Spring 2024 Honors First Year Seminars & Launches

Course times and offerings subject to change




CHEM 073H.001 | From Atomic Bombs to Cancer Treatments: The Broad Scope of Nuclear Chemistry

T, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Todd Austell. Enrollment = 25.
This course will investigate the diverse topics and applications of nuclear chemistry on a level requiring at least one prior semester of college general chemistry (Chem 101).  After providing an exploration of introductory atomic theory and radioactive decay, course topics including nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear medicine and other modern applications of nuclear chemistry and physics will be investigated. Some emphasis will be placed on student research and in-class presentation of material. Several stimulating field trips and guest speakers will support the material presented in the course.

Todd Austell is a Teaching Professor and currently serves as the Associate Director of U’grad Studies for the Department of Chemistry. He serves as an academic advisor for STEM and pre-health science majors in UNC Academic Advising.  Prof. Austell received his BS in Chemistry in 1987 and his PhD in Chemistry in 1996, both at UNC. He spent one year working in the pharmaceutical industry prior to graduate school and another year as an Assistant Professor at the United States Air Force Academy prior to returning to his current position in 1998. As an undergraduate, he participated in the Department of Energy and American Chemistry Society’s Summer School in Nuclear Chemistry. Topical studies in nuclear chemistry have been a hobby of his since that time. His graduate research involved separation science, and he is currently involved in both curriculum development within the chemistry department and in a long-term study of how middle school and secondary math education/preparation affects student performances in college general chemistry. His hobbies include hiking, camping, disc golf and gardening as well as following all UNC athletics.  He has two young daughters whom he says are “his greatest accomplishment” and a wife who works as a physical therapist.


DRAM 081H.001 | Staging America: The American Drama

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor(s): Greg Kable. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar examines our national drama from its colonial origins to the present. Participants read plays and criticism, screen videos, engage in critical writing, and consider performance as related means of exploring the visions and revisions constituting American dramatic history. We will approach American drama as both a literary and commercial art form, and look to its history to provide a context for current American theater practice. Readings are chosen for their intrinsic merit and historical importance, but also for their treatment of key issues and events in American life. Our focus throughout will be on the forces that shaped the American drama as well as, in turn, that drama’s ability to shed light on the national experience.


Gregory Kable is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Dramatic Art, where he teaches dramatic literature, theatre history, and performance courses and serves as an Associate Dramaturg for PlayMakers Repertory Company. He also teaches seminars on Modern British Drama and American Musicals for the Honors program. He has directed dozens of productions at UNC and throughout the local community, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.


ECON 101H.01F | Introduction to Economics

TR, 9:30 am – 10:45 am; Recitation: F, 9:05 am – 9:55 am. Instructor(s): Sergio Parreiras. Enrollment = 35.
Introduction to Economics (Economics 101H) is the Honors section of the introductory course in Economics for undergraduates. The Honors section covers the same material as the large enrollment version but does so in more depth. This is an introductory course in both microeconomics and macroeconomics. In this one-semester course students are introduced to fundamental issues in economics including competition, scarcity, opportunity cost, resource allocation, unemployment, inflation, and the determination of prices. This course is the gateway course for the major of Economics; if you wish to major in Economics, you must have at least a C in this course.


Sergio O. Parreiras research focuses on game-theoretic models of contests, tournaments, and relative performance evaluation.


ENGL 057H.001 | Future Perfect

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor(s): Matthew Taylor. Enrollment = 24.
What will our world look like in ten years? Fifty? One hundred? Will the future be a utopian paradise or a dystopian wasteland? Through a wide-ranging survey of popular science writing, novels, and films, this first year seminar will examine fictional and nonfictional attempts to imagine the future from the nineteenth century to the present. We will explore everything from futurology and transhumanism to warnings of imminent environmental collapse. Our focus will be less on assessing the accuracy of these predictions and more on determining what they tell us about the hopes and fears of the times in which they were made. The course will culminate in a short research paper on a future-oriented topic of your choosing.


My research focuses on the intersections among environmental humanities, critical theory (including posthumanism, biopolitics, science and technology studies, and critical race theory), and nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature. My first book, Universes without Us: Posthuman Cosmologies in American Literature (Univ. of Minnesota Press), examines cosmologies that challenge the utopianism of both past and present attempts at fusing self and environment.

ENGL 071H.001 | Healers and Patients

MWF, 11:15 am – 12:05 pm. Instructor(s): Kym Weed. Enrollment = 24.
When medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman writes that “illness has meaning,” he reminds us that the human experience of being sick involves more than bodily symptoms. Moreover, the effects of illness and disability are rarely confined to one person. In this course, we will analyze a diverse collection of writers who work to make sense of illness and disability through a range of genres including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic memoir, podcasts, and oral histories.
Divided into five units, the course will allow us to explore not just the medical, but also the personal, ethical, cultural, and political facets of illness from the perspectives of patients, healthcare providers, and families. Central texts will include /Ask Me About My Uterus/ by Abby Norman, /Black Man in a White Coat/ by Damon Tweedy, /Mom’s Cancer/ by Brian Fies and /The Farewell/ directed by Lulu Wang. Additionally, students will explore a set of oral histories to learn more about the experiences of patients, healthcare providers, and families from across North Carolina.

Kym Weed is a Teaching Assistant Professor in English & Comparative Literature and the Co-Director of the HHIVE Lab and Associate Director of graduate programs in Literature, Medicine, and Culture. She earned her PhD from UNC and returned to Chapel Hill after a year in Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health, and Society. Her research focuses on the intersection of science and literature in late-nineteenth-century American literature and culture as well as contemporary understandings of illness, health, disability, and embodiment. Her most recent project examines narratives around anti-microbial resistance. She teaches courses in health humanities, disability studies, American literature, and writing.


HIST 089H.001 | Witchcraft & Magic in the Early Modern World

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Ana Silva Campo. Enrollment = 24.
Witches, witchcraft, and magic have inspired folk legends, literary works, films, and artistic creations for centuries. Ideas and beliefs about these topics have also fueled deadly persecutions of groups and individuals. Witchcraft and magic raise questions about gendered norms and expectations, about human beliefs, fear, and responses to that fear. This First Year Seminar explores early modern witchcraft and magic to introduce students to the ways in which historians think about questions of gender, power, and belief in historical perspective. The Seminar will focus on how historians pose problems, collect evidence, and evaluate knowledge about how witchcraft and magic reveal broader tensions in the early modern world. The Seminar also draws connections to the present by emphasizing the lasting impact of beliefs and ideas about witchcraft and magic in culture and politics.



MATH 062H.001 | Combinatorics

TR, 9:30 am – 10:45 am. Instructor(s): Ivan Cherednik. Enrollment = 35.
A leading expert in Modern Combinatorics wants to share his vision of the subject with the students. The seminar is a perfect background for future specialists in mathematics, physics, computer science, biology, economics, for those who are curious what statistical physics is about, what is cryptography, and how stock market works, and for everyone who likes mathematics.
The course will be organized around the following topics:

  • Puzzles: dimer covering, magic squares, 36 officers
  • Combinations: from coin tossing to dice and poker
  • Fibonacci numbers: rabbits, population growth, etc.
  • Arithmetic: designs, cyphers, intro to finite fields
  • Catalan numbers: from playing roulette to stock market

The students will learn about the history of Combinatorics, its connections with the theory of numbers, its fundamental role in the natural sciences and various applications.

It is an advanced research course; all students are expected to participate in projects under the supervision of I.Ch. and the Graduate Research Consultant (the GRC Program). This seminar is partially supported by Honors Carolina.

The grades will be based on the exam, bi-weekly home assignments and the participation in the projects. The course requires focus and effort, but, generally, the students are quite satisfied with the progress they make (and their grades too).

From the Course Evaluation: “A difficult but wholly worthwhile course: I feel more competent for having taken it”, “I would recommend this FYS to others ONLY if they have a VERY strong affinity for and ability in Algebra (I thought I did, but I was wrong)”.


Professor Cherednik is Austin H. Carr Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. Trained at the Steklov Mathematics Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and at Moscow State University, his areas of specialization are Representation Theory, Combinatorics, Number Theory, Harmonic Analysis, and Mathematical Physics. Cherednik’s particular affection for Combinatorics is well known: he proved the celebrated Constant term conjecture in Combinatorics. His recent papers were in financial mathematics, on modeling epidemic spread, and on some aspects of AI.

MATH 233H.01F | Calculus of Functions of Several Variables

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm; Recitation: M, 3:35 pm – 4:25 pm. Instructor(s): Jiuzu Hong. Enrollment = 24.
This is the Honors section of MATH 233. It offers a more demanding and deeper treatment than the regular sections. For example, there will be more emphasis on understanding theory than in other sections. Topics: Vectors in three dimensional space. Dot products and cross products and their applications. Functions of two and three variables. Polar and spherical coordinates. Graphs and contours. Multivariable calculus: partial derivatives, gradient. Curves in space. Surfaces: normal vector, tangent plane. Maxima and minima. Lagrange multipliers. Double and triple definite integrals, line integrals, Green’s theorem.


Jiuzu Hong is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, UNC, Chapel Hill.


HNRS 089.001 | Medicine and Narrative: Writing COVID / Writing Us

W, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Instructor(s): Terry Holt. Enrollment = 20.
A workshop in autobiographical and creative short story, focusing on the complex connections between story-telling, interpretive skill, and the practice of medicine. Students will write and present autobiographical and and creative short stories about illness and medical care; the seminar will meet weekly to discuss these stories, attempting to identify and articulate the key issues each story expresses about what it means to be sick, what it might mean to take care of others in their illness. The writing and (especially) interpretive skills acquired in this workshop are directly valuable to anyone contemplating a career in medicine, but are equally valuable to anyone who might at some point encounter (in themselves or in someone they care for) the trauma of illness. In addition to the weekly workshop, participants will have one-on-one conferences with the instructor (himself an MD with an international reputation as a writer). A semester-long journal, focusing on the reverberations of the pandemic on the writer’s daily (actual and interior) life, will form the basis for a final project, which may (at student option) be in the form of written narrative, an audio composition, or a film, composed using the tools available at the University’s Media Resources Center.



Terrence Holt taught literature and writing at Rutgers University and Swarthmore College for a decade before attending medical school. Hailed as “a work of genius” by the New York Times, his 2009 In the Valley of the Kings was one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year. Internal Medicine, his New York Times bestselling memoir of medical training, was named best book of 2014 by three industry journals.  Holt teaches medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.


PHIL 059H.001 | Proof of the Existence of God

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Douglas MacLean. Enrollment = 24.
The first third of the course will be devoted to proofs of the existence or nonexistence of God. What are these arguments aiming to show? Who is the intended audience? Next, we will examine the nature of religious life and the role of theism in religion. This will include an examination of whether God is necessary for morality. Then we will consider the problem of evil, the role of faith, and the nature of miracles. The course will conclude by asking whether God is necessary for religion and with reflections on death and the afterlife.
This course has two goals: The first is to sharpen your ability to analyze, evaluate, and produce philosophical arguments; the second is to introduce you to some of the main topics in the philosophy of religion. We will draw primarily on works in philosophy but will also examine these issues in works of literature and film.
This course will be conducted as a seminar. It is restricted to honors students.


Douglas MacLean’s current research focuses on practical ethics and issues in moral and political theory that are particularly relevant to practical concerns. Most of his recent writing examines how values do and ought to influence decisions, both personal decisions and government policies.


SOCI 057H.001 | Rationalization and the Changing Nature of Social Life in 21st-Century America

TR, 9:30 am – 10: 45 am. Instructor(s): Howard Aldrich. Enrollment = 24.
Today, fast food restaurants have become a model for everyday life. Some scholars have even talked about the “McDonaldization” of the nation and the world. By that, scholars mean a drive toward greater efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control by non-human technologies in modern organizations. This drive has shaped many features of American life, including health care, law, and education. Such forces have even affected personal relationships. Sociologists have a term for this process: “rationalization.” We will explore “rationalization” through a process called “active learning” in which you will have opportunities to explore online resources, engage in peer-to-peer discussions, and work with me to develop a research project in which you explore the impact of rationalization on an occupation that might be a destination for you. We will spend one class period, every other week, working on the term paper in class. We will have four or five guests, sharing their expertise on how rationalization has affected their work. You will be assessed based on your contributions to blog posts, class discussion, short answer written assignments, and a research project culminating in a term paper (15-20 pages). You will then build an Adobe Spark page that explains, to the world, what you have learned. We will have no traditional examinations or quizzes.


Howard E. Aldrich is Kenan Professor of Sociology. He has won numerous awards for his teaching and mentoring: Favorite Professor Award from the senior class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; graduate students’ Award for Best Teaching, Department of Sociology, several times; and the J Carlyle Sitterson Freshman Teaching Award from the University of Carolina Chapel Hill. His two sons and his daughters-in-law graduated from Carolina. His main research interests are entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial team formation, gender and entrepreneurship, and evolutionary theory. He writes a regular column, “Speaking from Experience,” for The National Teaching and Learning Forum. He fly fishes year-round in the mountains of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee and wherever else his travels may take him. Photos of his catches may be seen on his homepage.