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 course, you will be given the opportunity to utilize your new knowledge and skills to research one disease not covered in class where you will create a faux case study of a patient with this disease, detailing the symptoms and differential diagnoses and explain how this patient would be treated over the course of history.

Leah Mann is a fifth-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, she has focused on 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 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 VSA.

Translational Neuropharmacology: From Molecules to Medication

Translational Neuropharmacology: From Molecules to Medication
Instructor: Deborah Luessen, Ph.D.
Neuroscience, Pharmacology

Mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, and substance use disorders, impact more than 1 in 5 individuals in the United States alone; however, effective treatment options for many of these debilitating diseases are still lacking. Recent advances in neuroscience and pharmacology research have begun paving the way for hundreds of new and improved medications to treat individuals suffering with neuropsychiatric disorders. This course will take you on a exploration into the world of neuropharmacology and drug development and will allow you to: 1) understand the neurobiology of a number of neurological/neuropsychiatric diseases (schizophrenia, depression, substance use disorders, movement disorders, etc.), 2) gain knowledge on the pharmacology of currently prescribed medications to treat these diseases, and 3) learn about the drug discovery process and how we use it to create improved medications to treat brain diseases. Not only will you gain a deeper understanding of the foundations of neuropharmacology, but you will also have opportunities to observe cutting-edge scientific techniques used in the laboratory to help discover these medications and translate them for human use.

Dr. Deborah Luessen is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Vanderbilt Department of Pharmacology and Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. Her current work in the laboratory of Dr. Jeff Conn focuses on determining the therapeutic efficacy of novel medications for the treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases. Deborah is passionate about identifying distinct neural signatures in adolescent populations vulnerable to the development of neuropsychiatric disease. She is a “Triple Deacon” and received her bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees from Wake Forest University. Receiving her Ph.D. in 2020, her dissertation focused on exploring the cellular mechanisms underlying substance use disorders, specifically characterizing signaling and trafficking patterns of dopamine and serotonin receptors. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, baking, and exploring the Nashville food scene.

Rising 11th/12th Grade (1 Week: July 14-20, 2024)

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 2024 courses. More Information | Apply Now!

AI: Friend or Foe? A Computing Ethics and Artificial Intelligence Seminar

AI: Friend or Foe? A Computing Ethics and Artificial Intelligence Seminar
Instructor: Cazembe Kennady, Ph.D.
Technology, Computer Science, Ethics

Have you ever wondered what ethical considerations should be taken into account when developing and implementing AI? How can flawed models lead to biases and discrimination in AI systems and how can we mitigate these issues? How do we balance the potential benefits of AI tools with the ethical concerns they may raise. In this course, you will delve into the intricate ethical landscape surrounding technology and computing, challenging yourself to constantly evaluate the ethical implications inherent in technological advancements and will be encouraged to continue thinking about the question: “Just because something can be done, does that mean it should be done?” Using case studies, you will examine issues relating to artificial intelligence (AI), and how it can, at times, be trained using flawed models that allow for discrimination. In addition, you will explore examples of AI chat and image generation tools and how they can be used to improve technical and non-technical jobs, while also exploring the potential issues associated with them. Furthermore, this course will include discussions across a spectrum of topics, encompassing the deployment of dark patterns in website and mobile application design, the ethical considerations surrounding virtual reality experiences, and the implications of the Internet of Things in our interconnected world.

Dr. Cazembe Kennedy obtained his Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing in 2020 from Clemson University. His background is in computer science, with research specializing in science education, education policy, active and evidence-based learning, and misconceptions in learning. His current work focuses on immersing faculty, staff, and students into digital tools to assist with their education and research interests and supporting ongoing and upcoming digital projects. This is done through multiple internal and external partnerships. Dr. Kennedy was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Maryland. His academic journey took him to Morehouse College to earn his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. He attributes much of his success to the diverse wealth of life and professional experiences he has had the fortune of engaging in, from playing piano for a choir on Harris Theater stage in Chicago to traveling to over 30 countries before age 30 to being able to attend and work at/with: Historically Black Colleges/Universities, both private and public R1 institutions, smaller private and public institutions with various levels of research efforts, national laboratories, and major government defense contractors. One of his favorite quotes is from a former choir director, who simply said “Life is in the details.” Cazembe believes that those small and seemingly meaningless moments in the grand scheme of things really help shape who we are and our experiences in this life.

Astrophysics: Exploration of Dark Matter

Astrophysics: Exploration of Dark Matter
Instructor: KeShawn Ivory
Astrophysics, Astronomy

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “dark matter” but aren’t entirely sure to what it refers. Maybe you’ve even investigated it, and yet, it remains unclear to you why astrophysicists seem to believe so strongly in a form of matter we can’t see. In this week-long deep dive, you’ll examine the history and physics of dark matter, along with discussions of current searches and astrophysical simulations. Using an interdisciplinary approach, you’ll investigate parallels with forms of “dark matter” beyond the realm of astrophysics, from biology to social science. By the end of this course, you will gain a better understanding of dark matter, its scientific foundations, ongoing research endeavors, and its intriguing parallels in other domains, developing a profound appreciation for the mysteries that continue to shape our understanding of the universe.

KeShawn Ivory began studying astrophysics as an undergraduate at Rice University where he also majored in French Studies. During his time at Rice, he pursued summer research projects at Texas Christian University and Harvard University. After graduating in Fall 2018, he was accepted to the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-Ph.D. program and moved to Nashville in 2019. Over the next two years, he took classes at Fisk and Vanderbilt, wrote a master’s thesis on dark matter structure, and finished in 2021 with a master’s degree in physics from Fisk University. Staying on at Vanderbilt, he joined the astrophysics Ph.D. program and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in his third year. His research now explores the relationship between galactic orbits and black hole merger timescales. Beyond academics, KeShawn enjoys singing, cooking, writing, and helping create comfortable spaces for fellow Black astronomers.

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

Biology of Cancer: An Introduction to the Origin & Treatment of Cancer
Instructor: Emma Vontalge
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, exploring 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 advanced nature of this course, a previous course in biology is required.

Emma Vontalge is a 4th year Ph.D. student in the Department of Biochemistry at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She studies mechanisms DNA replication-coupled repair with an emphasis on how biochemical pathways maintain genome stability in response to DNA replication stress. Emma grew up in Johnston, Iowa, and earned her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Iowa State University. Emma has discovered her passion for mentorship through many leadership opportunities and is eager to continue mentorship and teaching throughout her career. Outside of the lab, Emma enjoys exploring Nashville, scrapbooking, and spending time with family and her dog, Dolly!

Creative Writing: Free Verse Poetry

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

Led by a published author, this course 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. You 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 gain 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 M.A. and Ph.D. 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.

Econometrics: Analyzing Social Inequities through Economic Frameworks

Econometrics: Analyzing Social Inequities through Economic Frameworks
Instructor: Hasan Shahid, Ph.D.
Economics

Econometrics uses economic theory, mathematics, and statistical inference to quantify economic phenomena. Since 1957, economists, for example, have harnessed economic tools to dissect, assess, and address social inequities. In this course, you will explore economic theories, applied research methodologies, and econometric tools used by researchers and policy makers to evaluate discrimination through an economic lens. By focusing on economic-related issues of disparity rooted in identities such as gender and race, this course will study the challenges encountered by groups through the use of econometric methods including difference in differences and regression discontinuity designs. You will explore the innovative techniques, such as field experiments and audit studies, utilized by economists to unravel discriminatory patterns. By the end of the course, you will write a brief research proposal or policy brief focusing on a specific category of discrimination, such as age, gender, religion, etc. You will research relevant statistics showing differences in the outcomes for individuals or groups within your chosen category and either propose a research study to measure discrimination or develop a policy to combat discrimination. Either way, you will leave this course with a deeper understanding of how to leverage economic theory, mathematics, and statistics to assess and potentially address social inequities.

Hasan Shahid is a postdoctoral scholar in the economics department of Vanderbilt University. He is also part of the Vanderbilt University LGBTQ+ policy lab and an affiliate for the Center for Research on Inequality and Health. Hasan is an applied microeconomist with interests in health, labor, and public economics. His research centers around using causal inference and econometric tools to understand problems faced by sexual and gender minority populations. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Hasan completed a Ph.D. in economics from Georgia State University. Beyond his research, Hasan enjoys teaching, watching animal documentaries, listening to podcasts, and eating cake.

Exploring Innovations in Biotechnology: CRISPR-Cas9, Cancer, & Immunotherapy

Exploring Innovations in Biotechnology: CRISPR-Cas9, Cancer, & Immunotherapy [Status: full, waiting list only]
Instructors: Yelena Janumyen, Ph.D. & Nick Means, Ph.D.
Biotechnology, Immunology, Biology

Are you curious about the ways scientists harness biotechnology to combat different forms of cancer? Have you wondered about the real-world applications of stem cell therapy, CAR T-cell therapy, and CRISPR-CAS9 in treating specific forms of cancer? If so, this course will allow you to delve into the intersection of oncology, immunology, and biotechnology, focusing on CRISPR-Cas9’s impact on medical science. Using case studies from the Fred Hutch Cancer Center, the course covers fundamental cancer biology concepts including the broader connections of the cell cycle, the immune system, genetic mutations, and the core disparities among various forms of cancer, all while emphasizing the role of biotech innovations in propelling advancements in medical science. You will engage in hands-on lab experiments tied to real cases learning about the immune system’s role in cancer, stem cell therapy, and CRISPR-Cas9’s application in treatment where you will develop crucial molecular lab skills and explore diagnostic techniques for cancer identification. In a culminating project, you will have the opportunity to present your findings to peers and scientists, illustrating biotech’s potential in fighting cancer.

This class is in partnership with the Vanderbilt Collaborative for STEM Education and Outreach.

Dr. Yelena Janumyan holds a Ph.D. in cancer biology from Vanderbilt University, where she dedicated her research career to the study of the cell cycle function of the anti-apoptotic protein, Bcl-2. Her extensive expertise includes researching the function of anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL in cell cycle regulation in mammalian cells and mice. She is proficient in various molecular biology techniques, such as retroviral infections, transfections, rtPCR, RNA/DNA staining, as well as mammalian cell culture techniques, flow cytometry, and fluorescent microscopy. Beyond her academic pursuits, Dr. Janumyan has contributed significantly to STEM education. For over 15 years, she has been actively involved in a middle school classroom, engaging students in interdisciplinary STEM projects to foster independent thinking, cultivate lifelong learning, and instill compassion. Her passion for making STEM literacy accessible is evident in her curriculum development for the CSEO’s Day of Discovery program, enabling students to master topics and skills beyond the standard middle school curriculum.

Dr. Nicolas Means holds a Ph.D. in cancer biology from the University of Oklahoma – Health Sciences Center, where he focused on the characterization of the ubiquitin binding associated protein 2 (UBAP2) in pancreatic cancer models. Dr. Means has expertise in interlinking cancerous phenotypes with non-cancerous models (e.g., pancreatic cancer with pancreatitis) and has utilized numerous techniques to answer those questions of interest. Of note, Dr. Means has proficiencies in transfections, qRT-PCR, RNA/DNA staining, immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, CRISPR-Cas9 technologies, mammalian cell culture, and microscopy. Currently, his professional emphasis is on the promotion of STEM careers for students and is currently with the Collaborative for STEM Education and Outreach program at Vanderbilt University. While at Vanderbilt, he is focusing on efforts to increase cancer literacy in the local community while sparking interest in young individuals to pursue research whenever he has the opportunity.

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law

Introduction to Legal Studies: A Crash Course in Law [Status: full, waiting list only]
Instructor: Kaleigh Ruiz, J.D.
Legal Studies, Political Science

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 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 Ph.D. student studying how judges make decisions in Vanderbilt’s Political Science department. 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 performing with local theatre groups.

Music, Sports, & Culture

Music, Sports, & Culture
Instructor: Carrie Tipton, Ph.D.
Legal Studies, Political Science

From national anthem performances to baseball park organs, modern sports contain rich soundscapes that powerfully shape the athlete and fan experience. This course explores music and sound in twentieth- and twenty-first century U.S. sports with some attention to global athletic contexts. Throughout the week, you will 1) use soundscape journaling to document and describe sonic and musical elements in sports; 2) use primary sources to establish social and historical context for sports-music intersections; 3) apply basic interpretive frameworks to determine the social and cultural significance of elements of athletic soundscapes; 4) gain an understanding of the historical origins of key sports-music intersections. Lectures, multimedia, class discussion, “humanities lab” activities, and visits to on- and off-campus athletic venues will help you connect sports soundscapes with broad themes, including regional and ethnic identity, pageantry and ritual, tensions between tradition and innovation, and politics, protest, and nationalism.

Carrie Allen Tipton writes, lectures, and teaches about musibeing a c, religion, history, and culture, especially of the U.S. South. Her book From Dixie to Rocky Top: Music and Meaning in Southeastern Conference Fight Songs was published in fall 2023 by Vanderbilt University Press. Tipton has lectured for the National Museum of African American Music, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Tennessee State Museum, and the Tennessee Historical Society and presented at numerous academic conferences. For more than a decade, she managed projects for Bach Society Houston (Texas), including serving as Director of the Lecture Series and the American Bach Society, where she currently sits on the Editorial Board. Prior to moving to Nashville, Tipton was Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Houston-Downtown. She holds a Ph.D. in Musicology/Ethnomusicology and M.M. in Piano Performance and is an adjunct instructor of Musicology in Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.

Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism

Rhetorical Advocacy and Criticism
Instructor: John Koch, Ph.D.
Rhetoric, Communication, Advocacy

The ability to communicate persuasively and advocate effectively for change is key in many disciplines and professions. In this course, you will explore the intricacies of rhetoric and acquire the skills necessary to research, develop, and organize arguments, with specific focus on adapting your persuasive appeals to specific and diverse audiences. By tracing the development and evolution of rhetoric, you will become able to critically analyze historical speeches, identify rhetorical techniques, and enhance your own persuasive appeals. Throughout the course, by engaging in various debates and writing exercises, you will cultivate your critical thinking, research proficiency, and persuasive writing and speaking abilities. The goal is that you will finish the course empowered to more meaningfully and conscientiously influence and positively contribute to our democratic political culture.

Dr. John P. Koch is a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Koch uses a wide range of methods to understand and explain political and policy debates. He is interested in political campaign debates, presidential debates, policy debates, and presidential rhetoric. His research is guided by the question of how we can improve citizenship practices and debates within our political culture. He currently serves as the chair of the National Communication Association’s Committee on International Discussion and Debate. His research has appeared in various publications on academic debate, presidential debates, and presidential rhetoric. He has also been published or quoted in various news publications, including The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and Time Magazine. Dr. Koch also serves as the Director of Debate of Vanderbilt’s internationally renowned and award-winning debate team.

 

Rising 11th/12th Grade (2 Week: July 7-19, 2024)

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 2024 courses. More Information | Apply Now!

Cultivating Moral Leadership and Moral Courage

Cultivating Moral Leadership and Moral Courage
Instructor: Laine Walters Young, Ph.D.
Leadership, Psychology, Business, Ethics

Embark on a transformative journey in this two-week course, where you will learn the fundamentals of moral leadership from a social ethics perspective, drawing also from developmental psychology, business ethics, and community development, in which persons take responsibility for working toward transcendent goals with diverse people that provide for their common good. You will also learn about the psychology of moral courage, which involves conviction, responsibility, social connection, and, if necessary, the willingness to take on significant risks. You will explore your personal capacity and motivation for being a moral change agent and take on a study of the markers of leadership and courage in a biographical case of your own. During the course, you will engage with local curators of Southern history to learn about Nashville’s role in the Civil Rights Movement and in other local histories, with contemporary social entrepreneurs who engage in the courage of healing from traumatic and disadvantaged pasts.

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.

Laine Walters Young loves helping people reflect upon what care we owe each other and ourselves, which she thinks is the essence of ethics. As Assistant Director of the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions, she directs the interprofessional student fellowship at Vanderbilt, a group of 18 masters-level students who journey together over a year to deepen their moral awareness and gain leadership skill. In addition to the fellowship, Laine works as a Vanderbilt University Unity Lab coach, facilitating intercultural competency skill-building amongst members of the Vanderbilt community, especially around deep listening to difference. She also researches moral injury and distress, and all things moral formation. Laine earned a Ph.D. in Religion, Psychology and Culture from Vanderbilt in 2019 after working for several years in the nonprofit sector and earning a degree concentrating in Religion in American Public Life from Harvard Divinity School. She identifies as a feminist care ethicist, encouraging action and thoughtfulness wherever she goes.

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.

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. 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 Number Theory: Unveiling the Queen of Mathematics

Exploring Number Theory: Unveiling the Queen of Mathematics
Instructor: Larry Rolen, Ph.D.
Mathematics

According to Gauss, “Mathematics is the queen of the sciences, and number theory is the queen of mathematics.” Indeed, number theory is one of the oldest subjects of mathematics playing an important role in cryptography and web security. It is especially important now in theoretical physics, such as the study of string theory and black holes. In this class, you will study core topics of elementary number theory, which concerns questions, many old or even unsolved, about basic properties of prime numbers and integers and how they behave under basic arithmetic operations. As you shall see, the patterns of how whole numbers behave under addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division may sound very simple; however, complex and intricate phenomena quickly become apparent. You’ll have the opportunity to dive into one of the oldest areas in mathematics, examine unsolved questions, and learn more about how number theory impacts our daily lives.

Larry Rolen obtained his Ph.D. in mathematics in 2013 from Emory University in Atlanta. He works in number theory, the study of whole numbers under the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. While this sounds straightforward, many basic questions remain unsolved. For instance, no one has been able to show for 281 years whether every even number at least 4 is the sum of two prime numbers. Rolen works at the intersection of number theory with applications in physics, counting problems, and geometry. The area Rolen specializes in was inspired by the genius mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who was not formally educated in higher mathematics but made many remarkable discoveries that are hugely influential over 100 years later (Ramanujan was the subject of a recent Hollywood film starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons). One thing Ramanujan noticed (though he was not the first to notice this) was that the number e^{Pi*sqrt(163)} is very nearly a whole number, namely, it is 262537412640768743.99999999999925. This fact, though strange, is not a coincidence and is a very deep hint of a large amount of theoretical structure. Number theory also serves as the basis for modern cryptography and data security, which is of critical importance to the functioning of the internet and our daily lives. Currently, Rolen serves as an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University.

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.

Microbes are Everywhere: Exploring Immunology

Microbes are Everywhere: Exploring Immunology [Status: full, waiting list only]
Instructor: Elizabeth Wescott, Ph.D.
Immunology, Biology

The immune system is the most complex and intricate system we have in our bodies, involving many different players for proper function, including organs, tissues, cells, vessels, proteins, and other signaling chemicals. While most people may not often think about the immune system, it protects us from the world of microbes we interact with every day. However, not all microbes are bad; some are actually essential for optimal health. In this course, you will critically explore the human immune system and various microbes and pathogens – some helpful and some harmful – while engaging primary scientific research and the latest academic trends in the field of microbiology and immunology. Through participation in lab activities that involve surveying microbes in the environment, you will also learn how science research is done from the ground up: writing a hypothesis, designing an experiment, measuring results, and writing and presenting data. By the end of this course, you will walk away as immunology and public health advocates and change agents for your families and communities.

*Due to the advanced nature of this course, a previous course in biology is required.

]Elizabeth Wescott recently defended her Ph.D. in Molecular Pathology and Immunology at Vanderbilt. In the lab, she studied breast cancer and immunotherapy treatments under Dr. Justin Balko. Her research interests include the many cells of the immune system and how they communicate with each other. She is also passionate about communicating science research 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. Dr. Wescott loves teaching and mentoring and hopes to pursue a faculty position teaching biology and immunology courses. In her free time, she’ll be with her husband and her daughter playing or baking.

Med School 101

Med School 101 [Status: full, waiting list only]
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.

Neuroscience & Neurological Diseases

Neuroscience & Neurological Diseases [Status: full, waiting list only]
Instructor: Anne Taylor, Ph.D.
Neuroscience, Biology, Psychology

Have you ever wondered how the brain works and what happens when things go wrong? Why do you feel physically ill when we are stressed? Why does your mood improve after you eat or sleep? Are you interested in the intersection between medicine, biology, and psychology? If so, this course is for you! From participating in discussions about how the brain is organized to taking a hands-on approach through participating in a sheep brain dissection, you will explore the complex and exciting field of neuroscience. Your exploration will also include studying neuroscience from a cellular to systems level by surveying an array of methodologies used in neuroscience research and then touring a Vanderbilt neuroscience laboratory to learn how researchers use these methodologies in their day-to-day work. With this foundation, you will investigate the neural biology behind emotions and behavior including what happens when the brain is not functioning properly, manifesting in various psychiatric and neurological disorders including Parkinson’s disease, addiction, major depression, and more. At the end of this course, you will apply your new understanding of neuroscience to thoroughly investigate and present on an assigned disorder not discussed in class.

Anne Taylor is a post-doctoral fellow in the center for addiction research at Vanderbilt University where she studies alcohol use disorder. She received her B.S. in neuroscience from Binghamton University in NY in 2017 where she worked under Dr. Christopher Bishop investigating how we can repurpose already FDA approved compounds for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. In the summer of 2023, she received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Vanderbilt where she studied under Dr. Danny Winder. Her dissertation focused on understanding how alcohol changes neural circuits in the brain. In addition to her research, Anne spends 3 days a week teaching biology and neuroscience courses at Fisk University.