Teaching with Treadmills
Inside the Biological Sciences Learning Center on the Medical Center campus is a laboratory that looks more like a gymnasium. Six state-of-the-art treadmills and six futuristic exercise bikes sit around the room, each connected to a computer alongside modified oxygen masks and suction cup sensors. Instead of dissecting frogs or mixing chemicals, students show up to lab sections in shorts and running shoes, prepared to sweat for science. In Mark Osadjan’s “Metabolism and Exercise” course, part of a two-quarter Exercise and Nutrition sequence, there’s no sitting on the sidelines.
Since joining the University of Chicago as a senior lecturer in 2003, Osadjan has designed courses that teach undergraduates about biology by connecting with what most college students care about: keeping fit, and sex. As part of the UChicago core curriculum, every undergraduate must fulfill a biology requirement, even if their interests lie in political science, music theory, or philosophy. With his “Metabolism and Exercise” and “The Biology of Gender” courses, Osadjan has met these science-shy students halfway, filtering instruction on evolution, physiology, and genetics through their own personal hobbies and interests. The efforts have been such a success that Osadjan’s courses fill up soon after registration is opened.
Today, Osadjan was announced as one of this year’s recipients of the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, an esteemed UChicago honor that goes back to 1938. Last week I met with Mark to talk about his award and his career path, from a graduate student studying Antarctic fish to an instructor of graduate-level science to his current position, teaching predominantly undergraduate non-biology majors.
“It’s always a trick to figure out how to teach with enough enthusiasm, such that it spills over to the students,” Osadjan said. “It’s our challenge not only to teach these students a certain number of facts, but to show them why those facts are important, relevant, and worth thinking about throughout life.”
Most college students spend their summers traveling the country or working an internship, but 20-year-old Rachel Garneau had other plans: donating a kidney. On Tuesday morning, Garneau came to the Medical Center and made the rare gift of an altruistic kidney donation, triggering a kidney swap chain that helped patients in need of the organ in New York and Madison. Neil Steinberg at the Chicago Sun-Times followed the story before and during the surgery, and got some great play-by-play commentary from Yolanda Becker, professor of surgery and director of the kidney and pancreas program. For instance: “‘The pancreas is the bitch of the abdomen,” she confided.’”
Are clinical trials handicapped by their own success? A new analysis from Anup Malani and Tomas Philipson of the University of Chicago Law School finds that trial enrollment for a given disease plummets when a treatment is found to be effective, using AIDS clinical trials after the approval of anti-retroviral therapy to illustrate the point. Richard Schilsky, professor and section chief of hematology/oncology at the Medical Center, agreed with the findings at Nature News: “There are so many options that patients are not flocking to get into clinical trials like they used to.”
Read how turtles move to warm areas to bask – even in their own eggs as embryos. Adorable photos and interesting commentary (are they determining their own sex?) at Not Exactly Rocket Science.
That news about the World Health Organization adding cell phones to their list of possible carcinogens? Here’s an article from Cancer Research UK to reassure your fears. Another reassuring fact: it was placed by the WHO into the same risk category [pdf] as coffee, dry cleaning, and pickled vegetables.
Did you know UChicago evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin does a regular science news roundup on local newsmagazine show Chicago Tonight called Scientific Chicago? Well he does, and the latest edition discussed a story familiar to readers of the blog: the mass extinction 360 million years ago that ended “The Age of Fishes.” Watch the video here.