My Fall 2020 Course Schedule!

The photo above shows all of the foods we tried during the Ethnobotany Grocery Tours. Photo credit: www.laurenjademohn.com

I will be taking four classes this fall: Geometry, Art History, Plants and People, and Statistics.

Algebraic Geometry

Initially, I planned to take two math classes this semester (Modern Algebra II and Geometry) but, as I found when spring classes went remote, learning math online is hard for me and takes a lot of energy, so I decided to take only one course. I opted to take Geometry over Modern Algebra for three reasons:

  • Algebraic geometry is taught every four years, so it won’t be taught again before I graduate.
  • Trying out geometry in college might help me decide if I’m interested in taking more geometry in graduate school.
  • I loved Introduction to Modern Algebra. Taking the modern algebra seminar in person during my senior fall will be a nice way to conclude my work in the Math department. It also means I take the course closer to when I will take the modern algebra honors exam my senior spring.

I look forward to learning new math (geometry) through a lens I enjoy (algebra)!

The Math and Statistics Department lounge on a quiet morning. I spend a lot of time hanging out and doing math here.

Fun fact: So far, I have taken four different math courses with three different professors in the Math department. Geometry will be the first class I take in this department with a male professor—all my other classes have been with female professors!

The Western Tradition

My second class is The Western Tradition in the Art History department. I am taking it to fulfill one of the three art history credits I need for my studio art major. I really like Professor Reilly who is teaching it and, since I had her last semester for Art Chemistry and Conservation (which is a really cool class!), I already know her, am familiar with how she lectures, and know that I really enjoy her teaching. Given that classes are remote, I am looking forward to having a professor I already know!

To be honest, “Mediterranean and European art from prehistoric cave painting to the 18th century” (quoted from the course catalogue) doesn’t necessarily excite me, but last spring, Professor Reilly made what I would have considered to be boring paintings and time periods interesting! So I am not worried about being bored– I am excited to become more interested in this part of art history through her class!

Yellow Zinc pigment that we made in Art Chemistry and Conservation (Spring 2020).

Fun fact: I never thought I would be taking any form of history class in college, but here we are!

Plants and People (AKA Ethnobotany!)

I was VERY excited when I received an email from Sue MacQueen announcing that we have an ethnobotany class this fall. (Sue is the amazing Campus Engagement Coordinator for the Scott Arboretum. She plans the best activities and events and she helped arrange for this course to be offered!)

In the most general sense, ethnobotany is the study of how plants and people interact.

I discovered ethnobotany last fall I when attended a series of workshops Sue organized with ethnobotanist and educator Lauren Mohn. Lauren planned an amazing Grocery Tour to several locations in Philadelphia where we got to see, learn about and taste a bunch of different plants/foods.

On the day of the Grocery Tours, we ate lunch at an amazing restaurant called Blue Corn in Philadelphia. Here are the blue corn chips we enjoyed at Blue Corn.

The second installment of the series was all about the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. We dug potatoes in a garden on campus (yay, dirt!), and made them into potato chips to go with our nightshade salsa, made using many members of the Solanaceae family including tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatillos and paprika. The third workshop was all about fermented foods and some of the mustard family (Brassicaceae). We tried kefir, kimchi, and miso and learned how to make our own sauerkraut! Our last gathering was a tasting event called “Where in the World Does Our Food Come From?”

One of the tables at our culminating event: “Where in the World Does Our Food Come From?” The maps in the background were little quizzes: Can you guess where each of the ingredients in the dish you’re tasting is native to?

This series was the highlight of my fall semester. I already loved food and plants/gardening, and the way Lauren introduced us to brand new experiences, foods, and knowledge made me realize how much more there is to keep learning about where plants are native, how the people native to that area use them, how people transport plants, and, more generally, how plants and people interact.

I am SO excited for this class!

Find this and other photos from our Ethnobotany series on Lauren’s website. (hover over ‘About’, then click on ‘Gallery’)

Fun fact: All of the brine (liquid) that sauerkraut ferments in comes from the cabbage—you just sprinkle some salt over the shredded vegetables and then mash and squeeze and mush and smash with your hands until there’s enough liquid!

Stat 21

As part of a summer internship with the Swarthmore Admissions office, I have been researching the percent of high school graduates from rural and small town high schools that attend postsecondary education compared to the percent of graduates from nonrural high schools. I found myself swimming in data and thinking about how to best analyze and best present that data. I started reading a statistics textbook to see if I could find a better way to look at my research, and I found that between writing lab reports and spending time around data, I have seen a bit of statistics without realizing it. I have enjoyed reading about statistics, so I’m going to take Stat 21, which applies introductory statistics to real world applications!

I also have my eye on the special topics Statistics course (Stat 41) for this year’s January term (January term is not usually offered at Swarthmore– it is part of our Covid-19 schedule changes.) Stat 41 focuses on visualizing data and using charts/graphics. I have really enjoyed working with data on my summer research, and it has been challenging to show my results in graphs and charts, and so I am very excited to learn more about data visualization in January!

Fun fact: I have never taken a statistics class before, even as a math major.

Another view of the Math and Statistics Department lounge!

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