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6 Interesting Classes Students Are Taking This Fall

Atlanta, GA

Georgia Tech courses are plentiful and varied. They range from microelectronic circuits, to international affairs, to a College of Design workshop (ARCH 4803) — taught by Tech alumnus and Beltline founder Ryan Gravel — that will look at the growth of Atlanta’s Buford Highway, the corridor that runs through Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville.

Here’s a closer look at six courses being taught this semester.

The Biology of Sex and Death (BIOL 1220)

Taught by Chrissy Spencer and Shana Kerr, academic professionals, and Aakanksha Angra, postdoctoral fellow

Have you ever wondered… Why does sex exist? Can we prevent infectious disease spread? Can GMO foods harm us? How can DNA help solve crimes? What can cause the death of the entire species?

“I leapt at the opportunity to help build a new lab science requirement from the ground up, and the students last spring collaborated with us to polish the free online ‘textbook,’” said Spencer. “They told us what worked and what didn’t, and they learned tons of fun biology along the way. We are grateful to our students from last semester and excited to get back into the classroom this fall.”

Students will learn biology through the lens of the formation and collapse of biological systems, organized around questions pertaining to life, sex, and death. The small, interactive class covers the applications of biology to things relevant to human health and the environment, and hits on key biological thinking along the way.

Labs will showcase real-world biology that allows students to examine fertilization in sea urchins, mate choice in fruit flies, sexual selection in bean beetles, and male-male combat in fiddler crabs. Instructors designed the lab curriculum to develop marketable skills, such as problem solving, basic statistics, communication, and collaboration.

Cyber/Information Security Operations (CS 8803)

Co-taught by Mustaque Ahamad, professor in the College of Computing, and Jimmy Lummis, interim director and chief information security officer for the Cyber Security Division of the Office of Information Technology

“This class will teach the operational aspects of running a cybersecurity program within an enterprise environment,” Lummis said. “Some topics include security sensors, security data collection, incident prevention, incident detection and response, and endpoint forensics for incident response.”

The course focuses on practical skills useful to anyone working in an operational security capacity. Some topics include security sensors, security data collection, incident prevention, incident detection and response, and endpoint forensics for incident response. Students will get firsthand insights from Lummis and Ahamad on how OIT neutralizes attacks on campus resources and data, educates campus users, and ensures compliance with information security laws and policies.

Personal Health Informatics (CS 4803 & 8803)

Taught by Lauren Wilcox, assistant professor, School of Interactive Computing

This class focuses on behavioral health and introduces students to a variety of tools and techniques to measure personal health in everyday life. Students will learn approaches to designing tools to not only measure personal health, but also to promote healthy behaviors.

“I am excited about teaching this class because there are many technologies on the horizon that promise to make everyday health and wellness more attainable,” said Wilcox. “Personal and environmental sensing, electronic health records, and advancements in large-scale data analytics are driving interactive systems that can capture everyday information to inform health monitoring and interventions. These can be useful not only for those who manage illnesses, but for anyone striving to live their strongest, fullest life.”

Students will gain exposure to interdisciplinary approaches to evaluating health behavior applications — gaining knowledge of approaches in medical research and socio-behavioral fields. Finally, they will develop skills for scientific discussion of current personal health informatics literature and for critiquing emerging health behavior technologies.

“What excites me most are the projects that I have seen come out of the class, such as new video browsing techniques for reflecting on the developmental progress of children with autism and their responses to therapies, and wearable sensors that track users’ transitions from sedentary to more active physical states and offer engaging user experiences for reviewing progress and setting goals,” Wilcox said.

Sustainability, Technology, and Policy (PUBP 3600)

Taught by Emanuele Massetti, assistant professor, School of Public Policy

The goal of this course is to provide a solid introduction to the concept of sustainable growth and development. Students will learn how to professionally navigate the current debate on sustainability and to assess strategies to develop remote sustainable communities and a sustainable planet.

“This course will be useful for students from all backgrounds because it provides key tools to think about sustainability in a systematic and coherent way,” Massetti said. “The knowledge built will be useful over students’ entire professional careers and will make them better citizens and stewards of the planet.”

The course will take a deep dive into major social and environmental challenges, including climate change, international trade, health care, food production, education for all, sustainable water use, deforestation, gender issues, and income inequality.

Sustainability, Technology, and Policy is one of the Serve-Learn-Sustain center’s Foundation classes. (https://serve-learn-sustain.gatech.edu/get-involved/courses).

Computing, Society, and Professionalism (CS 4001)

Taught by Amy Bruckman, professor and interim chair, School of Interactive Computing

“In CS 4001, we try to give students a toolkit of ways to think about ethical issues in the workplace and the social implications of technology,” said Bruckman. “We can’t provide answers, but we can help students to have ways of thinking about challenges they will face, and the broader societal implications of the work they do.”

CS 4001 covers ethics, professional ethics, computing and society, and argumentation. The goal is for students to be able to address ethical dilemmas with reasoned arguments, grounded in a combination of ethical theories.

Professional Ethics focuses on what special responsibilities computing professionals should consider, and how they can be applied in daily practice. Computing and Society will cover ways that computer technology impacts society, including privacy, intellectual property, and freedom of speech. Argumentation will ask students to learn to construct well-reasoned arguments and hone oral and written communication skills to complement their technical acumen.

Startup Lab (COE 2701, CS 2701, MGT 4803)

Raghupathy Sivakumar, professor and the Wayne J. Holman Chair in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is the founder of this course and of the CREATE-X program, to which the course belongs. The course is cross-listed in three colleges (Engineering, Computing, and Business), and is co-taught by eight faculty members including Nishant Dass, associate professor in the Scheller College of Business.

“There are two things that are very attractive and unique about Startup Lab,” said Dass. “First, the cross-disciplinary nature of this course makes for an especially enriching experience both for the students as well as faculty. Second, we encourage students to tackle ‘big’ business problems and not just build the ‘canonical app’ that only helps college students. The students learn that entrepreneurship is hard, but it is no longer a crapshoot — there is a method to this madness. If they identify a good problem to solve, they can really make a big impact. We have seen it happen numerous times in this course.”

The objective of Startup Lab is to teach evidence-based entrepreneurship and inspire entrepreneurial confidence. The course will cover a variety of topics including, but not limited to, opportunity identification and validation, ideation, customer discovery, market analysis, pivoting, minimum viable product development, business models, intellectual property, and capital raises. The course has two parts that run in parallel. The first part is a lecture series that will focus on the elements of a startup ranging from how opportunities are identified, to how ideas are conceived, to what customer discovery means. The second part is a laboratory that gives students hands-on experience in developing the core of a business model for an actual startup idea.  

“I know that Georgia Tech students are extremely capable of solving big and important problems. As an instructor, it is a treat to see students’ ideas take shape and become the basis of a business model in the course of a semester,” Dass said. “I think every student should try their hand at this course, even if to discover that entrepreneurship is not for them. The lessons learned in this course are invaluable.”

Last revised May 15, 2020