Course Descriptions

FIYS 106 Medical Mysteries of the Mind  

Shubhik DebBurman

This course is for beginning students interested in exploring the human brain in a rigorous interdisciplinary way.  If you are intensely interested in how your brain helps you think, feel, sense, read, write, eat, sleep, dream, learn and move, this course is for you.  You will learn how brain dysfunction causes complex medical illnesses, like Alzheimer’s, Autism, and Schizophrenia.  You will meet Chicago’s world-class neuroscientists through guest seminars and class-trips to famous laboratories.  You will debate ethical dilemmas that face society and dissect human brains.  Lastly, you will organize a Brain Awareness Week on campus and do outreach at elementary schools to teach what you learn to young children.  While the course is intended for any serious student interested in mind mysteries, it will be of particular value for those planning natural science majors, biomedical/health professions, or a combination of biology and psychology.  One year each of high school biology and chemistry is required.

FIYS 111 Race and Space in Chicago Schools    

Desmond Odugu

The history of American education has been marked by inequalities along racial, ethnic, economic, linguistic, religious, and cultural lines.  Since the late twentieth century, the development of suburban and urban boundaries has come to redefine equity and social justice in schools.  This course introduces students to social and institutional forces that make “race” and “space” tools for educational inequity.  Focusing on Chicago-area schools, we will consider how the laws and collective actions of society have produced a “poor urban” and “affluent suburban” divide that continues to shape the educational experiences of students from various backgrounds.   By learning how to read carefully and to write clearly about the issues of “race” and “space” in Chicago-area schools, students will develop basic strategies of research, writing and presentation.  Travelling as a group accompanied by the instructor, students will visit pertinent Chicago-area schools to explore these issues in real-life educational contexts. 

FIYS 113 Robots, Termites, Bits, and Bytes    

Robert Holliday

In this course students will learn about algorithms and the basics of programming (writing “apps” using sequencing, conditionals and loops) in a robotics environment.  Students, in teams of three, will build LEGO robots with various sensors (light, sound, touch) that enable robots to perform tasks like navigating a maze or serving as guards in a doorway.  The programming environment is friendly and visual.  Course topics also include a study of how computer scientists are studying termites and other “smart swarm” creatures to solve important technology problems.   Each student is expected to bring a laptop to class meetings, or to make appropriate arrangements with the instructor.  This course is not open to students with previous programming or robotics experience.

FIYS 118 Chicago, First City of Comedy        

Elizabeth Benacka 

In 1955, Viola Spolin and Paul Sills founded the Compass Players in Chicago and established the city as the birthplace of improvisational theater. Chicago is now home to Second City and dozens of other improv clubs that both feature and train aspiring comedians and actors. It also hosts Chicago SketchFest, the world’s largest sketch comedy festival, now in its tenth year. In this course we will examine the early development of improv in Chicago and analyze the role of Chicago improv in humor production today. We will take class trips to comedy clubs, to attend shows and discuss this genre with practitioners and instructors. Students will learn to distinguish among different types of humor production and reception, and will consider the value of improv beyond the realm of entertainment (e.g., how improvisational theater games may help individuals prepare for the unexpected on the stage and in life). Because of conflicts with field trips, fall and winter athletes should not register for this course.

FIYS 125 Literature and Medicine 

Dustin Mengelkoch

The study of literature through the medical sciences and, vice-versa, the study of medical sciences through literature are broadly accepted today as integral to the professional practice of medicine. Most medical schools promote the study of literary humanities to better prepare budding doctors to think more creatively and to connect more meaningfully with their patients.  In this course, we will use Western literature as a lens to interpret aspects of the practice of medicine through texts that focus on doctors, medical ethics, the historical treatment of illnesses and such diseases as depression, plague, AIDS, and drug addiction. We will also read literary treatments of the challenges of caring for the aging, the elderly, and the dying. 

FIYS 130 The Science of Cooking  

Elizabeth Fischer

Since 1992, the term molecular gastronomy has become part of understanding the world’s cuisine. This course will examine the chemistry and physics of cooking, and the physiology of taste and flavor.  We will explore such questions as what is the science behind making a foam or gel; how do you prevent food bacteria from forming; and what does it mean to temper chocolate?  The science of cooking includes the important works of Hervé This, Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adria, José Andrés, and Grant Achatz, among others.  We will read their work and not only become familiar with the latest materials and methods of the world’s most innovative cuisine, but also learn how these methods may be part of the solution to ending world hunger.  We will work with a chef to perform experiments to elucidate the theory we will be studying. 

FIYS 133 The Great War and Its Legacy            

Jim Marquardt

World War I (1914 – 1918) is a historical milestone. It marked the end of the “old world order” and unleashed complex forces of political, economic, and social change. While promising a better future for humankind, these changes also foretold even greater calamities.  Both tendencies are still in evidence in 2014, the centennial of the outbreak of the Great War. What were the causes of World War I? What lessons did the generation of citizens and statesmen who lived through it take from it? And what does the Great War have to teach us about politics among nations in the twenty-first century? At the crossroads of diplomatic history, international relations theory, and modern social history, this course explores universally pertinent issues of promise and peril: peace and war, prosperity and deprivation, liberty and tyranny, equality and inequality, right and might.

FIYS 134 Women in Medieval Christianity   

Anna Jones

Christianity in medieval Europe (ca. 500-1500 CE) was characterized by an ambivalent attitude toward women.  Eve was blamed for original sin, while the Virgin Mary was revered for her role in humanity’s salvation.  This ambivalence in theology extended to other realms, including religion, politics, and medicine.  This course will explore the lives of women in this period, with an emphasis on their participation in spiritual movements.  We will meet women who were nuns, martyrs, queens, scholars, mystics, and soldiers—as well as more ordinary women.  We will discuss the particular challenges posed by primary sources by or about women.  We will also critically analyze some of the major themes in recent scholarship on gender history. 

FIYS 139 Independent Publishing in Chicago        

Jacob Knabb

This course immerses students in the history of Independent Chicago Publishing (ICP), introducing them to the legacy of Chicago’s underground world of letters, and cultivating an understanding of the dynamic and original nature of ICP.  From field trips, presentations by guest experts, in-class workshops, library sessions, and independent research, students will develop a working knowledge of ICP as well as an understanding of specific figures and publications important to that world. Students will explore topics such as: What are the coolest ICPs? How do independent publishers evolve over time? What does it take to edit a literary magazine or press? Why would a writer publish with an independent publisher? Where are the most exciting book parties and writers? What are the best bookstores for ICP? Is there room for visual artists, performers, lawyers, and entrepreneurs? Can I find a career in independent publishing?

FIYS 141 Disney, Music, and Culture          

Scott Edgar

Walt Disney created an empire that shaped, and was shaped by, its surrounding society and culture. Disney films, music, propaganda, media, business practices, and merchandise are now deeply imbedded in popular culture.  In this course we will study the history and influence of the Disney Corporation and analyze Disney films through a variety of critical lenses, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and disability. We will also examine the evolution of Disney’s use of music.

FIYS 142 Dickens and the Russian Novel    

Carla Arnell

A hoary-headed miser named Scrooge. The orphan Oliver Twist plaintively crying, “Please, sir, I want some more.”  A jilted lover named Miss Havisham, frozen in time amid the gothic horrors of Satis House.  If any of these characters sounds familiar, it’s because they are the imaginative legacy of British novelist Charles Dickens, a Victorian whose literary influence reached even the Russian masters Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.  In this course, students will examine Dickens’s impact on those Russian novelists, first by reading two Dickens novels and exploring his social, psychological, and literary concerns.  Then, students will compare Dickens’s novels to one by Dostoevsky and one by Tolstoy, looking especially for traces of Dickensian concerns and novelistic techniques as adapted to Russian culture and aesthetics.  Through this study, we’ll also seek those durable human truths that transcend barriers of national origin and culture, yoking Dickens, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky in common fellowship.

FIYS 144 Sacred Spaces in Chicago             

Ben Zeller

What do high-steeple churches, personal shrines, pagan festivals, Japanese gardens, and Hindu temples have in common? All are examples of the creation, use, and maintenance of sacred spaces. Individuals and groups representing nearly every religious tradition employ specially designated buildings, grounds, and surrounding natural features. In this course we study several examples of sacred spaces, consider how they are formed, and why they are used as they are. We ask questions about architecture and design and also focus on the employment of the spaces.  We look to the spiritual practices that take place inside them: everything from worship, ritual, and meditation to eating and drinking.

FIYS 149 Chicago Global-Local Microfinance  

Les Dlabay

This course considers the financial activities of the three billion “unbanked” people around the world, those who lack access to formal banking services. By providing loans as low as $35, entrepreneurs are able to improve the household income as well as give unbanked people opportunities for better schools, improved health care, and healthier diets. From a Chicago perspective, microloans for local entrepreneurs result in business start-ups, expanded employment, and improved community development.  Microfinance means more than loans; it comprises a portfolio of financial services that includes savings, insurance, transfers of funds, micro-franchising, and training for business operations and financial literacy. Through field visits, interviews, speakers, and videos, students will research ethnic areas of Chicago to propose creative financing for practical solutions to social problems. The course will prepare students for a changing business environment through cross-cultural and interdisciplinary assignments, team projects, and student-created video presentations.

FIYS 151 Violence vs Peace     

Lou Lombardi

We are constantly confronted by violence, including government action in war and individual drone strikes as well as individual attacks like the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Governments often claim that the violence they unleash is necessary to achieve peace.  Many people suggest that the response to unjust personal attacks must be a willingness by the good guys to commit violence.  Others emphasize nonviolent or at least less violent responses in both cases, and there is much work now to promote peace studies.  Does peace have a chance? We will work back to the philosophical and ideological foundations for competing positions to consider how far violence can be justified and what kind of peace is possible domestically and internationally.  

FIYS 162 Poetry and Song on Page and Stage    

Daniel Hanna

We usually think of “poetry” as a literary art form, in print, and “song” as an aural art form—in other words, we tend to conceptualize them as very different from one another.  But this has not been always the case.  The earliest poems were also songs, and vice versa.  How and why have these two art forms become separated?  Have they in fact become separated, or is there ultimately no difference between “music for the page” and “music for the stage”?  As we analyze a variety of poems and songs from several eras, we will explore the historical relationship between the two forms, examine and engage in some longstanding arguments about them, and attempt to come to our own conclusions.

FIYS 167 Baseball in Chicago                 

Evan Oxman

What does the study of baseball tell us about life in Chicago?  In this course, we will examine this question from a variety of perspectives.  We will explore both the history of baseball in Chicago as well its contemporary influences on civic and cultural life.  Drawing on their field trips to both Wrigley Field (Cubs) and U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox), students will consider how the two different stadiums and fan bases help to illuminate some of Chicago’s geographic, racial, and class-based divides.  We will also examine the current political and economic controversies surrounding the renovation of Wrigley Field.  In this interdisciplinary course, students will see how a variety of academic disciplines, including history, sociology, anthropology, economics, politics, and religion, illuminates our understanding of America’s national pastime.      

FIYS 168 Global Cultures: Chicago and Beyond  

Cynthia Hahn

Is the world getting smaller? Will increased cultural mixing and homogenization eventually make cultural differences a thing of the past? Or will resistance to cultural change provoke greater conflict and stronger cultural identification?  In this course we will examine the accelerating trend of cultural globalization through the lens of cultural encounters and their impact on changing perceptions of identity, particularly in Chicago. Other global cities, such as New York, Shanghai, Beirut, and Paris, will provide further examples of shifting cultural associations and new ways of constructing social identity. Excursions to Chicago will enhance our discussions of the critical essays, literature and films we’ll study, all pertaining to Chicago’s historical and current cultural influences of various Latino, African American, Chinese and French-speaking groups. Guest speakers with different perspectives on globalization will help us to construct a wider vision of this trend and envision potential future scenarios such as increased cultural hegemony, balkanization, hybridity, integration, and assimilation.

FIYS 169 Recreational Mathematics    

Enrique Trevino

Puzzles, paradoxes, and brain teasers have inspired many young people to pursue careers in science, and more than one achievement in mathematics has emerged from the desire to solve difficult puzzles.  In this course we will examine many famous (and not-so-famous) puzzles, and explore famous games such as Sudoku, tic-tac-toe, and Monopoly, to gain insight into all manner of phenomena.  To guide us in our mathematical diversions, we will read essays by Martin Gardner, Ian Stewart, Peter Winkler, Terence Tao, and other popular mathematics writers.  In addition, we will view documentaries and conduct group discussions to explore multiple aspects of mathematics. 

FIYS 174 Chicago’s Museums      

Lia Alexopoulos

Chicago’s renowned museums and exhibition spaces make it a destination for culture lovers the world over. From the Field and DuSable Museums to Hull House and the Art Institute, Chicago is home to a vast array of cultural, historical, and scientific repositories whose holdings include some of the greatest artifacts of human endeavor, contributing immensely to the city’s identity.  This course introduces students to some of these museums, with an emphasis on art institutions, while also examining their historic and current roles in the life of the city. Topics include the management, collections, curation, audience, programming, and architecture of these institutions. One museum will be selected for in-depth investigation. Working individually and in small groups, students will research its various functions and present their findings to the class.  Because of conflicts with field trips, fall and winter athletes should not register for this course.

FIYS 178 Saints and Sinners: Chicago    

Catherine Benton

Using film, literature, and field research at religious sites, this course unpacks the components of religious life in twenty-first century America.  Students explore the contemporary practice of religion, from prayer and traditional rituals to yoga and meditation, while studying three religious traditions with established communities in the Chicago area.  In addition to field trips, participants view award-winning popular films that address questions of religious identity, bigotry, and conflicting interpretations of spirituality.  To gain a fuller appreciation of contemporary practice, the course includes visits to a mosque, a Christian megachurch, and a Hindu temple.   

FIYS 180 Philosophy of Humans and Animals   

Janet McCracken

Western philosophers since Aristotle—at least—have claimed that human beings, as a species and alone among species, are capable of complex reasoning. The seventeenth-century French philosopher Descartes, famously, denied that non-human animals have minds or could think, claiming that they are essentially robots. From these kinds of premises, philosophers have inferred a wide range of ethical and religious claims, e.g., it is ethically permissible to eat non-human animals. Alternative claims, however, have just as long a history. In this course, we will read and discuss an array of philosophical opinions on the similarities and differences between humans and other animals, and the practices of industrial farming, training animals to work or entertain, building and patronizing zoos, animal experimentation, and other controversial topics. Because of conflicts with field trips, fall and winter athletes should not register for this course.

FIYS 189 Public Sculpture in Chicago   

Miguel deBaca

This course is devoted to a first-hand examination of public sculpture in Chicago and its suburbs. Using intensive field study with photographic documentation, background readings and research, group discussions, individual research-based and analytical writings, and the development of an original public sculpture proposal, students will gain insight into the factors involved in the ideation, planning, funding and execution of public sculpture in urban and suburban venues. The class will tackle problems of community interest, artistic invention and intervention, accessibility, patronage, “name-branding,” and symbolism in an effort to gain practical academic skills while learning about an important facet of the rich cultural experience that Chicago holds for residents, commuters and tourists. Because of conflicts with field trips, fall and winter athletes should not register for this course

FIYS 192 Stars: Black Holes, Dark Cosmos   

Amy Abe 

Are you curious about what is known and what is yet undefined in the realm of black holes, dark matter, dark energy, and other stuff of the Universe? What leads to the patterns of stars in the sky?  What about the scientific evidence drives SETI astronomers and the NASA teams for Kepler space telescope exoplanet search and the Mars Curiosity rover mission to seek evidence of extraterrestrial life?  Why are today’s scientists more excited about how fast the universe expands than they are about the 1920’s revelation that the universe is expanding?  Gain insights into these and other current questions about astronomy and cosmology as we address topics from a perspective that you, scientist or scientifically curious, will find enriching and enlightening. Because of conflicts with evening class meetings, fall and winter athletes should not register for this course.

FIYS 196 American Playwrights in Chicago   

Ben Goluboff

Chicago is home to a vivid and diverse theater scene that includes everything from tiny stages in the back rooms of bars to glitzy Broadway-style productions.  This course will examine a selection of American-authored plays from the Chicago season as the materials for an introduction to literary studies.  As such, the course considers the plays we see and read as an occasion to develop skills in critical thinking, research, and writing.  A secondary objective is to connect the various plays to particular moments or themes in American history and culture.  We will proceed from the acquisition of a simple critical vocabulary for describing a play’s form and content, through character study, to more complex questions of the director’s decisions in taking a play from the page to the stage.  Because of conflicts with field trips, fall and winter athletes should not register for this course.