Plagues and Pandemics - Emerson SC-214

For the past 3 years, I've had the opportunity to spend a week in a house on a beautiful lake in Vermont. Usually, this week is a chance to completely unplug. I take some photos, buy a bunch of books from Northshire and read them, and lounge around. On this past trip however, I received and e-mail that was equal parts wonderful, exciting and terrifying, offering me an opportunity to teach a course at Emerson College.

The course is SC-214 - Plagues and Pandemics. From the catalogue:

Infectious diseases are a leading worldwide cause of human death. This course will describe and discuss the role, origins, spread, and impact of infectious diseases. By examining how the human immune system guards against infectious disease students will gain an understanding of the complex interaction between host and pathogen. This foundation will be a launching point or discussion of topics such as the rise of drug resistant microbes, advances in diagnostic and vaccine development, the socio-economic and political factors involved in disease progression, food preservation and safety, and the use of microbes and microbial products in bioterrorism.

Sounds right up my alley right?

Emerson College is focused on performing arts and communication, so for many of the students, this course will be the only science course they take in college. I'm afraid that many of them view science as too hard or too inaccessible, and I want to use this course to try to change their minds. I'm under no illusions that I'm going to make any of them actually want to be scientists, but I'm hoping to at least make them science-literate (and interested enough to maybe read some science blogs).

This course is also going to be an incredible amount of work - I'm designing the syllabus from the ground up  and creating my own lectures, exams, quizes etc. Rather than use this as an excuse to neglect my blogging, however, I'm going to try something a bit new - I'm going to do a write-up of each class, including my power-points, insights from class discussions and links to the readings and additional information. I'll even post the quizes and exams if anyone is interested. The downside is that I probably won't be doing any regular blogging for the next 3 months, but the upside is that I'll be posting twice a week, which is far more than I've been blogging lately anyway.

I'd also be grateful for your suggestions and critiques. This will be my first time running a class, and I want to make it awesome.

The syllabus is still a work in progress, but the most recent incarnation is here. The tentative course schedule with topics is below. The first class is September 6th.

Class Date Topics
1 Thurs 9/6 Course Intro Why is Science Awesome? What is a Pandemic?
2 Tues 9/11 Intro to Evolution Basic Biology Bacteria and Parasites
3 Thurs 9/13 More Evolution Cell Biology Biology of Viruses
4 Tues 9/18 Why Pathogens Love Cities Living with Livestock Understanding Data #1 (Myxo in Australia)
5 Thurs 9/20 The Red Queen Evolution of Sex
6 Tues 9/25 A Pox on Everyone The Immune System Vaccination: Why it Works
7 Thurs 9/27 More on the Immune System Vaccination: Why it Doesn’t Work Understanding Data #2 (Wakefield et. al.)
8 Tues 10/2 Influenza: Biology and History 1918 Spanish Flu Yearly Epidemics
9 Thurs 10/4 Swine Flu and Bird Flu Reviewing the Headlines #1 (2012 Flu controversy)
-- Tues 10/9 **No Class** (Columbus Day)
10 Thurs 10/11 Exam 1 (Midterm)
11 Tues 10/16 HIV: History and Biology
12 Thurs 10/18 **Guest Lecturer: Abbie Smith**
13 Tues 10/23 Bacterial infections in the Western World Cholera is Shitty Toxin Vaccinology
14 Thurs 10/25 Antibiotics and resistance Reviewing the Headlines #2 (E. coli O104:H4)
15 Tues 10/30 Of Pests and Pestis Animal Vectors The Black Plague Understanding data #3 (??)
16 Thurs 11/1 Guest Lecturer: Abbie Newby-Kew
17 Tues 11/6 The Curious Biology of Malaria and Other Ways Mosquitoes Suck Reviewing the Headlines #2 (West Nile)
18 Thurs 11/8 Guest Lecturer: Matt Woodruff Why is it so hard to make a Malaria Vaccine?
19 Tues 11/13 From Anthrax... Emerging Threats and Bioterrorism Reviewing the Headlines #3
20 Thurs 11/15 … to Botox Harnessing Pathogens to do Our Bidding
21 Tues 11/20 The Future of Disease
-- Thurs 11/22 **No Class** (Thanksgiving)
22 Tues 11/27 Review and Overview
23 Thurs 11/29 Exam 2 (Final)
24 Tues 12/4 Media Presentations
25 Thurs 12/6 Media Presentations
26 Tues 12/11 Media Presentations