HHMI-FYS: First-Year Seminars in science for non-scientists

HHMI-FYS courses are special new extensions of the University’s successful First-Year Seminars (FYS) program. FYS courses usually include fewer than twenty-five students and are led by the University’s most distinguished researchers and most skillful teachers, typically focusing on an advanced or emergent topic. The HHMI-FYS courses, supported in part by a grant to UNC-Chapel Hill from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Precollege and Undergraduate Science Education Program, are designed to engage undergraduate students in scientific approaches to major unsolved problems through interaction with instructors who are graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who have been mentored by professors of other FYS courses.

In 2012-13, Mathematics is offering three of these innovative HHMI-FYS courses, run as different sections of MATH 190.

This Fall, Dr. Shilpa Khatri is teaching “Going with the Flow”: the Mathematics of Fluid Dynamics. Before getting her Ph.D. at NYU, Khatri herself was an undergraduate here at Carolina, receiving her bachelor’s degree here in 2003. Now she finds herself on the proverbial other side of the podium, except instead of standing behind a podium she and her students gather around experiments together taking data for quantitative analysis. Her most recent course activity was a field trip to the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, where students traveled by boat to take pressure, temperature and salinity measurements at different estuary locations.

Also this Fall, Ph.D. candidate Austin Baird is teaching Chaos and Population Dynamics. His course introduces students to mathematical models for studying populations and disease spread that students further explore using computational tools under Baird’s tutorial guidance. His students then use these methods to develop arguments for classroom discussion and for presentation across a sequence of course papers.

In the Spring, Ph.D. candidate Dan Orr will teach Cracking the Code: Explorations in Number Theory, introducing students to number theory and its use as the theoretical foundation for modern cryptography (the mathematics of secure communication, including every secure internet transaction).