Seeing the Big Picture of the 'Big C'

Course looks at key topics across disciplines, perspectives

Food for the Soul: Freshmen prepared and shared a meal with cancer patients and their families, listening to how each has faced the challenges of living with the disease.
Kay Hinton

Course description

Drawing on the expertise of six Emory graduate students in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, this freshman seminar class covers a mash-up of subjects

—including social cognition in primates, the history of railroads, memory and the brain, and new approaches to cancer treatment. Selected as one of two ORDER (On Recent Discoveries by Emory Researchers) courses offered at Emory last fall, this course exposed freshmen to an array of interdisciplinary perspectives and graduate research currently under way at Emory, with lectures ranging from the origins and treatment of cancer and how drug therapies are developed to data analysis, creative cognition, and neurobiology and memory. The graduate students merged scholarly interests to develop this course under the supervision of David Lynn, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Chemistry and Biology, and Leslie Taylor, professor of theater studies. 

Faculty CV

David Lynn is an internationally recognized researcher in biomolecular chemistry, molecular evolution and chemical biology, the evolution of biological order, and the origins of life. Lynn joined Emory in 2000 as the Asa Griggs Candler Professor in Chemistry and Biology. In 2002, he was named one of twenty inaugural Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professors, receiving $1 million to translate his passion for science to the undergraduate classroom. Leslie Taylor has served for the past ten years as chair of the Department of Theater and Dance. She also is executive director for Emory’s Center for Creativity & Arts.

Today’s class

Led by doctoral candidates MaKendra Umstead 16PhD and Jasmine Miller-Kleinhenz 16PhD, students cooked dinner for some sixty cancer patients and their families at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, a residential center on the Clairmont Campus for patients receiving care at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute and other area treatment centers. Students then sat and talked with them, borrowing from all they’ve learned about the disease, its treatment, and the arduous process of developing new drugs to help fight it.

Quotes to Note

“That’s what my lab does—helps identify new targets for cancer therapy. We do that by thinking about the cancer cell as a network, a complicated, nonlinear, messy network. Mutations deregulate cell signaling within those protein-to-protein interaction networks. . . . We use high throughput screening and molecular biology to pinpoint what interactions contribute to that."

— Makendra Umstead 19PhD, coinstructor

“Jasmine and MaKendra have done a marvelous job helping students understand the concept of cancer, but they’ve put such a human touch on it—particularly for freshmen. For many, it’s an experience they might have never had.” 

—David Lynn, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Chemistry and Biology

Students Say

“These contributions to my education, particularly introducing me to cervical cancer research . . . have changed the course of my scholastic career.” 

Eboni Freeman 18C

“As a freshman, who gets to do anything like this? I went home over Thanksgiving break and, honestly, all I could talk about was this class.” 

Diana Bender-Bier 18C

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