School for the Sciences Classes
Academic Program - 2013
Morning Core Course (All students attend this course): Thinking and Communicating Scientifically
Thinking Scientifically is an introduction to scientific reasoning, including both historical and contemporary issues in science. One goal of the class is to get students to understand scientific reasoning by understanding how scientists go about the business of science, and how they communicate with one another. This course will be taught in a lecture format with weekly small group discussions to engage both the mechanics and content of the scientific issues under evaluation.
Students will be assigned regular problem sets aimed at training students to do the logical work of science. Since science is a public endeavor, the students will also have assignments in technical, scientific writing including learning to create scientific content designed for the World Wide Web, which will culminate in a final group project. As part of learning to use the World Wide Web the students will be taught the basics of the Unix computer operating system, the HTML programming language, and various other web based technologies. There will also be a cumulative final exam where students will have to demonstrate a mastery of the methods of scientific logic and their application.
Dr. Stan Guffey is a lecturer in the Division of Biology. His interests include biological conservation, speciation, southern Appalachian biodiversity, history and philosophy of science, and helping people explore and appreciate the wonders of life. Computer instruction will be directed by Lila Holt.
Afternoon Specialty Courses
Students will choose one of the following elective afternoon specialty courses.
Topics to be covered:
- Biodiversity of the past
- What are the major groups of life on Earth today and in the past?
- How can we measure biodiversity?
- What are the biases?
- What are the temporal shifts in biodiversity, clade diversity
- Major transitions of life
- dealing with Oxygen
- Life in the sea
- Life in fresh water
- Life on land
- Life in the air
- Returning to the sea
- Vertebrate evolution. A march through vertebrate evolution with emphasis on groups like Dinosaurs, the wonderful world of fish (big Paleozoic kinds too), Mammals
- How do you census an ecosystem, modern or ancient?
- Ontogeny and Allometric functions
- Extinction and mass extinction
Other topics include:
- How we conduct science
- Defining biodiversity
- Factors that affect biodiversity
- Human impact on biodiversity
- What is evolution?
- Measures of intraspecific variation
- Interspecific variation and Speciation
- Trait Evolution
- Science as a career
- Human evolutionary history
Dr. Colin Sumrall is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. He is interested in understanding the paleobiology of extinct echinoderms (starfish and their allies). Dr. Barbara Banbury is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is interested in many different aspects of systematics, including phylogenetic methodology, lineage diversification, and trait evolution.
Chemistry: Chemistry and the Environment
Chemistry impinges on modern society in more ways than anyone including a chemist can imagine. Most of the things which improve the quality of our lives are made of chemicals which are made in chemical plants such as Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tennessee. Many of these same things unfortunately also often have led indirectly to environmental degradation including water pollution, acid rain, smog, ozone depletion, and global warming, to name a few. Although people in the past weren’t aware of humanity’s profound impact on the earth, or didn’t care, we know better today and can do better today. We have in our power to eliminate or significantly reduce our numerous environmental problems. Chemists are in the forefront in solving these problems.
In the lectures and hands-on laboratory experiments we will examine together the chemistry of the environment, i.e. the chemistry of the earth in the absence of people, environmental chemistry, which is concerned with the effect that chemicals used in our civilization have had on the planet, and green chemistry, a new field devoted to finding and developing methods to carry out chemistry in an environmentally friendly manner.
Some high school chemistry is recommended for students choosing this course.
Professor Richard Pagni, who received his B.A. from Northwestern University and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, taught at the University of Tennessee for close to four decades before retiring in 2007. He has also maintained close ties with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He has published close to 200 papers on a variety of topics in organic and physical chemistry including environmental chemistry and green chemistry.
Mathematics: Introduction to Proofs and Number Theory
This is a leisurely paced, but mathematically rigorous introduction to elementary number theory.
Proof techniques like ‘indirect proof’ or ‘induction’ will be introduced along the way. Number theory studies the properties of natural numbers, like divisibility, primes, modular arithmetic, and diophantine equations. (The task of finding right triangles with integer sides is one sample problem of diophantine equations). We will also choose a sample of topics beyond these basics from our book. The methods of logical reasoning employed in this area go back to the ancient Greeks and still represent core skills for all aspects of modern mathematics. While number theory used to be a ‘pure’ area of mathematics until a few decades ago, it has found applications in encryption methods in the computer age.
A student choosing this topic should have completed 2 years of high school algebra.
Dr. Jochen Denzler (PhD: Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, Switzerland) is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at UT, where he teaches a wide range of courses from freshman to graduate level. He joined UT in 2002. His main mathematical interests are in differential equations, preferably problems that have some geometric ingredient in them. He also has other interests like languages, he cleans his blackboard with a squeegee and he thinks computers are more akin to brooms, than to wizards.
Physics: Modern Physics
Modern Physics focuses on the exciting developments in physics during the 20th century. It is a map of the reality of the world around us on the microscopic scale. In this course students explore the world of atoms, nuclei, and elementary particles. The laws of quantum mechanics, which predict the behavior of these particles, seem puzzling, because our intuition has been build up in a way that ignores quantum mechanical behavior. Students having a mathematical background in high-school algebra and trigonometry and a having taken a high-school physics or physical science course can successfully complete the course. Emphasis is placed on conceptual understanding. Topics covered include the behavior of light, the essential features of quantum mechanics, atomic and molecular structure, the conduction of electricity in solids, nuclear physics, and elementary particles and cosmology.
The course uses a textbook and interactive, web-based class modules. Lectures, demonstrations, experiments and computer simulation are part of the course. Visits of research facilities at the University of Tennessee introduce students to the latest exciting developments in various areas of physics.
Professor Norman Mannella