UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Courses and Programs
Innovative UAB Course Gives Students Roles of a Lifetime
By Tyler Greer
Andrew Keitt (right) encourages students to play active roles in history's great debates.
What thoughts raced through Galileo’s mind when he first trained his telescope skyward and saw the craters of the moon? How did he, a devout Catholic, feel when his insistence that the Earth revolves around the Sun brought him into direct conflict with the Church? And just what was it about that hypothesis that troubled church leaders so deeply?
UAB historian Andrew Keitt, Ph.D., knows the answers to these questions. And it would be easy for him to stand up in front of his classroom and share them in a standard lecture. But for the past several semesters, Keitt has been experimenting with a different way of teaching—a form of time travel called Reacting to the Past, in which students live ideas, rather than memorize them.
A New Way of Looking at Disease
By Jo Lynn Orr
The next time you reach into the medicine cabinet for some instant relief, you might want to take a moment to reconsider the long-term consequences. “When we get sick, our first inclination is to take a pill to make the symptoms go away, but that might not be the healthiest thing to do,” says UAB biologist David Kraus, Ph.D. Taking acetaminophen to reduce a fever, for example, tampers with “a highly coordinated set of physiological responses that allows our body temperature to rise in order to fight infection from foreign invaders like bacteria,” says Kraus. “If we reduce the fever, we are inhibiting finely tuned, evolved mechanisms that are useful for our health.”
These mechanisms are not restricted to fever—or disease, for that matter. The complex relationship between human health and evolutionary processes—generally studied under the name “evolutionary medicine”—has become a hot topic among scientists in a host of disciplines. Students are catching on, too. Kraus and fellow UAB biologist Jeannette Doeller, Ph.D., who are husband and wife, developed a popular course on evolutionary medicine in the Schools of Public Health and Natural Sciences and Mathematics that has seen enrollment soar from 25 students in 2003 to 150 last year.
Exploring the Limits of the Brain
By Caperton Gillett
Descartes's concept of how sensations travel from the extremities to the brain
At least, that’s what most of us probably think. And many of the world’s most illustrious thinkers have agreed. The exact relationship between the human brain and the human mind has been debated by philosophers throughout the ages. Plato and Aristotle fought for dualism—the idea that the mind or spirit is independent of the physical brain. Their contemporary, Parmenides, argued the case for monism: that body and spirit are one and the same.
Over the years, Plato, Aristotle, and their dualistic successor, Descartes, have undoubtedly had the upper hand. But ever since the 1920s, when science began to take a keen interest in the subject, the tables have turned. Sort of.
Forensic Program Trains Scientific Sleuths
By Claire L. Burgess
Lawyers, police officers, and doctors used to nab all the professional glory on prime-time television. That is, until 2000, when CSI: Crime Scene Investigation debuted with an addictive blend of thrilling plotlines and scientific wizardry and quickly became a runaway hit. Now you can find forensic scientists all over the cable box, including dramas such as Bones and Dexter and reality shows such as Forensic Files.
Science geeks have become crime-fighting superheroes—only in lab coats and protective eyewear instead of spandex and capes. And by generating massive exposure for a previously little-known profession, these shows are actually performing a public service. Forensic science is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the country; the need for trained investigators is projected to grow 31 percent by 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A few seasons’ worth of CSI won’t prepare anyone for the reality of criminal forensics, however. For that, interested parties can turn to the innovative new bachelor’s degree in forensic chemistry offered by the UAB Department of Chemistry, one of only a handful of programs in the country offering similarly in-depth training.
Turning the Camera on Birmingham
By Caperton Gillett
Making a short film can be a tall order. Every year, students in UAB's Ethnographic Filmmaking class scatter across Birmingham in search of untold stories. The ones they find are unforgettable—hidden fishes, graffiti artists, urban farms, ghost towns. But once they've found their subjects, the real challenge begins: How can you condense a complex issue into five minutes? See the stories unfold in this new audio slideshow.