Winter 2009

01 Life

02 Organic Agriculture and You

03 Emerging Diseases

04 Making Change in the World

05 Biodiversity in Crisis

06 Games, Decisions and Economic Behaviour

08 Making a Difference - Local Change with Global Impact

09 Fetal-Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Narratives

10 Citizens Today, Leaders Tomorrow

11 Equine Sciences: What's New and Exciting?

12 Immunity and Health

13 Antibodies: From Medical Therapies to Environmental Protection

14 Morality Without a Magic Wand

15 We Are What We Eat

16 Hawks and Humans

17 Making Poverty History

18 Communicating Science

19 Sex, Gender and Sexuality

20 Politics, Science and Environment

21 Beyond Literacy: Are Reading and Writing Doomed?

22 Food as Medicine

23 Controversial Issues in the Life Sciences

24 Digital Nation - Citizenship in the Digital Age

 

01 Life

Dr. Peter K. Pauls

The course will explore various aspects of our current understandings of life. It will address the following questions:

  • What is life (from scientific, aesthetic and moral perspectives)?
  • How did life arise on earth?
  • How is life classified on earth?
  • How is life sustained on earth?
  • What are the limits on life?
  • What are the societal implications of increased human life spans?
  • What scientific advances have been made in engineering life forms?
  • What are the ethical, societal implications of efforts to engineer life forms?
  • What scientific advances have been made in efforts to create life?
  • What are the ethical, societal implications of efforts to create life?
  • What are the chances of finding life on other planets and solar systems?

02 Organic Agriculture and You

Dr. E. Ann Clark

Organics is probably the fastest growing sector in the agriculture and food system today. From a tradition of farmgate and natural food store offerings, organics has now expanded into the mainstream food system. What does the word ‘organic’ really mean? Why does organic food cost more? Is organic food healthier? How is organic food produced? How are animal health and welfare promoted on organic farms? How can you be sure that products really are ‘organic’? Is organic farming going to become the standard of practice in an energy-limited future? Would large scale adoption of organic practice retard - or accelerate - the ongoing decline in rural community integrity? This course will address these and other questions raised by the explosion of organics onto the agricultural landscape and into your neighborhood supermarket.
 

03 Emerging Diseases

Dr. Gordon Hayward

Emerging diseases such as SARS, AIDS, Avian Influenza and Prion Diseases present novel challenges to our health care and other civil structures.  Although the medical aspects of these diseases are important, this seminar course will focus on non-medical topics such as disease origins, species barriers, spread, containment, prevention and preparedness.  As part of the course, students will present analyses of press reports in terms of the underlying science and politics, surveys of the current status of the diseases and analyses of current case handling protocols.  The work will be carried out by small groups of students and presented as several seminars to the class as a whole.
 

04 Making Change in the World

Brenda Whiteside

Our society faces serious challenges for which there are no simple answers:  more than 2 billion people live in poverty; global warming could completely change economic landscapes; war and terrorism; abuses of human rights; shifts in economic and political powers. Individuals feel they are powerless to address such large systemic issues.  The aim of this seminar course is to provide students with the opportunity to identify two issues that they wish to research and discuss (one specific to Canada, one international).  Students will be asked to work collaboratively to explore the underlying causes of the matter (political, economic, environmental, social) which will help guide their discussion of creative solutions.  This course is expected to raise many questions about the way we address systemic world issues at the national and international level.  Students will be encouraged to examine the possibilities, as well as limitations of their options. During the semester students will complete a group study project on each of the two topics. The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significantly enhance their research and problem solving skills. Discussions will help students to develop and express ideas in public. Students from all academic disciplines are encouraged to register for this course.
 

05 Biodiversity in Crisis

Prof. Robert H. Hanner

We are in the midst of the Earth's sixth major extinction event. Although most people express an innate appreciation for biodiversity, the concepts embodied by this term straddle a knowledge gap between scientists and members of the public. By probing the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss, this course develops an urgent rationale for increasing scientific knowledge of biodiversity while simultaneously closing the existing knowledge gap. Coordinated developments in modern biodiversity research and information technology now offer unprecedented possibilities in this respect. The goal of the course is to foster creative student engagement in mitigating the biodiversity crisis we now face.

06 Games, Decisions and Economic Behaviour

Dr. C. Bram Cadsby

How do people make decisions when faced with economic choices? How do those choices interact to produce consequences for small groups or sometimes the entire world? Economists and other social scientists have constructed theories of choice and strategic behavior, often by making simple assumptions about rationality and self-interest. Do people really behave the way such theories predict? An exciting new approach to answering such questions is through behavioral experiments. An economist, Vernon Smith, and a psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, won the 2002 Nobel Prize for pioneering work on these problems. This course uses simple classroom experimental games to search for answers.

The course will involve playing decision-making games in the classroom.  Class sessions will involve analyzing the results of the games and comparing them to similar sessions that have been conducted elsewhere.
 

08 Making a Difference - Local Change with Global Impact

Dr. Karen Farbridge

Environmental, climate change and sustainability issues are at the top of the list of concerns for Canadians, especially young people. Young people across Canada and around the world have serious reservations about the state of the planet they are inheriting.  They have a high stake in ensuring a healthier future for the planet.  Fifty percent of the world’s population is under the age of 30.

So, how can you make a difference?  How can you effectively promote change in your local community and make an impact globally?  Making a Difference: Local Change with Global Impact will help to answer these questions. You will learn how decisions are made at the local level, who the decision makers are and how to engage them.  You will also learn how best to promote your own ideas and, better yet, explore how can you get your ideas implemented.  There is no better place to make a difference than in your own community.

As part of this course, you will attend a Guelph City Council meeting and one its Standing Committees to see for yourself how decisions are made. You will be provided with a unique opportunity to engage local decision makers.  Facilitated by the Mayor of Guelph, the course will give you a special insider’s perspective on how to make a difference.
 

09 Fetal-Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Narratives

Dr. Helen Hoy

Because of exposure to alcohol in utero, at least one in every one hundred Canadians suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD, many undiagnosed. FASD is one of the rare disorders that is completely preventable. Along with physical damage, the exposure can produce significant cognitive, neurological, and behavioural difficulties for individuals and, by extension, challenges for the larger society. This course will examine the medical, social, and personal implications of this disorder. Beginning with Diane Malbin’s introduction to the disorder and Bonnie Buxton’s personal and social account, we will explore the issues raised by this phenomenon, from mothers’ rights to prevention to classroom strategies to First Nations issues.  We will also examine the classic Canadian novel Anne of Green Gables as a possible example of FASD. The course may include opportunities to connect with community members experienced in this area and to engage in public education around the disorder.
 

10 Citizens Today, Leaders Tomorrow

Ms. Laurie M. Schnarr

Nelson Mandela, Nellie McClung, Stephen Lewis, Craig Kielburger, Mother Teresa and Louis Riel.... Our history is replete with examples of exceptional people whose courage and tenacity resulted in transformative and enduring social change. But are such acts of leadership the purview of only the most high profile, outspoken or gifted among us? This seminar will explore various manifestations of leadership and civic engagement from volunteerism through to voting, and grassroots movements to alternative politics and the factors that prevent or promote active participation in civic life. This is a course in action. We will explore citizenship and leadership themes by investigating local, national and global issues of social significance. An integrated service experience, class discussions, regular analysis of mass media coverage, a diverse range of guest speakers, and social observation will ground our investigation of this complex topic.
 

11 Equine Sciences: What's New and Exciting?

Dr. Michael I. Lindinger

There are many new research and clinical developments in the equine sciences. Some of these are of benefit to the equine athlete, some to the horse that is lame and some to those with a variety of diseases. Many of these developments bridge across scientific disciplines. Increasingly, molecular and cellular physiology tools are being used to help us understand normal and pathophysiological problems. A brief listing includes rider-horse biomechanics, exercise physiology, osteoarthritis, equine encephalitis, artificial insemination and nutrition. The purpose of this course module is to introduce you to some of these topics, and allow you to share your interest in one of these to the rest of the group.
 

12 Immunity and Health

Dr. Azad Kaushik

The first year seminars focus on general and interdisciplinary aspects of immune system and health in the context of life and contemporary knowledge. The students are expected to engage in inter-disciplinary self-learning on select topics relevant to immune system and health using text books, journal articles and popular science pertinent to a topic. Such topics include allergy, autoimmunity, vaccination, stress and immunity and, also, any current topic relevant to immune system and health.
 

13 Antibodies: From Medical Therapies to Environmental Protection

Dr. Chris Hall

Antibodies, due to their exquisite specificity and binding capacity for a diverse array of targets, combined with their ability to recruit molecules that effect immunological function, have widespread applications outside the immune systems of vertebrates. These applications include medical diagnostics, therapeutics, food safety, plant biotechnology, and detection/quantification of environmental contaminants. Recombinant antibodies, assembled using DNA technology, can further expand these applications due to the ease of gene isolation and manipulation for improving binding specificity and creating novel gene fusions to build new molecules. In this course, ethical concerns associated with use of these new molecules, as well as the use of animals for the production of antibodies will be discussed. Furthermore, the manipulation of plants for production of antibodies and other pharmaceutical molecules, through the process of molecular farming will be examined.  This course will be a journey from the historical development and use of vaccines as therapeutic agents to potential modern industrial applications and use of custom antibodies as cancer therapies.
 

14 Morality Without a Magic Wand

Dr. Jean Harvey

It’s easy to think that living a morally reflective life is just for “saints” and that we have to be extraordinary people in order to take such a goal seriously.  One of the main goals of the course is to explore what moral commitment 'looks like' in real life, since there is a great deal of over-simplification in everyday thinking about this.  Moral heroes are not morally perfect!  Moral failures are not the end of the road (unless they are allowed to be).  And so on.  Hopefully this course will give us all a realistic vision of “the moral life” that is approachable and inviting.  There will probably be two written assignments.  The main, longer project involves thinking about a famous person who has made a deep moral impression on the you.  Then you will search out information on the life of the person, focussing particularly on the moral aspects (including character, achievements, temptations, failures, responses to failures, etc.).  You will also argue for the claim that this individual exemplifies moral commitment in some interesting way that is encouraging to all of us.  There will be required readings from philosophy to be studied and discussed, and there will be a few also from biographies.  Being a seminar course, it is vital to keep up with the week-to-week study and preparation and also to come prepared and with contributions (thought about ahead of time) to every class.
 

15 We Are What We Eat

Dr. Catherine Carstairs

What we eat is an important part of our identities. This course will examine a variety of food-related issues. We will explore the impact of changing agricultural practices and food science on our food. We will look at the rise of nutritional science, and the relationship between food and medicine. And, finally, we will examine the impact of race/ethnicity/gender/class on how and what we eat and drink. Special topics will include the history of breastfeeding, the history of anorexia nervosa, and the recent panic over obesity.
 

16 Hawks and Humans

Dr. Gard Otis and Chris Earley

This course explores the relationship between humans and hawks throughout history. Building on a background of hawk identification and biology covered at the beginning of the course, students will explore the important role of falconry in the culture and art of medieval Europe and the Middle East. Pesticides and human activities in the 20th Century have placed many species at risk, but changes in pesticide use and breeding programs have led to recoveries of several species, including the Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle, and Osprey in eastern North America. Field trips will include a visit with a falconer and a trip to observe hawk migration.
 

17 Making Poverty History

Prof. Michael Nightingale

This first year interdisciplinary seminar is designed to give students an introduction to the nature of poverty in developing countries from several perspectives including: political; economic; and social. Students will explore poverty within and between developing countries, compare opinions on why gaps exist between rich and poor nations, and whether poverty can be made history. During the semester students will complete a group study project on the poverty on a particular topic (e.g. conflict & poverty, health & poverty) or a particular country in Africa, Asia or South America. The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significantly enhance both students' study skills and love for learning.
 

18 Communicating Science

Dr. Mike Emes

This seminar programme will explore the skills which are involved in communicating science effectively. Students will examine different modes of communicating scientific ideas, which will also be illustrated by examples of good and poor practice and using both the technical and popular media. The impact of communication on the way we perceive scientific issues and the acceptance of new technologies in society will be explored, using suitable examples for discussion, such as genetic modification. Students will be involved in individual and group-based learning projects in developing their own skills. To facilitate small group activities, the seminar group will be sub-divided into two, and activities will be scheduled as 90 minute sessions. The two groups will come together at times to share their ideas in an interactive forum.
The goal of this seminar series is to recognize the importance of communication skills and to develop and enhance each student’s capabilities in the context of scientific issues. I hope we have a lot of fun, uncovering, fostering and developing our innate investigative and communication skills in a challenging environment.
 

19 Sex, Gender and Sexuality

Dr. Alastair Summerlee and Dr. Jacqueline Murray

This course will provide a thematic approach to the investigation of the culture, science and beliefs about sex and sexuality, spanning from ancient to modern times.

The course is intended to provide research and communication skills to be able to debate, analyze critically, and respect diversity of opinion about the arts and science of sex, gender and sexuality.

The course will involve the study of a series of problems which will be made available each week. There will be six to eight problems discussed during the semester and at least one special presentation in the middle of the semester. In addition, students will be asked to choose a short article to review and provide a written report for evaluation.
 

20 Politics, Science and Environment

Dr. Alastair Summerlee and  Dr. Jacqueline Murray

This course will provide a thematic approach to the investigation of the way that societies deal with environmental issues facing the world. It is expected to raise as many questions about the way we develop and use policy at the national and international level, as it will provide answers.

The course is intended to provide research and communication skills to be able to debate, analyze critically, and respect diversity of opinion about the environment and the ways that societies have chosen to respond to some of the challenges facing the world.
 

21 Beyond Literacy: Are Reading and Writing Doomed?

Michael Ridley

The rise of literacy (reading and writing) was transformational not only for how we communicate and preserve ideas but also for how we think. However, as a literate people we have difficulty imagining both the oral cultures that preceded us (and still exist in other cultures) as well as the possibility of a something beyond literacy. This course will explore the nature of oral cultures, the transformations enabled by literacy and speculate about the concept of rich human communication beyond traditional literacy (e.g. "post literacy") that might evolve from advances in computing, biotechnology or other, as yet unimagined, developments.
 

22 Food as Medicine

Dr. William Bettger

This class explores the potential role of functional foods in the Canadian health care system. These newly developed food products, when used in conjunction with a prudently selected diet and physical activity program, are proposed to enhance health by decreasing the risk of chronic degenerative diseases and by increasing performance in several dimensions. This class will encourage students to explore the health status of their family and friends, and ultimately of themselves, in this light.
 

23 Controversial Issues in the Life Sciences

Dr. T. Ryan Gregory

This course will examine both the science basis and public perception of controversial issues in the life sciences. This may include cloning, stem cells, the human genome project, personal genetics, evolution, and genetic engineering. We will discuss the scientific underpinnings of these issues, and will examine the ways in which they are discussed in the scientific literature, in the media, and among the public. In the process, we will explore the nature of debates within science as compared to debates about science. The objectives of the course will be to achieve a good understanding of the scientific aspects of these controversial topics, to investigate the ways that cutting-edge science is communicated to and perceived by the public, and to develop skills in critical thinking and communication.
 

24 Digital Nation - Citizenship in the Digital Age

Deb Stacey, Stefan Kremer, David Swayne, and David Chiu

Our current times have been called the Computer Age or the Digital Age but do we really understand all the effects that computers and communications technology have on our lives as engaged, informed citizens of our country and world?  This course will explore just a few of the many aspects of our private and public lives that have been changed by our digital technologies.