Spring Term 2014 Courses
Life is full of hidden beauty. From the basic structures of biological compounds, to the movement of compounds within a cell, to the combined activities of tissues that contribute to the function of an organ, to the structures of complete organisms, the phenomena of life are both intellectually and aesthetically stimulating. This course will explore the complexities of life and use them as inspiration for creating art. We will learn the science in the classroom and laboratory and then move to the studio where students will utilize their comprehension of biological phenomena to create design and art projects. The characteristics of design that are apparent when observing biological forms (such as bundling, branching, repetition, variation, etc.) will be used as a starting vocabulary to develop works of art. Our goal is to use the relationship between art and science to foster a greater sensitivity to the aesthetics of natural forms, and to leave the classroom looking at our integrated and fragile relationship to the natural environment with new eyes. The course will culminate in an exhibition at the end of the semester.
Many factors determine whether or not you get a job, succeed or fail in a project, and loose or make money on an investment. Your problem solving ability is one of them, but understanding the principles behind the situation you face (in practice or in theory) is one of the most fundamental. To survive in the world, people need to apply countless mathematical principles, consciously or unconsciously. In this course you will understand some of the mathematical principles that you already use, and will learn some other new ones. Topics will include minimizing time required to complete certain tasks; scheduling and critical path analysis; fair division; voting theory; coding theory; mathematics of investment and credit; art, beauty and math; and other topics at our discretion.
Health involves all aspects of our lives. Many people claim that the mind, body, spirit, and environment are all aspects that interact to influence a person's sense of well-being. High-quality health care must support the whole person. There are many terms used to describe approaches that are not considered conventional Western medicine. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. While some scientific evidence exists regarding some CAM therapies, for many there are important unanswered questions; some of these will be validated through well-designed scientific studies, while others risk exposure as simply fraudulent practices. Working individually and in small groups we will identify questions to pursue by reading and critiquing the primary scientific literature. The acceptance of these therapies is influenced by politics, history, personalities, and even their effectiveness. We will carefully evaluate some of these alternative therapies by examining the successes and failures.
Students will develop an understanding of different mathematical concepts to gain insights on potentials for collapse in civilizations and empires, species and ecosystems, products and fads, companies, structures, markets, governments and social order, diseases, and networks.
This is a continuation of Chemistry I: the principles and concepts examined during the previous term will be expanded and applied to more sophisticated systems. Topics will include chemical thermodynamics, nuclear chemistry, chemical equilibrium, acid-base equilibria and their applications, complex ion equilibria, and solubility, oxidation-reduction reactions, electrochemistry, and reaction rates. We will also emphasize application of those chemical principles to environmental, biological, industrial and day-to-day real-life situations. Problem sets will be assigned throughout the semester. The laboratory will consist of two project-based labs and some laboratory exercises. Basic laboratory skills, chemical instrumentation techniques, and the use of computers in the chemistry laboratory will be emphasized. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Chemistry I and its laboratory or instructor permission.
*Writing and Research
This course focuses on the theory and practice of agroecology as an approach to addressing both social and ecological health and well-being in farming systems. Students will become familiar with the ecological conditions that support or undermine the health of agro-ecosystems and the effects of different agricultural methods on the maintenance of biodiversity in farm fields and the surrounding landscape. We will also consider the social conditions that support or undermine the well-being of both human and natural systems, and social movements that attempt to promote alternative approaches. An important dimension of the course is collaborative research and practice in applied agroecology via individual and team projects. Students will have the opportunity to consider a range of methods and trends such as organic agriculture, permaculture, eco-agriculture and others within the broader framework of agroecology. The course will culminate with team presentations of model agro-ecological systems. There will be some experiments that will be carried out in the greenhouse and/or on the farm, and several field trips to local farms.
Overview and Course Objectives
The anthropology of food and nutrition is a relatively new field of study, some thirty years old, which examines cultural and biological processes through the lenses of food and its constituent nutrients. Key questions concern how resources become culturally defined and made into foods and how food and nutrition come to have biology, ecological, evolutionary, and sociopolitical consequences. In other words, food and nutrition, key resources and powerful symbolic actors, are the nexus for thinking about interrelationships among ecological, evolutionary, human biological and sociopolitical processes. What are the forces that determine what is edible, food availability, consumption patterns and the consequences of consumption? The first objective of this course is to provide an introduction to this exciting and highly interdisciplinary area of study.
The main questions that we address concern eating patterns and behaviors: Why do we eat what we eat? Clearly, we eat foods for sociocultural reasons and we need to eat foods for biological reasons. Food is derived from the environment, and woven into our social structures and belief systems. Food also contains nutrients (and other biochemically active substances) which fuel cells and allows us to function -- grow, work, resist disease, think and live.
Food is both good to eat and good to think (Claude Levi-Strauss).
How do the social and the biological interact, for better or worse, and help to explain food behaviors? How did our digestive system evolve and why might fast foods and high fructose corn syrup exacerbate an epidemic of obesity and diabetes? How do we think about such diverse foods and eating behaviors such as cannibalism and Coca-Cola consumption, locally produced bread and kitchen gardens, eco-kosher and the Slow Foods Movement, the Atkins diet and genetically modified foods (GM foods)? Questions and problems about eating patterns and biosocial interactions are the central foci of the growing field of nutritional anthropology, and this course.
We know a great deal about protein-energy malnutrition,
almost everything in fact, except what causes it, how to prevent it,
and what it costs society not to do so. (Doris Calloway)
As we sit in class, much of the world's population continues to suffer from the "silent epidemic" of under-nutrition. About ten million children die each year from complications of undernutrition, about 100 children will die while you read this page, and as many as 70% of the world's population chronically suffers from some degree of undernutrition. This problem is ecologically and biologically rooted, and is equally linked to politics and economics. Anthropology is one way to connect the political-economic with local issues of ecology, and to see how change is generated and affects individuals and communities. A second objective of this course is to provide a sense of the silent epidemic of persistent hunger and malnutrition, and as Calloway notes in the quote above, what causes it, what are its consequences, and how to prevent it. How does malnutrition differ in Holyoke, Mass. from Highland Mexico? What are the health consequences of the globalization of diets? How is it that enduring undernutrition persists along with a growing pandemic of overnutrition and obesity in such an interconnected world? What can international nutrition contribute? What can an anthropological perspective contribute?
Course Structure and Requirements:
Students are required to be active members of this course. Showing up for class is not sufficient: those who are not contributing actively will be dropped from the course. Classes will be a mix of mini-lectures, labs for learning basic methods, discussions and debates.
Grades and evaluations will be based on class participation, as well as:Completion of assigned readings and participation in class discussions (20%) Write-up of 2 lab exercises: 1) on personal dietary consumption and 2) anthropometric nutritional assessment (10% each). Two Papers: (1) A historical or ethnographic study of a food or food system (20%) and (2) An analysis of a nutritional problem or controversy (rough draft and final paper; 40%).
Late Papers will not be accepted.
Failure to hand papers in on time is grounds for dropping students.
Paper 1 – What Food Tells Us? Focus on a crop, food or dish of your choice. Research and write about how the food item came to be (where, when, how), its nutritional value, history (social, economic, political), role in globalization, and symbolism and/or meaning. Alternatively you might study a local food producer, vendor or other group involved in the production and distribution of food. The topic selected must be cleared with the instructor. Paper length =~5-8 pages. Due 3/13.
Paper 2 –Nutrition Problems and Solutions. The two largest nutrition problems today sitting side by side are, paradoxically, undernutrition and overnutrition. In this paper, focus and write about a nutritional problem. To write an effective paper, you will need to be very specific and focused. Don’t write about global obesity. Rather, take on a topic like the etiology of vitamin A deficiency in Highland Guatemala. Be sure to consider both sociopolitical and biological aspects. As above, the topic selected must be cleared with the instructor. A draft (with complete bibliography) is Due 4/1 and the final paper, ~ 7-10 pages, Due 4/29.Readings:
The majority of the readings for this course come from Nutritional Anthropology: Biocultural Perspectives on Food and Nutrition (DL Dufour, AH Goodman, GH Pelto; 2012; Oxford U. Press). These and other short pieces are available on the course website as PDF files. The book can also be purchased through a variety of booksellers. In addition, we will read Growing Up in a Developing Community(A Chavez and C Martinez, 1979, INN: Mexico). Growing Up is on the course website as a PDF.
2009 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species." The concept of biological evolution pre-dates Darwin. However, when Darwin presented a provocative mechanism by which evolution works (i.e., natural selection), he catapulted an idea to the forefront of biology that has precipitated 150 years of research into the nature and origin of organic diversity. This course will serve as an introduction to the science of evolutionary biology. Additionally, we will take a historical look at the development of evolution as a concept and how it has led to the Modern Synthesis in biology and modern research in Evolutionary Biology. We will also investigate how Darwin's "dangerous idea" has infiltrated different areas of biology and beyond.
This course will explore the fundamental aspects of cell biology and the experiments that taught us what we know today. Students will design and perform an independent research project using tissue-culturing techniques and write a literature review.
NS 248 is an introduction to the principles and practice of epidemiology and the use of data in program planning and policy development. The course covers the major concepts usually found in a graduate-level introductory course in epidemiology: outbreak investigations, study design, measures of effect, internal and external validity, reliability, and causal inference. Assigned readings are drawn from a standard textbook and the primary literature. In addition, students read case studies and work step-by-step through major epidemiologic investigations of the past century; they also form small groups to design and conduct a small epidemiologic study on campus. The major assignments are four case studies, regular response papers/worksheets on the readings, a critique of a primary paper, a poster presentation of the on-campus study, and a formal proposal for an epidemiologic study of their own design.
Disease has influenced our civilization, and our civilization has influenced disease. How have the food industry, the media, politics, and technology affected our health? How have different races, genders, sexual orientations, and geographic locations been affected by modern disease? In this course, we will examine the relationship between disease and culture and how life as we know it has been affected. Students will read case studies and have debates about selected topics, and are invited to bring in news articles and primary literature to discuss. Students will write two major papers, a book review, and give at least two presentations.
This course extends the concepts, techniques and applications of an introductory calculus course. We'll detect periodicity in noisy data, and study functions of several variables, integration, differential equations, and the approximation of functions by polynomials. We'll continue the analysis of dynamical systems taking models from student selected primary literature on ecology, economics, epidemiology, and physics. We will finish with an introduction to the theory and applications of Fourier series and harmonic analysis. Computers and numerical methods will be used throughout. In addition to regular substantial problem sets, each student will apply the concepts to recently published models of their choosing. Pre-requisite: Calculus in Context (NS 260) or another Calc I course.
Molecular ecology utilizes the spatial and temporal distribution of molecular genetic markers to ask questions about the ecology, evolution, behavior, and conservation of organisms. This science may utilize genetic variation to understand individuals, populations, and species as a whole ("How does habitat fragmentation affect connectedness among populations?"; "From where do particular groups originate?"). Similarly, genetic patterns may reveal information about interactions of organisms ("How much interbreeding occurs among populations?"; "How monogamous or promiscuous are individuals?"). Molecular ecologists also utilize specific genes to investigate how organisms respond and adapt to their environments ("How do genetically modified organisms escape into natural environments?"). We will read background and primary literature in this field to understand how molecular ecology can answer basic and applied questions about organisms. Students will research specific applications of this discipline and present their findings in written and oral format.
The focus of this research course is on understanding nutrition, pollution and related problems via the chemical analysis of calcified tissues: dentine and especially enamel. Tooth enamel calcifies during the prenatal period and the first decade of life and is them essentially inert. Thus, enamel's chemical composition may reflect conditions during early development. Because enamel and dentine grow somewhat like trees (they also have growth rings!), one may use them as a mirror facing back in time. We are at the right moment to pursue this research because of recent developments in chemical instrumentation. We will look at other biological tissues that can provide evidence about pollution and nutritional information. In this research course we will intensively use our inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) and laser ablation (LA)-ICP-MS. The first part of this course will consist of an introduction to analytical techniques, elemental imaging techniques, the development and chemistry of hard tissues, and problems of metal pollution and elemental nutrition in the past and present. Some of the specific research questions we expect to address include how well enamel chemistry reflects diets and pollution exposure at the time of development. Prerequisite: Chemistry I & II, Nutritional Anthropology, Skeletal Biology or instructor permission required.
The goals of this Mellon Language Learning course are twofold. The first is to introduce students to key issues in global women's health with a focus on Central America. Topics will span the lifecycle and will be drawn from the fields of infectious disease, reproductive health, nutrition, chronic disease and health policy. Most readings will come from the medical and epidemiologic literature though attention will also be given to the political, economic and social factors that weigh heavily on health. The second goal is to advance students' knowledge of Spanish by integrating Spanish materials into the syllabus. A central text will be the health care manual, "Where There is No Doctor For Women," which is available in both Spanish and English. The course in not intended to be a language course per se, but one that reinforces existing skills and inspires students to pursue further study and practice. Prerequisite: at least two semesters of prior Spanish instruction.