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6 cool Concordia science courses for non-scientists

It's Science Literacy Week! From astronomy to culinary chemistry, these educational offerings will whet your appetite
September 20, 2016
By Meagan Boisse

“Did you enjoy The Martian? If so, we may have a course for you.” | Courtesy: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation “Did you enjoy The Martian? If so, we may have a course for you.” | Image: Twentieth Century Fox

In celebration of Science Literacy Week (Sept. 19-25), the Concordia news desk is highlighting a related activity every day. See Monday's Wiki for women in STEM! and Wednesday's Rocketry and robotics at Space Concordia.

So you’re not a scientist. But like anyone with an inquisitive mind, you still grapple with life’s existential questions: Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from? How close to reality is Jurassic Park?

Good news! You don’t need be an expert to explore the realms of science and space. Concordia offers a myriad of courses that address some of these fundamental queries while exploring a range of subjects, from the vast expanses of the universe to the tiniest life-giving particles.

General Biology

“Do you want to know why you need to eat food and breathe oxygen? The difference between science and pseudoscience? Or what your ancient ancestors looked like? Then General Biology is for you,” says Madoka Gray-Mitsumune, who teaches BIOL 202: General Biology.

The course covers the fundamentals of biology and the chemistry of life. Learn about the structure and functions of cells and tissues, as well as aspects of anatomy, physiology, taxonomy, heredity and evolution.

“It’s designed for non-scientists who are still curious about life. Through it you will learn the makings of life using everyday examples,” says Gray-Mitsumune.

Fundamental Nutrition

Where does cooking and science collide? In BIOL 203: Fundamental Nutrition, of course, where you’ll take a hands-on approach to food composition.

“Cooking teaches us food chemistry. Thankfully, every home still comes equipped with a kitchen,” says instructor Catherine Calogeropoulos, who teaches her students the science of nutrition through an array of culinary experiments.

Can you use milk in a sauce recipe that calls for cream? Probably not, says Calogeropoulos. Relative to milk, cream contains a lot less protein. Under high heat, milk can cause the sauce to curdle — and make you look like a foolish foodie.

“Science reveals itself magically before our eyes in the kitchen. By perusing the molecular gastronomy literature I’ve found perfect cooking examples to anchor nearly all the scientific concepts that might elude my students and senior auditors,” she says.

Fundamentals of Health and Physical Activity

This course touches upon a range of topics: cardiovascular and muscular fitness, flexibility, weight management, nutrition, disease prevention and even stress management.

“Students will gain both knowledge and tools to maximize their health and energy, immediately and in the long term,” says instructor Leslie Barker, who teaches EXCI 251: Fundamentals of Health and Physical Activity.

“Many students comment that EXCI 251 helped them improve their own negative eating, smoking, stress and inactivity habits, while they also learned to differentiate between scientific facts and marketing hype,” adds Barker.

Forensic Analysis

Everyone knows that DNA analysis revolutionized forensics, but how? If you want to find out, Cameron Skinner, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, suggests you take CHEM 298 AA.

“Our approach is to first learn the underlying principles by starting with the basics such as molecules, chemical reactions and so on, before working our way towards the sophisticated tools used in a modern forensics lab,” says Skinner.

“You will finish the course with a more realistic understanding of the field of forensics. You'll also understand the capacities and limitations of modern analysis. Some of the lessons will be case studies, some will be drawn from the textbook ... and there will be an occasional poisoning and/or murder.”

Please note: Skinner says he will not take responsibility for any damages or strife caused when you begin yelling at your TV during crime shows such as CSI.

Discovering Biotechnology

“Did you enjoy The Martian?  Were you thrilled by Jurassic Park?  Did Gattaca give you pause for thought? If so, we may have a course for you,” says Paul Joyce, a professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Concordia.

CHEM 209: Discovering Biotechnology begins with an exploration of the roles that genes and proteins play in life processes.

It then examines the basic principles behind the manipulation of biological molecules to produce desired changes. The course also explores the ethical ramifications of such actions.

“Would you like to know how close we are to establishing a base on Mars? Or if we can really clone dinosaurs (or people, for that matter)? Or how close we are to the spectre of genetic discrimination?” asks Joyce. “Then register for this course.”

Introduction to Astronomy

Black holes, constellations, the Milky Way galaxy and beyond — PHYS 284: Introduction to Astronomy is the course for anyone interested in space.

“Students will be introduced to advanced topics from cosmology, including the Big Bang theory, as well as the study of extra-solar planets and the search for extraterrestrial life,” says Mario D’Amico from Concordia’s Department of Physics.

PHYS 284 will be offered as an online course this winter session. Browse through multimedia components and narrated lectures on major topics in astronomy, from the comfort of your own couch.

“Students will have the flexibility of taking the course using their computers. They will therefore not be required to travel, or even be located in Montreal,” adds D'Amico.

Register online through the MyConcordia portal for these classes. Space is limited.


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