Taking up the Mantle: African American Women Writers After Morrison
Herman Beavers, English and Africana Studies, Penn; meets Wednesdays
In this seminar, we will endeavor, first, to understand the nature and scope of Toni Morrison’s literary legacy, not only as novelist, but also as a literary critic, and a social commentator. We will read several of Morrison’s essays and lectures, including the one she delivered when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. But from there, we will move to consider African American women’s writing in the 21st Century. We will work across literary genres: poetry, drama, fiction, and cinema in order to ruminate on how or if these writers are responding to Morrison’s influence. What themes have emerged for these writers that are unique to our moment? In this time of racial protests, how are they responding to our present racial crisis? Some of the writers we’ll be reading include Danielle Evans, Amina Gautier, Desiree Cooper, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Natasha Trethewey, Ayana Mathis, Tracy K. Smith, Elizabeth Alexander, Monica Hand, and Morgan Parker.
Cancer: Causes, Treatments and Disparities in Care
Sandra Ryeom, Cancer Biology, Penn; meets Thursdays
Cancer describes an enormous spectrum of diseases that originate from uncontrolled cellular growth. This seminar will begin with cell biology and describe how a normal cell becomes a cancer cell. It will discuss the environmental factors that affect cancer progression, the role of diet and exercise on tumor progression, and cancer treatments ranging from the standard of care to the most up-to-date approaches. The course will investigate health disparities in cancer care, differential outcomes based upon race, and the impact of racism on the study of cancer. Fellows will receive information from guest lecturers as well as the lead faculty, and weekly readings will include scientific literature, articles from the lay press, short videos and podcasts. The seminar will also incorporate hands-on experiments using the model organism drosophila (fruit flies) to investigate the impact of nutrition on tumor growth and progression.
Cynthia Sung, Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics, Penn; meets Thursdays
Soft robots are robots made of stretchy and compliant materials such as rubber, cloth, paper, and more. Compared to hard robots made of metal and requiring large motors, these robots can interact more safely with humans, access tight spaces, and survive extreme environments. This seminar will discuss the history and technology behind soft robots, demonstrating the possibility of making them out of commonplace, household materials, and showing the state-of-the-art engineering advancements in the field. The seminar will explore how soft robots can change the future of manufacturing, space exploration, and medicine. Along the way, it will uncover the underlying principles in physics (e.g., springs, energy), chemistry (e.g., reactions, thermodynamics), and engineering design that make them possible. Though the seminar will target grades 9-12, some topics will be accessible for lower grade levels as well.