Current Student Directed Seminars
AY 2019 - 2020 Student Directed Seminar Courses
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 16:00 to 19:00 at B112 (School of Population and Public Health)
Student Coordinators: Joyce Liao and Meryn Corkery
Faculty Sponsor: Will Valley
The intrinsic role food plays in our daily lives provides a strong foundation for discussing complex issues. This student-directed seminar will explore food as a platform for engaging in social justice. We explore how inequities are reproduced and contested within food systems, unpack ideas relating to power and privilege, and work alongside peers to develop skill-sets such as facilitation and advocacy.
Wednesdays, 9:00 to 12:00 at ANSO 1305
Student Coordinator: Alex Chow
Faculty Sponsor: Neil Guppy
This student-directed seminar will examine the institution of higher education from a sociological perspective. Today, as high school completion is nearing universality in Canada, more and more young adults are looking towards universities as the next level of certification they must attain for a good standard of living. Higher education and universities have taken on an increasingly larger role in shaping our lives. This credential inflation must not be taken for granted and as students in an institute of higher education ourselves, we must think more critically about the goals and outcomes of the university, as well as the inequalities inherent in them. This course is organised around three aspects of universities: accessibility and selection processes of universities, the organisation and structure of universities, and the processes of socialisation within universities. Students will relate these topics to works of classical theorists such as Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, as well as contemporary theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu and Annette Lareau. As we critically examine the role of the university in society today, we will also explore what it means to be a university student and challenge traditional notions of how we teach, learn, and evaluate teaching and learning. Students who are interested should send a statement of intent including year of study, major, and reasons for interest to the Student Coordinator Alex Chow at email@example.com
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30 to 14:00 at BUCH D214
Student Coordinator: Arian Zand
Faculty Sponsor: Robert Crawford
Who is Machiavelli: a teacher of evil who wrote a handbook for gangsters? Or a fervent democrat whose astute political observations and judgment makes him an inescapable political thinker? Why are there many contradictory interpretations of his works by some of the most renowned scholars? Why is his name synonymous with treachery, deceit and unscrupulousness? How should his works be read and analyzed by modern readers? What constitutes Machiavellian Politics? Does Machiavelli offer any universal sage advice to political actors and citizens or is his advice a recipe to violence, bloodshed and moral decay? And, above all else, why talking and thinking about him has been unsettling and controversial for centuries up to this day? Through in-depth reading of Machiavelli's political treatises, private letters and comedy plays, combined with a diverse range of learning tools and low-stake assignments such as Socratic conversations, debates, creative letters and a research paper, students in this class explore these questions. Such in-depth exposure to Machiavelli allows students to acquire a nuanced understanding of his works which in turn enables them to both appreciate and critique this enduring political thinker. The aim of this course is to create an environment where students can cultivate their theoretical and practical knowledge. As such, this seminar is a unique opportunity for students to hone their verbal and written communication skills and enhance their critical thinking while reading one of the most inf&~ luential thinkers of all times. Evaluation is based on class participation and presentation, a major research paper, two low-stake creative assignments and peer-review services. Registration by application only: Please send a statement of interest between 500 to 1000 words to Machiavelli.firstname.lastname@example.org, briefly explaining why you would like to take the course, what Machiavelli means to you and how you can contribute to this seminar. As this seminar is student-directed, our goal is to attract students from a diverse range of intellectual and personal backgrounds to add multiplicity of perspectives to the course.
Wednesdays, 17:00 to 20:00 at BUCH D315
Student Coordinator: James Binks
Faculty Sponsor: Sabina Magliocco
Travel is ubiquitous throughout humanity, and tourism may be quantified as the world’s largest industry. What ‘tools’ do travellers use to construct encounters with people and environments? How do different strategies of movement, accommodation, and sociality shape and inform experiences of place and culture? Course literature and activities will begin with and depart from traditional studies on tourism destinations and host/guest dynamics to primarily focus on the processes of spaces, tools, and sensations that accompany the logistical construction of recreational travel experiences (e.g. transportation, trip planning, accommodation, guiding). This course emerges out of blurring disciplinary lines within the social sciences (chiefly anthropology, geography, and sociology) and the interdisciplinary subfields that have come into focus (Mobilities and Sensory/Affect Studies). This interdisciplinary study is perfect for the format of the Student Directed Seminar that is co-led among peers, because the direction of the course is flexible. Therefore, if you have a background unaccounted for in the syllabus developed thus far or a particular expertise, please communicate that and it can most likely be incorporated into the course.
Mondays, 17:00 to 20:00 at B101 MCLD 214
Student Coordinators: Beriwan Ravandi and Amanda Hage-Hassan
Faculty Sponsor: Shahriar Mirabbasi
This interdisciplinary course combines computer science, political science and economics to study the impact of technology in developing countries. The primary goal of this seminar is to equip students with a more comprehensive understanding of the specific problems in developing countries (broken infrastructure, war, lack of access to information and tools), the causes of them and how technology can help solve these global issues.
The seminar will cover different stages of a conflict while focusing on radicalization and counter-terrorism, the refugee crisis and democratizing technology. Students will research current technologies that can be applied at each stage while also designing and pitching a new technology that has yet to be developed for use in these regions.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 17:00 to 18:30 at B101 (Allard Hall)
Student Coordinators: Andrew Raitt and Abel Waller
Faculty Sponsor: Christopher Mole
The Artificial Intelligence and Legal Systems course seek to examine the complicated intersection between emergent AI technology with future and existing legal principles. Matters including self-driving vehicle liability, algorithm-generated intellectual property, facial recognition software, and lethal autonomous weapons will be discussed, with an especial focus on the potential ambiguities and conflicts each new technology presents to the law. Though students will not be expected to have any prior knowledge of artificial intelligence or law, they will be frequently challenged to apply their learning within the course to address a variety of pertinent legal issues.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 to 10:30 at ANGU 339
Student Coordinators: Anjali Mishra and Julia Niebles
Faculty Sponsor: Kerry Greer
The world cannot go on as it is: from the degradation of our planet to inequality, there is a growing consensus in the urgency of transforming our world. Doing so will require us to ask (and answer) some of humanity's biggest questions: what kind of world do we want to live in and how do we get there? The field of international development has attempted to address this question. It has done so by focusing on sustainable development: the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This seminar will focus on the shift from development theories and practice, to the current discourse on Sustainable Development established by the United Nation's Agenda 2030. The course will look at the Sustainable Development Goals through its five pillars: Planet, People, Partnerships, Prosperity, and Peace. Moreover, this course aims to evaluate the challenges and opportunities this framework presents and its role in the advancement of Sustainable Development.
Thursdays, 15:30 to 18:30 at B316 (Buchanan)
Student Coordinator: Areeka Riaz
Faculty Sponsor: Ayesha Chaudhry
What are the differentiations between colonialism and de/coloniality? What is the significance of these terms in the modern study of international relations? How do Western-centric theories of state and society shape this system? What is the role of the Other in relation to the hegemonic concept of the West in IR? POLI 333Z will present alternatives to traditional International Relations (IR) courses and encourage students to critically engage with the relationship between colonial systems of power and the system of nation-states in IR. In decentralizing coloniality and the West as a point of reference in global politics, this course will establish our point of departure in non-Western and decolonial theories and praxis. The bulk of this course will involve critically engaging with case studies of interactions in what we will problematize as the colonial nation-state system, specifically examining interactions of this system with race, gender, Human Rights, international development, settler-colonialism and Indigeneity. The course aims to create a unique opportunity for students to explore and centre diverse historiographies, viewpoints, and authorship while critically and creatively engaging with political theory and praxis. Please email a 150 to 300 word statement of interest to email@example.com, briefly explaining why you would like to take this course and what relevant experience with the subject matter you may have had.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30 to 14:00 at LSK 462 (Leonard S. Klinck)
Student Coordinator: Elizabeth Wong
Faculty Sponsor: Wendy Robinson
Even though the placenta’s role in chronic disease is now better understood, UBC offers a limited 3 hours on this topic in one developmental biology course. Students are briefly introduced to an overview of the placenta, however, its complexity and its effect on chronic disease is barely touched upon. The academic focus of this course will explore placental function, placental structure on an organ and cellular level, chromosomal variation, and its role in disease and fetal birth outcomes. This seminar is tailored to upper level science students with an interest in developmental biology. Selection of students will be based on a statement of interest detailing their background courses. Students who have taken courses in developmental biology and/or reproductive physiology will be prepared for this course.
Wednesdays and Fridays, 15:00 to 16:30 at IBLC 157 (Irving K. Barber Learning Centre)
Student Coordinator: Jackie Zhao
Faculty Sponsor: Yves Tiberghien
Taiwan, a small island situated in Asia-Pacific, is crucial for the rivalry between China and the U.S. Taiwan is unique for its national identity and sovereignty. Taiwan has adapted western style democracy, but its democracy seems to become an impediment to economic development. How to assess Taiwans strategic position in world politics? How to understand Taiwanese peoples identity? What is the problem of democracy in Taiwanese society? What will Taiwans presidential election in 2020 mean to global politics? This course presents Taiwans political development and foreign relations from 1945 to the present (Republic of China) with the focus on the era of democracy. We begin with a review of the history of Taiwan in political perspectives. Then, we will unpack the major political topics of Taiwan. Among the topics covered are identity politics, cross-strait relations, the economy, legal system, party system, media and public opinion, Taiwan-US relations, etc. This course also entails the comparative studies of Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea with Taiwan.
Wednesdays, 15:00 to 18:00 at BUCH B219
Student Coordinator: Kirsten Palmer
Faculty Sponsor: Janice Stewart
An examination of how social construction of gender and the gender binary evolves into contextually specific hybrid identities and sexualities which strictly diverge from heteronormative conceptions of masculine and feminine, or hyper-conform to traditional mores; differentially positioning them into distinct spaces, places and contexts while experiencing multilayered effects of racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. Through an intersectional lens we’ll analyze how ideologies of gender, sex, class, ability, race, etc., have historically converged with social order(s) to create hybrids. Potential hybrids for discussion include Incels, AlphaGirls, FlowerBoys, Harajuku Tribes, Islam Punks, Cholombians, and Afrofuturists. For UBC students Year 3+ with prior knowledge of feminist theory. To apply, send a statement of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cite how your academic background has prepared you for this seminar, why you are interested in this topic, and any relevant social/community experience.
Wednesdays and Fridays, 16:00 to 17:30 at IBLC 460 (Irving K. Barber Learning Centre)
Student Coordinator: Menglu Tian
Faculty Sponsor: Tsering Shakya
This is a student directed seminar focusing on the relationship between Buddhism and contemporary social changes from 1950 to the present in East Asia. Students will discuss how Buddhism responds to social, political and economic changes with a focus on Mahayana Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. Students will cover themes such as identity politics, gender, nationalism, cultural revitalization, diaspora, secularism, globalization, and new religious movements within Buddhism. We will go through these themes by examining case studies such as the Cultural Revolution in China and charity works run by Buddhist communities. Each week, we will begin with a specific case study, and then closely examine related theory.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30 to 14:00 at IBLC 191 (Irving K. Barber Learning Centre)
Student Coordinators: Morgan Khan and Suyesha Dutta
Faculty Sponsor: Anne Murphy
Postcolonial and Subaltern Studies have been important in critiquing the nation and its citizens. These have also helped critique the nationalist project that drives the Indian state. In this course, we will critically read and compare approaches based on the changing nature of subaltern studies, socio-economic and socio-cultural identity formation, and the way dissent manifests itself in India. Readings will draw on historiography, social theory, political economy, colonial and postcolonial studies, ethnography, and governance. Course material will be largely key secondary material although this will be supplemented with some primary material. This course does not require a prerequisite, but requires a submission of an expression of interest. Please send a statement of interest in about 500 words to email@example.com, briefly expressing your interest in the course and how you would be able to contribute to this seminar. The course is appropriate for students across every region and/or discipline.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 to 11:00 at FNH 320 (Food, Nutrition and Health Building)
Student Coordinator: Tommy Kuo
Faculty Sponsor: Lacey Samuels
Medicine and pharmaceutics often focus on mammalian cell systems, downplaying the contribution of plants to disease treatment and drug development. This Student Directed Seminar will offer case studies of plant metabolites in medical and pharmaceutical contexts, showcasing UBC research in plant biochemistry, with guest lectures addressing local plant biochemistry research, cannabis industry issues, and health policies related to use of plant metabolites. Students will develop research skills in reading the plant biochemistry literature, and practice scientific communication through presentations, interviews with guest lecturers, and field trip reports.
Mondays, 14:00 to 17:00 at IBLC 191 (Irving K. Barber Learning Centre)
Student Coordinator: Will Wei
Faculty Sponsor: Pamela Kalas
Course Description: Many research breakthroughs are built on the foundations of basic research and the findings of supporting experiments. This course aims to help students develop the skills necessary to identify critical experiments that were necessary for major scientific breakthroughs to occur in molecular biology. Students will present on scientific discoveries and lead discussions to identify the experiment that had the most significant contribution to the breakthrough. Through considering the history and context of the research, students will assess the impact of the work against the recognition it received. Presentations from principal investigators of research labs will provide students with various perspectives on the contribution of basic research to novel discoveries.
Fridays, 13:00 to 16:00 at SCRF 1023
Student Coordinator: Yue Yao
Faculty Sponsors: Xiong Gu and Jaleh Mansoor
What is Avant-garde? This seminar is a survey of art exhibitions, organizations, and movements in China from the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) to the present. Reversing the cultural logic of canonical art historical narration, the course provides a critical overview of the prominent methodological debates that have challenged and reshaped the field of “Art” in China. We explore and compare the visual culture, social history, and art historiography in China and theirinfluences in a global context, encountering the “hegemony” of modernism on the grounds. If you are interested in registering in this course, please email a statement of intent (what is your relevant background knowledge, why are you interested in this seminar, and what you hope to get out of it) to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursdays, 17:00 to 20:00 at BUCH B308
Student Coordinator: Evgenia Ignatenko
Faculty Sponsor: Jessica Main
Students will participate in open discussion, creating and sharing knowledge about the interaction of Buddhist psychological concepts (i.e. suffering, no-self, and bare attention) with modern psychological research. We will explore and criticize empirical findings regarding social and clinical applications of appropriated Buddhist concepts, delving deeply into the science of the self, meditation, and mindfulness. Students will gain the skills necessary to critically analyze modern Buddhist literature from a scientific perspective and evaluate scientific research based on Buddhist psychology.
Mondays and Fridays, 17:00 to 18:30 at ORCH 3018 (Orchard Commons
Student Coordinators: Amy Zhu and James Yoo
Faculty Sponsor: Steven Wolfman
Examining how people learn computer science, what educators can do to improve both experience and outcomes, and practical applications of pedagogical academia. In-depth discussions of readings (research papers, textbook excerpts, etc.) on topics of interest. Hands-on practicum where students will curate a mini-curriculum on a computer science concept of their choice. Reflections and participation will count for the total mark. Students should also have at least six credits of CPSC in 200, 300, or 400-level courses. To register, please indicate your interest by completing both steps below: 1) submitting the short survey at https://ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_79FXPvrXfwgvg9v 2) registering in the waitlist. Students should also have at least 6 credits of CPSC 2xx/3xx before registering. The survey serves to gauge the applicants interest in improving and understanding Computer Science education, and their participation in in-class discussions. Preference shall be given to 3rd and 4th year students, but students who do not meet this year standing are encouraged to apply regardless and fill out the survey to demonstrate their interest. We will notify you if you are successfully registered in the course. Session time is flexible, based on the availability of all participants.