NEWS

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May 30, 2022

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2:46 p.m.

Graduating Fourth-Years Share Their Favorite Classes

Meghan Hendrix / The Chicago Maroon

As graduation looms, fourth-years are wrapping up their final undergraduate classes. They have finished the Core, completed their major and minor requirements, and dabbled in electives listed among the College’s 53 majors, 59 minors, and dozens of areas of specialized study. How much these students enjoyed their classes varied, but many fourth-years remember the one class that transformed their UChicago experience. The Maroon spoke with three fourth-years who shared what made their all-time favorite classes so special.  

Ethics through a Neurobiological Lens (NSCI 21750) 

Neuroscience major Amelia Simonoff felt that the course Ethics through a Neurobiological Lens, taught by Peggy Mason, distinguished itself from other courses in the same department because of its interdisciplinary approach. The course weaves together science and philosophy by looking at and debating the ethical dilemmas often encountered by neurobiologists: the definition of death, the ethics of neuroenhancement, and the limitations of culpability.  

“It was more of a personable approach to neuroscience than I had previously experienced in any of my other anatomy courses,” Simonoff said.   

Mason has taught students in the College and the Pritzker School of Medicine since 1992. In 2018, she was honored with a Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring. At UChicago, she leads a research laboratory; she also teaches a neurobiology course on the online learning platform Coursera that has been taken by more than 200,000 students to date.  

“She is very knowledgeable, has many, many years of experience, and is able to give us scenarios and concepts to talk about that we wouldn't have come up with ourselves,” Simonoff said.  

Simonoff emphasized that prior knowledge of neuroscience would benefit students taking the class, but because of its emphasis on discussion, she believes any student, regardless of major, can enjoy and learn from it.  

“I think, in a lot of classes, you can skip some of the readings as you work through the class, Simonoff said. “However, I think the readings add a lot to this class because they’re all very diverse. So do the readings, show up to class, and really engage with material in maybe more ways than you would in most of your other classes.”  

Economic Objects: Capitalism as Medium (CMST 27821)  

With a major in economics and a minor in film and media studies, fourth-year Pranav Pradeep found that Economic Objects: Capitalism as Medium was the perfect merger of the two subjects. Within the course, offered by the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, students analyze how capitalism manipulates the public’s perception of the economy as presented by the media. Students also explored the overlap between art and economics. For example, students discussed the notion of finance as an object of artistic analysis and the role of debts and low wages on the rise and institutionalization of social practice art.  

Pradeep appreciated how the class covered a range of topics while allowing students to understand its material in depth. 

“During class, we looked at economic articles and the economic theories of authors such as Marx,” Pradeep said. “We also looked at various forms of media by watching movies, reading texts, or even listening to music to understand how capitalism has played a role in developing media.” 

Pradeep said the course taught him to view the media and his surroundings from a more inquisitive lens. He recommended this course to any student who is interested in economic and political theory.  

“I think that students have to go into this class aware that they could be spending a lot of time actually doing the readings, watching the screenings, or listening to the audiobooks,” Pradeep said. “I think that you have to actively enjoy doing those things, and at the same time, you have to have the time to do those things. You very much have to commit to putting a lot of time into class, and you get out of it what you put in.”  

Ultimately, what made the class really stand out to Pradeep was the enthusiasm and care of its three instructors: Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky, Seth Kim-Cohen, and Leigh Claire La Berge. Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky is an associate professor specializing in transnational political cinema within the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. Seth Kim-Cohen is an artist, writer, and musician based in Chicago; Leigh Claire La Berge is the author of the books *Scandals and Abstraction: Financial Fictions of the Long 1980s* and *Wages Against Artwork: Decommodified Labor and the Claims of Socially Engaged Art*.  

“It was obvious that the professors cared about the class and that they were excited to have as good a time as possible,” Pradeep said. “I remember that their enthusiasm constantly showed through, and the discussions they had proved just how much they cared about the class and how interesting they found the class to be themselves, which I think made the material even more interesting for the students.”  

Biological Clocks and Behavior (BIOS 24248)  

Sarah Bang, a neuroscience and economics double major, recommended the course Biological Clocks and Behavior. Within this course, students examine aspects of nature and human behavior determined by physiology and molecular biology and analyze the role of circadian and seasonal rhythms in everyday human activities like eating and sleeping. This biology topics course is taught by Brian J. Prendergast, a professor in the Department of Psychology.  

“The class taught me a lot about how people function and behave,” Bang said. “It also explained to me how nature is able to sustain itself, which was fascinating to me.”  

Bang was interested in the methods that neuroscientists and psychologists use to uncover the role of circadian and seasonal rhythms. Students also learn about the history of uncovering biological rhythms and the connection between animal behavior and time.  

“It was incredible to learn about what kind of calculations [neuroscientists and psychologists] use to make sure their findings are as consistent and as robust as possible,” she said. “As a neuroscience major, I’m used to reading scientific papers, but learning about the methods behind that research was new and exciting for me.”  

Bang recommended the course to students majoring in biology, neuroscience, and psychology. 

“Listening to and learning the course material made me realize how insanely cool [it is] that everything, even in nature, uses different cues from the environment in order to survive,” Bang said.