Freshman Seminars 2021 Spring


SOC Title





Mind, Meditation, Dream



W   11:00-11:50


Physics of Photography & Advanced Photography Techniques





Tools to Evaluate Scientific Evidence



Tu   2:00- 2:50p


Globalization: Problem and/or Opportunity



W   5:00- 5:50p





Th   3:00- 3:50p


How Comedy Works



Tu   5:00- 5:50p


The Mind-Body Connection in the Neuroscience of Well-Being



F   3:00- 3:50p


Infectious Diseases and Public Health



W   1:00- 1:50p


The Magic of Engineering



F   9:30-10:20


Beyond Numbers: The Search for Structure in Mathematics



W   2:00- 2:50p


Climate Justice



F   11:00-11:50








Mind, Meditation, Dream: Navigating the Mind
Investigating the mind through the medium of meditation, discussion, and dream. We will learn meditation techniques in order to develop mental equilibrium and clarity, and then use this clarity and calm to investigate our various mental states throughout the day and night—including dreams, flights of imagination, fantasies, and thought itself. Such meditation/dreamwork has been shown to improve concentration, insight, and creativity.

Anthony Kubiak is a Professor in the Drama Department researching the relationships between mind and performance. Alongside this research and teaching, he says that “my ‘doubled’ path began with embarking on a serious mediation practice in 2006, after a dieta (an ayahuasca shamanic initiation) in the Amazon the year before. This was followed by another dieta and series of ayahauasca medicine journeys in 2007, and was expanded a few years later with initiations into huachuma mesa practice, alongside continuing work with Tibetan Buddhist Medicine empowerments and practice, which has been supported by a fourteen year daily meditation regime. In 2010, I received empowerment in Chod practice (Tibetan “exorcism”) practice, and worked both traditionally and more broadly in the “feeding your demons” practice of Tsultrim Allione, and further shamanic de-possession practices with Betsy Bergstrom, with whom I have worked quite extensively. In 2014 I also worked with Nepali Jhankris (shamans) and learned their own approaches to many of the practices I have since been engaged in. Mantra, drumming, and the more specific practices of soul retrieval, shamanic de-possession, and spirit calling were at the core of this training. In addition to this soul retrieval, obstacle extraction, depossession, and drum work, has been training in Reiki, in which I attained Reiki Master ranking, and my ongoing training in Tibetan medicine, including Kunye, Yukcho, and mantra healing practice. I have recently incorporated sound into these practices through the use of Tibetan bowls, gongs, and Peruvian water whistles.”

Physics of Photography and Advanced Photography Techniques
This seminar will discuss physics of modern-day digital cameras and lenses and will discuss photography techniques for portrait, landscape, and night astrophotography. The seminar will explore analysis methods including software such as Lightroom and Photoshop. This seminar is part science and part applications. A background and a genuine interest in photography is essential to get the most out of this seminar. It will be useful to have a DSLR at the entry level.

Professor A. Cooray is an astrophysicist whose research is on developing space telescopes and observatories to observe the universe at infrared wavelengths. He also advised NASA as a member of the advisory council and leads a number of NASA-funded projects to analyze data and build next-generation space equipment. This seminar is mostly based on his experience as a published astrophotographer using digital cameras. The seminar will discuss modern cameras to more complicated cameras in space for telescope such as Hubble and James Webb.

Tools to Evaluate Scientific Evidence
The ability to evaluate the types and quality of scientific (e.g., medical) evidence is needed for a general critical understanding of evidence in the mass media. This was apparent during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with media coverage of whether hydroxychloroquine treatment benefits patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and with media attention to the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. The course provides principles and tools to evaluate scientific evidence.

Dr. Danh Nguyen is professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, and conducts clinical and translational research including biostatistics and research design.

Globalization: Problem and/or Opportunity (in a time of pandemic — and beyond)?
“Globalization” is a catch-phrase – but what does it mean? We look at it in a long-term historical way, as well as in recent worldwide political and economic changes of the last few years that have led some people to argue that “the world has changed.” Will globalization continue in a time of pandemic – and after Covid-19 is gone? How does it impact myriad problems (grinding poverty, rampant unemployment and inequality, international tension and terrorism, ecological crisis)? What can we do in response?

David A. Smith is a Professor of Sociology. He teaches Sociology 3 (Introduction to Social Problems) every year, is a former department Graduate & Undergrad Director, was Editor of the major sociology journal, SOCIAL PROBLEMS, was Co-Editor of CONTEMPORARY SOCIOLOGY, and currently is Editor of INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE SOCIOLOGY. In 2015-16 he was the elected President of the national Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP). His central scholarly interest is in the political economy of the world-system, with expertise in Third World development, global urbanization, global commodity chains, and social change in East Asia. He has published articles in academic journals such as SOCIAL FORCES, AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY, URBAN STUDIES, GLOBAL NETWORKS, and SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH. His books include a co-edited volume entitled, A NEW WORLD ORDER? GLOBAL TRANSFORMATION IN THE LATE 2Oth CENTURY, a solo-authored book, THIRD WORLD CITIES IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE, and co-edited collections, STATES AND SOVEREIGNTY IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, LABOR VERSUS EMPIRE: RACE, GENDER AND MIGRATION, NATURE, RAW MATERIALS AND POLITICAL ECONOMY, and most recently 21st CENTURY INEQUALITY: PIKETTY, MARX, AND BEYOND.

Learn the basics of bubbles in water! In this seminar, we will discuss how bubbles are formed and released, and how they travel through liquid. We will see applications of bubbles to clean water and how to study them. Bubbles of various sizes will be discussed.

Diego Rosso is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and of Chemical Engineering and Material Science at the University of California, Irvine, where he is also Director of the Water-Energy Nexus Center. Since 2000, he has been studying bubbles and how to use them in water reclamation and reuse processes.

How Comedy Works
In this course, we explore the ins and outs of comedy. Join us to learn the elements of what makes a joke funny and research the various ways we can make people laugh. Comedy can do so much more beyond entertainment! Together, we will investigate the positive impact it can have on our lives and work.

Joel Veenstra is a professional stage manager, a production manager, a producer, a filmmaker, and a comedic improviser. He has taught comedic improvisation for over 20 years and has performed comedy professionally throughout the United States and the world.

The Mind-Body Connection in the Neuroscience of Well-Being
Wisdom from divergent human societies over millennia has provided insights into how to live a fulfilling life. In the rush of modern life, this wisdom is often forgotten or ignored for decades, but is now gaining attention as the frequency of mental health issues like depression and anxiety soar. This seminar will explore research that provides insight into how exercise, diet, sleep, and contemplative practices alter brain function in beneficial ways and promote positive mental health well-being.

Professor Guzowski’s research program focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating memory formation and retrieval, in health and disease. In recent years, he has become fascinated by how lifestyle modifications, such as physical exercise and practices such as mindfulness, can alter brain physiology and function, and be useful “tools” towards promoting positive mental health.

Infectious Diseases and Public Health
This class will explore outbreaks of infectious diseases (the plague, influenza, malaria, HIV) throughout history to discuss how humans made sense of and responded to challenges that microorganisms pose. We will use prior encounters with infectious disease and public health to consider the current coronavirus-2 pandemic.

Naomi Morrissette is a microbiologist who studies drug development to target protozoan parasites. She teaches Human Parasitology, AIDS Fundamentals and Experimental Microbiology laboratory. As a student, she studied graphic art and history of science as well as biochemistry and she is very interested in improving public understanding of CoV-2.

The Magic of Engineering
Engineering makes our lives significantly better by equipping us with the tools for a more sustainable, healthy, safe, joyful, and equitable future. From combustion in our cars, to microchips in our phones, to electricity, to space travel, to clean drinking water we can see the magic of engineering in nearly every aspect of our lives. In this seminar, together we will explore current societal challenges that await engineering solutions. The only requirement is to come to class with an open mind!

Professor Natascha Buswell is an assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Her PhD is in Engineering Education and she researches the development of teaching methods of graduate students and faculty.
Alejandra Hormaza Mejia is a graduate student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Her research is focused on renewable energy systems modeling. Her career goal is to be a teaching professor after she graduates.

Beyond Numbers: The Search for Structure in Mathematics
What does untying a knot have to do with mathematics? When is it better to describe complicated relationships via dots (vertices) and lines (edges)? What does it mean for two shapes to be different? The answers to these questions will introduce us to novel mathematical structures (e.g., topological shapes and combinatorial graphs), which are often not discussed until well after Calculus. This seminar will provide an intuitive introduction to these structures and will highlight applications.

Professor Pelayo is a teaching professor in the Mathematics department and enjoys providing active learning opportunities to undergraduate students that allow them to interact with math in an intuitive and natural way. He has created and taught courses throughout the entire Mathematics curriculum, and he is always looking for new pedagogical techniques that will instill genuine curiosity and passion within students.

Climate Justice
The worst impacts of human-caused climate change will be felt by people with the least power and money. This seminar will explore what we can do to overcome the injustice of climate change. How can you personally use your voice and take action to prevent climate change? What are the obligations of corporations, municipalities, states, and national governments? The seminar will empower students to take concrete steps toward protecting vulnerable people from a complex global threat.

Steven Allison is a professor of ecology and Earth system science and an environmental commissioner for the City of Irvine. His research and teaching examine the interface between microbes, ecosystems, and climate change.