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WAVU 2022 Experiences

Course Listings

Select one of the age groups below to view experiences:

**Note: For all WAVU experiences, 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.

Click on the link below for experience listings for each grade level.

7th/8th Grade 8th/9th Grade 10th-12th Grade

7th/8th Grade

Choose an experience title below to view the description and instructor information. Experiences are subject to change.

Computational Methods for Genomic Data Analysis and Discovery

Computational Methods for Genomic Data Analysis and Discovery
Instructor: Dora Obodo, Doctoral Candidate

Genes control everyday functions from how our hair grows to how we respond to stimuli from our environment. Yet, we have only started to understand how our genome (the collection of all genes for an organism) regulates complex functions such as metabolism and contributes to diseases such as cancer. To do this, we often employ technologies that help us to identify genes and their expression by sequencing DNA, RNA, and proteins. We process and interpret this data using concepts from computer programming, data science, and statistics. In this experience, you will learn 1) foundational concepts in molecular biology, 2) computer programming for biology, 3) algorithms for genomic data processing, and 4) interpretation of genome-scale data.

Dora Obodo is a PhD candidate in the Chemical and Physical Biology Program at Vanderbilt University. Here she is exploring circadian systems biology, a field which has broad impacts on metabolic-related diseases such as diabetes. She is developing novel biostatistical tools to understand circadian rhythms in the genome and to identify targets for circadian medicine. Her personal interests include reading, writing, and experiencing different cultures.

Mysteries of Movement: From the Brain’s Perspective

Mysteries of Movement: From the Brain’s Perspective
Instructor: Candace Grisham, Doctoral Candidate

What does brushing your teeth, scoring the game winning goal, and cleaning your room have in common? All of these activities require specific and fine-tuned input from your brain. The brain has long been deemed one of the most intriguing and mysterious organs of the body. In this course, we will be diving into one of the most important elements of humanity – movement. Specifically, we will look at the ways the brain can signal movement and what can occur when these signals malfunction. If you are interested in the brain and understanding a key part of your interactions with the world, this is the experience for you.

Candace Janine Grisham is a fourth year MD/PhD student focusing on head and neck cancer research in the biomedical engineering department at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She completed her master’s in medical science from Boston University School of Medicine and her Bachelor of Engineering from Vanderbilt University. During her time as an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University, Candace was the Vanderbilt cheerleading captain, Vice President of the Eta Beta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and an active member of the National Society of Black Engineers. Currently, as a student at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, she is involved nationally with the student national medical association as a head liaison for the neurosurgery interest group. She is also a committee member of the Vanderbilt MSTP Anti Racism Diversity and Inclusion Council. Upon completion of her MD/PhD program, she intends to specialize in Neurosurgery. Candace has published several studies pertaining to neurology and neurosurgery.

8th/9th Grade

Choose an experience title below to view the description and instructor information. Experiences are subject to change.

Discrete Problem Solving

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

Do you love to solve problems? Do you live for the “Eureka” moment when you find the answer? This class will provide you with the tools and skills to make reaching a solution easier. In this introduction to higher level mathematics, we will focus on discrete structures with applications to problem solving. Proof-based mathematics will help you better outline the steps to reaching a solution, organize your logic, and reduce complicated problems using a variety of tools and finite visual representations to simplify questions to find their answer. This experience will not only provide you with mathematical knowledge, but also with critical problem-solving skills that will benefit you in any discipline.

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

Nanoscience and Engineering

Nanoscience and Engineering
Instructors: Alyssa Nelson, Doctoral Candidate and Jeremy Espano, Doctoral Candidate

Get ready to enter the exciting world of nanoengineering. In this class, you will get an introduction to nanoscience and potential applications while stretching your creative problem-solving skills to their limits. The nanoscience and engineering fields are booming, and we are looking forward to introducing you to these fields through hands-on activities. This day will include a look inside the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE) cleanroom with state-of-the-art equipment, activities to learn about a variety of nanoscience applications, and a hands-on solar cell experiment in an undergraduate lab space. 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.

*Students must be at least 12 years old by December 3 to participate in this lab-based class.
** All students participating in this class must wear pants and closed toe shoes because of lab experiences.

Alyssa Nelson is a 5th year PhD candidate in Chemical Engineering originally from St. Louis, Missouri. Her PhD research is focused on using theoretical approaches to describe the phase behavior and thermodynamic properties of fluids. During her time at Vanderbilt, she has offered multiple mentoring and teaching activities to all ages of students and enjoys teaching students about science and engineering. She is looking forward to sharing her experiences with the students through Programs for Talented Youth and facilitating hands-on activities and labs to provide students with a peek into what a future career in science would look like.

Jeremy Espano is a 4th year PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary Materials Science Program working under the direction of Janet Macdonald. He originally hails from Ocilla, Georgia, and his PhD research is focused on understanding how to manipulate and synthesize different crystalline allotropes in metal chalcogenide nanocrystal systems. During his time at Vanderbilt, he has mentored and led many activities with students of all ages. He looks forward to sharing his experiences in the nanoscience and engineering world.

10th-12th Grade

Choose an experience title below to view the description and instructor information. Experiences are subject to change.

Electrical Engineering, Sensors, and Data Analysis

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

Sensors are embedded in so many systems 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 unique sensors inside! Sensors are also used to collect large amounts of data about the world for research purposes. 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) assemble real sensor prototypes, 3) program microcontrollers to record data, and 4) perform analyses on that data to draw conclusions about a research question. You will get hands-on experience with electrical engineering, data analysis techniques, and programming.

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

The Aging Brain: An Overview of the Neurological Basis of Alzheimer’s Disease

The Aging Brain: An Overview of the Neurological Basis of Alzheimer’s Disease
Instructor: Katrina Volk, Doctoral Candidate

Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by severe memory loss and behavioral impairments, occurring primarily in individuals over 65 years old. As the leading cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease is characterized by a variety of cellular and molecular changes in the brain which coincide with the onset of changes in thinking ability. In this class, you will be introduced to the foundational concepts in neuroscience as we dive into uncovering the brain changes which occur during the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. Specifically, you will participate in a variety of exercises to develop an understanding of the basic concepts of brain structure and function, as well as of the cells involved in disease-related dysfunction. Through our understanding of the neurological basis of this disease, we will also explore ways in which we can protect the health of our brains and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. By the end of this experience, you will gain an appreciation for the fascinating field of neuroscience through the unique vantage point of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Katie is currently a 5th year PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt University, where she explores the role of microglial cells (the innate immune cell of the brain) in the context of Alzheimer’s Disease. Originally from Southern California, Katie received a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience, with a minor in Art History, from Washington and Lee University in Virginia. Through her coursework and research internships at several different institutions, she discovered a love for the iterative nature involved in asking and answering questions in biomedical, and specifically, neuroscientific, research. Drawing on her liberal arts education, she holds a deep appreciation for integrative learning experiences and thus seeks to foster thoughtful inquiry and critical-thinking skills which transfer to a multitude of life applications. In her various mentorship and teaching experiences at Vanderbilt, she has found joy in encouraging individuals to discover and develop their specific interests and unique skills to apply to whatever field they decide to pursue. Outside of science, Katie enjoys being active and outdoors, finding running routes around Nashville, and exploring new coffee shops and restaurants with friends.

Bench to Bedside: An Introduction to Research and Medicine

Bench to Bedside: An Introduction to Research and Medicine
Instructor: Thao Le, Doctoral Candidate

Fascinated by the human body? Wonder what it’s like to be a medical doctor? Or intrigued by the research of biomedical scientists? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this class is for you! Through interactive discussions and case studies, you will be introduced to the complexity of the human body (particularly the brain!), the ethics of medicine, and the fundamentals of biomedical research. Led by a Vanderbilt MD-PhD student, this fast-paced experience is designed to immerse you in the day-to-day life of a physician-scientist in training and introduce you to the many career pathways in the biomedical sciences.

Thao Le is a 7th-year MD-PhD student in the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Born and raised in Tra Vinh, Viet Nam, she left her home when she was 16 to study abroad in the U.S. Thao received her undergraduate education in anthropology and interdisciplinary science at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. She then moved to Nashville to join the Vanderbilt Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in 2015 and the Vanderbilt MSTP in 2016. Thao has since completed the first half of her MD training and is pursuing her PhD degree under the mentorship of Dr. Julio Ayala in the department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. Her PhD research examines how a gut hormone called Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 (GLP-1) acts on the brain to modulate feeding and body weight. Her clinical interest is in psychiatry. Outside of medicine and research, Thao has a long-standing interest in mentoring and education. In addition to assisting and teaching several courses in college, she has led outreach efforts and served as a mentor for students from various academic and socioeconomic backgrounds throughout her time at Vanderbilt. In her free time, Thao enjoys learning jiujitsu, practicing/teaching yoga, and hiking.

So You Want to be a Lawyer?

So You Want to Be a Lawyer?
Instructor: Kaleigh Ruiz, J.D.

Many students aspire to a career in law whether that be in the public sector (helping criminal defendants exercise their rights to remain innocent until proven guilty), private sector (litigating or completing deals for big corporations at a high-profile firm), the government (researching and preparing legislation), or elsewhere. Despite this, there are few opportunities to expose students to law in high school or even college. During this course, you will be introduced to the vast possibility of occupations held by attorneys and the experience that is law school. By the end of the day, you will gain an understanding of the daily life of lawyers and law students including a brief introduction to a core legal course–Torts–and will have the opportunity to perform an oral argument for a tort client. If you’re considering whether a career as an attorney could be a good fit, this is the class for you!

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