Critical Thinking in Critical Times

Critical Thinking in Critical Times (UNXD-407)

Are GMO foods bad for you? Do vaccines cause autism? Engage in critical thinking about some of the biggest scientific questions of our time 

Course Details

Wednesdays
3:30 – 5:30 PM

Why Take This Course?

The course will be taught using a working scientist’s approach to critical thinking, and is meant for students of all backgrounds, majors, and specialization.

We will use critical issues of the day as illustrations of the life challenges that Georgetown students will need to better understand in order to remain as productive and engaged in the world around them as they can be.  In the first part of the course we will inventory critical thinking skills that students have already acquired at Georgetown, sometimes without knowing, and build on a few of them (1st third of the course). Next we will organize into small groups and use “exercises” culled from the current headlines that have biotechnology or biomedical themes and that challenge students to apply critical thinking to problems outside their comfort zone.

The goal is to demystify the supposedly mysterious world of constantly evolving biotechnology and show students that they really can figure out anything, regardless their major or specialization. Finally, each small group will choose their favorite biotechnology or biomedical topic and use what is learned in the course to answer key questions (posed by Prof. Roepe) related to that topic. 

Dr. Roepe’s graduate training was initially in the use of advanced physical techniques to study the properties of thin materials, and in the conductive properties of these materials. 

More specifically, the Roepe laboratory hopes to elucidate mechanisms of resistance to cytotoxic drugs, so that better therapy can be developed, and to also design, synthesize and test new drugs based on that information. Defects in transmembraneous drug transport, ion transport, and cellular drug accumulation contribute to drug resistance, so one major focus of the laboratory is to understand this in molecular terms. Current projects include cloning and expression of antimalarial drug resistance proteins, development of biochemical and chemical biology approaches for studying their function, and design, synthesis and testing of novel antimalarial drugs based on that information. There are intriguing molecular similarities between drug resistance in tumors, certain bacteria and parasites, thus, this work may have broad implications. Our laboratory work remains highly interdisciplinary, and involves the use of recombinant DNA technology, cell biological and biochemical techniques, synthetic chemistry, and modern biophysical techniques such as single – cell photometry, laser confocal, and spinning disk confocal microscopy. Finally, the Roepe laboratory takes great pride in long term collaborative work. Key collaborations with laboratories at Georgetown, the NIH, Notre Dame, Case Western Reserve, Walter Reed Army Hospital, Johns Hopkins and Columbia have been very productive.