Through the study of the physical and social sciences, history, languages, literatures, religions, and artistic expressions, these seminars prepare students to participate in today’s global world with cross-disciplinary knowledge and skills, imagination, and empathy.

Justice Matters: Law, Literature, and Film

HONR 208L This course will examine the treatment of legal themes in literary texts as part of a broader consideration of the relationship between literature and the law. We will compare and contrast how literature and the law address “questions that matter,” including individual morality, the purposes of criminal punishment, and racial and gender equality. … Read More

Utopia and Dystopia: Reality and Relevance

This course explores the concepts of Utopia and Dystopia. Sir Thomas More coined the term utopia as a combination of Greek words meaning happy place and no place/nowhere. Far from describing a never never land, utopias often represent cultural protest against unjust institutions or policies and propose political or social reforms. In recent years, there … Read More

WIkimedia Commons

The Plight of Children in the Arts

Stories involving the theme of an infant or small child in mortal peril are commonplace in virtually all cultures and across time. So widespread is this narrative paradigm that the psychologist Carl Jung included it among the fundamental archetypes of the human psyche. Jung had in mind stories such as the infancies of Moses and … Read More

Wikimedia Commons

Country Music as American History

In a recent hit song, country music superstar Brad Paisley lists the many subjects deemed inappropriate to sing about, and then asserts, “Well this is country music, and we do.” This course uses country music as a vehicle to understanding our nation’s history, and asks the question: how did this music of Depression, dispossession, and … Read More

Picture on display in Oxford

Tolkien: Mythmaker of our Times

HONR 208P Since its publication in 1954, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings has excited and inspired readers. His publisher thought the book a work of genius but likely to lose money; instead, LOTR became one of the most popular books of its generation and has remained a favorite since. This course will consider Tolkien’s masterwork first … Read More

Hubble image in the public domain

Life, the Universe, and Everything

HONR 218D Life in the universe is a subject that spans many disciplines: astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and even the sociology of our reactions to the possibility of life outside the Earth. This course will go through what we know of life on Earth and its implications for the likelihood of life elsewhere, and especially … Read More

Wikipedia Commons

The Idea of Crime

HONR 218W What (if anything) motivates an individual to commit acts of crime? Why is crime concentrated in a small number of communities? Why do some societies have high rates of crime and violence while others do not? What can the government do (if anything) to prevent and control crime? These questions have challenged and … Read More

Hope Diamond, Wikipedia Commons

The Psychology of Love and Money

HONR 219E Money can’t buy me love. . .or can it? People value both love and money. In many respects, the way we approach love is very similar to the way we approach money. Economic methods to studying relationships, such as Interdependence Theory, are often effective at describing how relationships function. There are, however, some … Read More

"Norman-bates" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

Heroes and Villains in American Film

HONR 219F Stories detailing a hero’s epic journey and a villain’s ultimate undoing, most often at the hands of the hero, make a persistent appearance in popular American films. From the heroic cowboy, whose brave but isolated character is frequently found in classic John Ford westerns, to today’s ever-popular comic book movie superheroes, these traditionally … Read More


Ancient Rome in Historical Fiction: Narratives, Sources and Screen Adaptations

HONR 229O In this seminar, we will study the I, Claudius BBC series, and compare this 1976 ”small screen” cinematic treatment to Robert Graves’ novels on which it was based–I, Claudius and Claudius the God–as well as to the ancient primary sources on which Graves mainly relied: Tacitus’ Annals, Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars, and the histories of Cassius Dio. … Read More

Wikipedia Commons

Infectious Ideas: Health and Disease in Modern America

HONR 238K Over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries, infectious ideas about health and disease profoundly shaped American life. This course introduces students to a variety of health-related topics such as: the impact of infectious disease; the quest for public health; the development of medical knowledge and technology; the position of medicine in … Read More

Wikipedia Commons

Nuclear Waste: The Other Consequence of Nuclear Power

HONR 238Q As a result of nuclear weapons production and subsequent nuclear power generation, large amounts of nuclear waste of various classifications has been created but not mitigated. The majority is “orphaned” in that it has no permanent repository in which to safely decay away. In addition to spent fuel from commercial electric power reactors, … Read More



HONR 238R The terrorist attacks of September 11 stunned the world. Most people condemned the attacks and rallied behind America, a few celebrated the attacks, while others condemned both the terrorists and America. Our nation was not only jolted by the carnage but frightened by the intensity of the hatred behind those cleverly contrived and … Read More


Professionally Essential: Analysis & Visualization Skills for All in the Era of Big Data

HONR 238V The big data paradigm describes a world in which nearly every facet of our lives: commerce, entertainment, education, transportation, social interaction, health care and primary research generates large datasets that are fruitful but challenging to mine for insight. Challenges include the volume of data both historically produced and generated on a daily basis, … Read More

Official Twitter Logo

Twitting #PoliticalCrises: Social Media, Big Data, and the Politics of Conflict

HONR 248Z First, it was the Arab Spring. Soon after, #BlackLivesMatter, #Ferguson, #Ayotzinapa, and #Nisman. In the last five years, political conflict has migrated from the streets and into the blogosphere. As social media grows in importance, so does the time and resources that are invested by political parties, political entrepreneurs, social organizations, and lobbyist. The management of … Read More

Nathan Lane and Robin Williams in "The Bird Cage"

Stage, Screen, and Life: A Culture History of Drag

HONR 258D What does “drag” conjure in your imagination? What about “cross-dressing,” “dandyism,” “transvestism,” “glamor drag,” “drag king,” “drag queen,” “boy actress,” “transsexual,” “FTM,” MTF,” “genderqueer, and “gender dysphoria?” Do you know someone who fits one or more of these categories? Do you picture certain celebrities? Have you been to a drag club (kings or … Read More

Children sharing

Fairness, Inequality, and Democracy

Everyone would like (or says they would like) to be treated “fairly” and “equally”. Everyone gets upset by what they view as unfairness to themselves; most of us get disturbed by unfairness to others. Most everyone would like to make outcomes fairer, but probably mean different things by this. Most everyone has ideas about what … Read More

Jane Austen

Jane Austen: Her World, Our Obsession

HONR 259P What does it mean to be a “Janeite”? To collect “Austeniana”? To be part of the “cult” of Jane Austen? This course will offer a thorough consideration of Jane Austen’s novels as well as of “Jane Austen” as a cultural event. We are surrounded by on-screen adaptations of Austen’s novels; books and movies … Read More

CMS detector at the LHC

Cracking the Secrets of the Universe Using Computers: Re-discovering the Higgs and Searching for Invisible Matter – Part II

HONR 269L This course is part of a two-semester Honors research seminar. Part one of this series was offered in the Fall 2015 semester. This course provides training in fundamental physics and in the basic tools needed to contribute to experimental or theoretical frontier research in computationally intensive physics, such as experimental particle physics, theoretical … Read More

Firemen and a burning building, from Wikipedia Commons

Why Do Things Burn?

HONR 288P To register for this class, you must not be an Engineering major. This is a hands-on course exploring the behavior of fire. We will achieve an understanding of this behavior from experimental observations and we will highlight some of the theory that assists the practitioners in analyzing and predicting fire behavior. Each week we will … Read More

Farmland: from['gallery']/0/

Biofuels: Fact or Fiction?

HONR 289L One of the hottest issues affecting society today is the energy we use to sustain our lifestyles. Our consumption of energy in this society is prodigious. Because of the ease of recovery, distribution and use, most developed societies today rely upon fossil fuels for the source of this energy. These fossil fuels are, … Read More

Still from Blade Runner

Explaining Social Change: Fact and Fiction in Understanding Why our World Looks the Way It Does

HONR 298F This seminar will examine four central examples of social change: • the origins of markets and industrial capitalism; • the emergence of democracy as opposed to dictatorship; • the causes and consequences of social revolution; and • the logic of armed conflict. For each topic, we will use two approaches to “case-based” work: … Read More

Innovation and Social Change: Do Good Now

HONR 348D This course will be offered in conjunction with BSOS388B and PUAH388D. Credit will be granted for HONR348D, BSOS388B or PUAH388D. Explore the many mechanisms for achieving social impact through social innovation. This is team-based, highly interactive and dynamic course, that provides an opportunity for students to generate solutions to a wide range of … Read More

Happy trader

An Introduction to the Stock Market and Technical Analysis

HONR 348M Most citizens never learn how stock markets operate and the techniques for successful investing. Through readings, extensive class discussion, oral presentations and a simulated stock trading competition, the proposed course will introduce students to investing, with special emphasis on the field of technical analysis. The technical approach to the markets focuses largely on … Read More

Peace sign

Alternatives to Violence

HONR 359B “It is one thing to have the courage of your convictions but quite another to challenge them.” (Friedrich Nietzsche) All of us are called on to be peacemakers, whether in our personal or in our political lives. Yet, few have the skills or ideas to create the conditions in which peace can result. … Read More

Bamboo forest

May the Force Be With You: The Science and Engineering of UMD’s GEDI Space Mission to Measure Global Forests

HONR 368M How has deforestation contributed to atmospheric CO2 concentrations? How much carbon will forests absorb in the future? How will habitat degradation affect biodiversity? These are some of the pressing questions that will be answered by the Global Ecosystem Disturbance Investigation – GEDI. GEDI is a space mission led by the University of Maryland … Read More

Student with head resting on books

The Science of Sleep and Biological Rhythms

Sleep is a dominating and inescapable presence in our biological lives, our psychology, and in every human and animal culture on earth. It alters and challenges the way we experience the passage of time, and it is intimately tied to remembering and forgetting. Yet no one fully understands the mechanisms of sleep, or even why … Read More

Written sanskrit

Language and Mind

What is human language, and what way other animals communicate? How do children learn language? What can the study of language tell us about how the human mind works? These are some of the fundamental questions in the discipline of linguistics, which we will tour in this course. Throughout the course, we will be learning … Read More

Maryland Garden of Remembrance

The Science of Spirituality

In 1999, the Association of American Medical Colleges Medical School Objectives Report III defined Spirituality as follows: Spirituality is recognized as a factor that contributes to health in many persons. The concept of spirituality is found in all cultures and societies. It is expressed in an individual’s search for ultimate meaning through participation in religion … Read More

A stink bug

Food Ethics: You Gonna Eat That?

We choose our foods in part on appearance, flavor, and convenience, but we are becoming increasingly aware of ethical issues surrounding food choices. Although these issues receive a lot of media attention, their actual implications (both pro and con) are not as obvious as they may at first seem. In this course we will investigate … Read More

Several social media icons

New Media Frontiers

How are Google, Twitter, Facebook, wikis, blogs the iPod and iPad changing the world and altering our views of self? This course will explore transformations ushered in by digital technologies, starting with the shift from mass media to personal, customized, participatory media. It is designed to help students think broadly and thematically about the impact … Read More

GIF showing trend in global temperature

Climate Change: Science, Economics, and Governance

HONR229L  Climate Change: Science, Economics, and Governance Hardly a day goes by without some news worthy item being reported on Earth’s changing climate (aka global warming).  Often the stories are contradictory, tainted by parochialism, skepticism, and extremism by not only the conservative and liberal media, but also the camps of believers and deniers.  This seminar … Read More

Male couple with child

Exploring Homophobia: Demystifying Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues

Throughout the centuries, reactions to human diversity have spawned prejudice and discrimination toward any group viewed as different. These negative reactions to human diversity have usually been fueled by fear and ignorance. Racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia are just some of the many types of prejudice that can lead to discrimination, hate crimes, and violence. … Read More

Game theory concepts, abstract

Thinking Strategically

This course is designed to use the tools of decision theory and game theory to understand economic, political and social problems and issues. Among other topics, it will examine the fallacy of sunk costs; techniques to determine the credibility of threats and promises; the importance of identifying dominated strategies; the potential value of randomizing strategies; … Read More

CMS detector at the LHC

Cracking the Secrets of the Universe Using Computers: Re-discovering the Higgs and Searching for Invisible Matter – Part I

This course is part of a two-semester Honors research seminar. This course provides training in fundamental physics and in the basic tools needed to contribute to experimental or theoretical frontier research in computationally intensive physics, such as experimental particle physics, theoretical plasma physics, and theoretically cosmology. You will learn kinematics, relativity, the standard model of … Read More

National Museum of Health and Medicine

Evolutionary Processes in Health and Medicine

Humans are living organisms, and as such our health is a biological phenomenon, structured by and subject to the constraints imposed by evolution. This is not just an abstract concept; an understanding of evolution can be used to help predict events that can mean life or death to millions of people every year. Despite this, … Read More

Australian desalination plant

Biodiversity, Global Environmental Change and Their Effects on Human Health

Species diversity provides a series of unique non-substitutable ecosystem goods that humans depend on for food, shelter, medicines and materials and ecosystem services which our environments require to regulate climate, control disease, purify air and water, and decompose wastes. We will explore these links and what they mean for human health and well-being and discuss … Read More

Early planetary collision

The Solar System

We are situated on a modest-sized planet in a planetary system that includes a great diversity of planet types. We don’t yet know whether planetary systems like ours are common in the universe. Why are the planets within our solar system so diverse? How did they form and evolve? What makes Earth so special for … Read More

Engineering stress diagram

Why Do Things Fail?

This course is open only to non-engineering majors. High school math and science are adequate for understanding of the material.  This course will introduce students to topics of stresses and strains, their importance in determining safety, and the severity of cracks in structural members, as well as the concept of fatigue in assuring structural safety. … Read More

Avian flu incidence map (WHO, 2008)

The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Infectious Disease

Certain ecological and evolutionary processes are especially well exemplified by organisms that induce infectious disease and by their corresponding host responses. The advent of molecular evolutionary genetics has rendered such viral, bacterial, and parasitic organisms ideal as study subjects because microbial abundance, and their relatively rapid evolutionary potential, allows us to study (and sometimes even … Read More

UMD gymnast in action

Physical Activity in Health & Human Performance: From Fat to Fit to Olympic Gold

Exploring the continuum of physical activity from children to grandmothers, we first examine the issues of physical activity and obesity from a physiological, psychological, social, political and economic perspective. How have we become a nation in which XL is the new normal? We then address lifetime fitness up close and personal, developing individual aerobic and … Read More

Deconstructing Breaking Bad: Mention in Entertainment Weekly

Deconstructing Breaking Bad

In its five year run (2008-2013), AMC’s Breaking Bad was nominated for 240 awards and took home 94 wins. In addition, it has garnered a sizeable, active, and at times aggressive fan base. But what makes Breaking Bad so compelling? What can various critical lenses such as gender, race, national identity, sexuality, class, and disability do to unpack this … Read More

Spongiform encephalopathy

Prions in Human Health and Disease

Prions are infectious proteins that result in slow degeneration of the brain leading to loss of function of the most critical organ in the human body. They are passed from one organism to another by eating the flesh of an infected individual, animal or human. Cooking does not destroy the infectious activity. The normal means … Read More

Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted

Medical Humanities: Illness and Autobiography

Chronic illness contradicts the cherished belief that individuals control their own destiny. It disrupts one’s sense of identity, purpose, and moving forward in life. In this seminar, we will read first-person illness narratives and use the tools of literary analysis to pay close attention to the patient/writer’s narrative rather than relying on preconceived ideas about … Read More

Turbulent water sketch by LdV

Leonardo and the Science of Art

We will explore the career and works of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) with a view to examining how he pursued art and science as ways to understand the world and the human place in it. We will follow his life story and the chronology of his paintings, drawings, models and unrealized projects as a framework … Read More

Prof. Suheil Bushrui (deceased) with HRH Prince Charles

Spiritual Heritage of the Human Race

In this course, the study of religion is undertaken from the perspective of the existence of a spiritual heritage common to all humanity. It postulates that recognition and understanding of this heritage is required to realize the goals of unity, cooperation, and peace. Therefore, an ecumenical approach towards the world’s religions is essential as is … Read More


How To Make Better Decisions

The problem with decisions is that we rarely, if ever, find out if our decisions were good or bad.  Was choosing your major, for instance, a good decision or could you have made a better one?  I don’t think most of us would ever know the answer to this question.  So, is it possible that … Read More


Eating With Eyes Wide Open

Students will investigate the tension that is created by trade-offs that, knowingly or not, are made by consumers relative to agricultural production methods and dietary choices. Course will inform students about their food supply so they can make informed decisions and practice intentional or informed eating. Course Goals: To consider whether present food production methods … Read More


From Animal Thoughts to Animal Feelings: Cognitive and Applied Ethology’s Understanding of Animals

Ethology is the study of behavior as an adaptive trait. Specifically, ethology views natural selection as influencing behavioral traits in the same manner it impacts animal morphology and physiology. Cognitive Ethology deals with comparative approaches to the study of behavior across species and has raised many challenging questions, even implications, regarding animal thinking, awareness and … Read More


Exploring Meditation

HONR359G This 1-credit, S/F course will explore a variety of different forms of meditation from an experiential perspective (we will be doing meditation, not just learning about meditation), e.g. walking, writing, reading, music, yoga, mindfulness and others.  Resources will come from many traditions: far eastern, native American, and Judeo-Christian.  Participants will maintain a daily meditation … Read More