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Spring 2022 CNS Honors Seminars

The NSC 110H seminars below are restricted to Dean's Scholars, Health Science Scholars, and Polymathic Scholars.

Can a Machine Have a Mind?
Wellness 101: The Honors Edition

Communicating With the Public About Science
Ecologies of Environmental Justice
The Science of Mindfulness, the Art of Attention
Telling Your Story
Community Food Security
Making: An Intersection between STEM, Design, and the Arts
Humans as Ecosystems Engineers
Bench Science
Thesis Seminar – Physical Sciences
Thesis Seminar – Life Sciences
Underappreciated Science
Difficult Discussions in Healthcare

Can a Machine Have a Mind?
Mike Mauk
Unique: 46610
Thursday 4-5pm
PAI 5.42 (f2f)
We will use the single question – could a machine have a human-like mind? – as a launching point to discuss topics such as 1) philosophy of mind, 2) artificial intelligence, 3) newsy items such as Watson and the blue brain project, and 4) the use of computer simulations in neuroscience research (computational neuroscience).

Wellness 101: The Honors Edition
Justin Carter
Unique: 46615

Tuesday 2-3:30pm
Place: WCH 1.108 (hybrid)
The current generation experiences higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety than any prior generation. These issues are further exacerbated by the pressures of college-life and/or expectations of being high-achieving students. Stress is the number one reported impediment to academic performance (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30285563).

Mental health in healthcare has also become a topic of attention in recent years. There is still stigma surrounding mental health issues that creates serious barriers to help-seeking, access, and quality of care. The implications of such stigma have led to poorer patient outcomes, as well as inadequate mental health care and education, extending to even healthcare providers themselves. In this seminar, students begin to learn and practice strategies for cultivating and maintaining positive mental health in college and onwards, as well as ways to approach and help peers and colleagues struggling with related issues. Several guest speakers from various professional backgrounds—including staff from the Counseling and Mental Health Center and Longhorn Wellness Center—will help introduce students to mental health and wellness-related strategies and topics that can be carried and expanded upon through their education and career.

Communicating With the Public About Science
Ruth Buskirk
Unique: 46620

Monday 2-3pm
Place: WCH 1.108 (f2f)

When scientific research discoveries are communicated to the public, the details are necessarily simplified and presentations can be biased. We will take a look at how this can lead to widespread misunderstanding and miscommunication about science in popular media. For example, epigenetics is a growing research area in biology. As epigenetic mechanisms are elucidated, conversations about determinism of human traits and behaviors have emerged. We will discuss how new information is being treated in the media and the possible roles of scientists in conversations about related societal issues.

Ecologies of Environmental Justice
Donnie Sackey
Unique: 46625
Tuesday 4-5pm
Place: WCH 1.108 (hybrid)
Environmental justice is a framework for analyzing and addressing the inequalities in environmental conditions (benefits and burdens) among communities of varying race/ethnicity and economic class. At the same time, environmental justice presents a deep challenge to mainstream environmental and sustainability frameworks. This challenge forces us as community advocates and activist researchers to examine the social relations of production and power that contribute to negative environmental and human health outcomes and develop meaningful solutions. In this seminar, we will explore the relationship between environmental risk and social justice through two case studies drawn from Canada, The United States, and the India.

  • Advocacy After Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders by Kim Fortun ISBN- 0226257207
  • The River Is in Us: Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community by Elizabeth Hoover ISBN-1517903033

Both books are available for free in digital form from the university library.

The Science of Mindfulness, the Art of Attention
Rosa Schnyer
Unique: 46630
Tuesday 12-1pm
PAI 5.42
(hybrid)
Mindfulness--often described as the process of attending to whatever is arising in the present moment, in a particular way, on purpose and without judgement—has gained great popularity in the past decade and has been increasingly integrated into contemporary society from education to private industry, to health care.  Mindfulness involves self-regulation of attention and orientation of experience, which enables the cultivation of a different relationship with ourselves and the challenges we face.  In this seminar, while developing a mindfulness practice, we will explore the neural and behavioral effects of mindfulness, the cultural, historical and philosophical foundations, and its modern application.

Telling Your Story
Sara Corson
Unique: 46635
Wednesday 9-10am
PAI 5.42 (f2f)
“Tell me about yourself.” A simultaneously terrifying and invigorating prompt in both written and verbal formats. As you move through the world, you’ll be asked to highlight your accomplishments. Honors students are highly accomplished but often lack the confidence to articulate their success. This seminar will touch on imposter syndrome, emotional intelligence, career and professional development, and more. Together, we will discover how to Tell Your Story.

Community Food Security
Diane Papillon
Unique: 46640

Wednesday 11am-12pm
PAI 5.42 (f2f)
The act of nourishing our bodies with food is the one thing most of us all have in common with each other. However, some have access to more food resources than others. In this seminar, we will discuss community food security from a national, state, local and institutional lens and explore innovative systematic and environmental solutions which can contribute to improved health outcomes for all communities. Students will be encouraged to develop their own voice as advocates, leaders and change makers in the field of hunger and community food security.

Making: An Intersection between STEM, Design, and the Arts
Shelly Rodriguez
Unique: 46645

Wednesday 11am-12pm
PAI 4.08 (f2f)

In today’s world many areas of knowledge with contrasting toolsets must converge to create new products and solve complex societal problems. STEM, design, and the arts offer complementary but unique toolboxes to observe, explain, and engage with the world. However, none of these areas alone will be able to solve the problems of the future. Enter making.
  

Making is an iterative process of tinkering, problem solving, and invention that draws on a DIY mindset. Making is collaborative and allows for self-expression through the creation of personally meaningful artifacts that are shared with the larger community. Making eases disciplinary borders and can unleash opportunities for learners to develop a more complete set of tools with which to engage with the world and positively contribute to the human endeavor. See this video for more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUoZwuSDikY

In this seminar, students will learn more about making and maker-centered learning. They will hear from community speakers, access maker resources, and discuss how a balanced combination of STEM, design, and the arts can help to develop both analytical and expressive strengths. This seminar is accompanied by optional activities where student can engage with making here at UT and in the community.

Humans as Ecosystems Engineers
Laura Gonzalez
Unique: 46650

Wednesday 12-1pm
PAI 5.42 (f2f)
An ecosystem engineer is a species that is able to create, modify or maintain habitat. There are many such examples in nature: ants building mounds where certain insects can live, beavers changing water flow in streams providing new opportunities for other species, or trees changing the temperature of the soil below them. Millions of years ago, early cyanobacteria changed the planet atmosphere allowing for early diversification of eukaryotes. Currently, humans are the dominant species of ecosystem engineers. Are we capable of doing what cyanobacteria did in the past? In this seminar, we will explore varied humans impacts like how we create opportunities for some species in urban environments, facilitate the emergence of novel diseases and change our planet atmosphere.

Bench Science
Brian Roberts
Unique: 46655
Wednesday 3– 4pm
PAI 5.42 (f2f)
Courts have long struggled with resolving cases with competing scientific – natural and social – claims. While there have been efforts to eliminate the use of “fake science” from the courtroom, the issue has not gone away. Because courts play such an important role – often having the last say – in resolving contested public policies it is more important than ever to understand this critical intersection of science and policy. In this seminar we look at some celebrated cases that have challenged the courts’ ability to handle science-based claims, consider the difference in evidentiary standards in law and science, and think about ways to encourage and improve the use of science in the law.

Thesis Sequence – Physical Sciences
Josh Roebke
Unique: 46660
Monday 3-4pm
Place: WCH 1.108 (hybrid)

In this course, you will be writing your Honors thesis in one of the physical sciences. You will turn in different sections of your thesis throughout the semester to receive comments and edits from me and your peers. Basically, you are in this class to hone your thesis and I am here to help you.

Thesis Sequence – Life Sciences
Josh Roebke
Unique: 46665
Monday 4-5pm
Place: WEL 2.310 (hybrid)

In this course, you will be writing your Honors thesis in one of the life sciences. You will turn in different sections of your thesis throughout the semester to receive comments and edits from me and your peers. Basically, you are in this class to hone your thesis and I am here to help you.

Underappreciated Science
William Press
Unique: TBD
Monday 4-5pm
Place: TBD (hybrid)
Recently, two-hundred famous scientists were asked, “What scientific concept ought to be more widely known?” Their wide-ranging and sometimes unexpected answers are the basis for this discussion seminar.  Each week, we’ll pick three or four of these scientific concepts, ranging across all fields.  In class, small groups will, in real-time, devise quick oral presentations (“elevator speeches”), each group summarizing one concept. These will be delivered to the full class, where group discussion will ensue.  Instant web research during the discussion, and sharing of findings, will be encouraged. Every student will be expected to contribute orally in every class.  All opinions and perspectives will be welcome.  Come prepared to learn, talk, and contribute.

NSC 323: Difficult Discussions in Healthcare
David Ring
Unique: TBD
Monday 3– 6pm 
Place: MBB 1.210 (f2f)
Note that this is a 3-hour, graded class.
Training for healthcare professionals has long emphasized technical knowledge and assumed that communicating expertise would come naturally. It is increasingly clear that nontechnical skills (e.g. effective communication strategies, emotional intelligence, cultural humility, etc.) are also important to help people get and stay healthy. In this seminar, students interested in the health professions can begin to learn and practice helpful communication strategies. Guest speakers from various clinical and professional backgrounds will help introduce pre-health professionals to aspects of effective communication using group dialogues and practical exercises.