Marvel’s Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr., served as a jumping off point for a discussion of bioengineering.
‘Everyone genuinely enjoys the lectures and desires to come and listen,’ stated Chloe Raichle ’23
You may possibly be shocked to know that one particular of Princeton’s most sophisticated science classes typically begins with a couple of minutes of a Marvel or DC film. The extraordinary capabilities and skills of superheroes and other superb creatures had been the inspiration behind Shane Campbell-Staton’s class, The Biology of Superheroes: Exploring the Limits of Type and Function, new to Princeton this spring.
“We use comic books, superheroes, [and] science fiction as believed experiments to discover the mechanisms of life, intense adaptation, biologically inspired engineering, brain-machine interfacing … [a] fairly broad array of subjects,” explained Campbell-Staton, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB).
His twin passions of science and superheroes initial melded when he got hooked on comic books as a graduate student. At evening, Campbell-Staton stated, he had “phenomenally strange dreams,” exactly where the comic books meshed with academic papers he was reading “in all of these weird strategies.”
The benefits had been this course, which he initial ran at UCLA, just before coming to Princeton in 2021, and a podcast, “The Biology of Superheroes,” which he co-hosts with Arien Darby, a senior international brand manager at Warner Bros. They’re functioning on season two, coming later this year.
The 24 EEB majors in the class met twice a week in Schultz Laboratory.
“Often, hour-and-a-half lectures at eight:30 in the morning can be fairly dry,” stated Chloe Raichle ’23. “But the attendance [for this course] has basically been superb due to the fact every person genuinely enjoys the lectures and desires to come and listen.”
Not only does Campbell-Staton use in-depth examples from preferred comics, motion pictures like Jurassic Park, and even the 2023 hit HBO drama series The Final of Us to teach diverse scientific ideas, but he also investigates connected sociological and ethical impacts. For instance, Justice League superhero Cyborg and Tony Stark of Iron Man served as jumping off points for a discussion on bioengineering, its limitations, invasive interfaces, and psychological side effects.
“I wasn’t expecting such a broad synthesis of all these distinctive scientific subjects, but I truly appreciate that,” stated Claire Galat ’23. “It’s been quite valuable to combine every little thing I’ve discovered.”
For the midterm, every student wrote a paper synthesizing a scientific theory that stemmed from a fictional biological phenomenon.
“As extended as the scientific ideas had been sophisticated adequate, and as extended as we had been placing adequate detailed perform into it, we had a lot of freedom to do what we wanted,” stated Raichle, who wrote about the 1982 horror film The Point to discover shape-shifting and regeneration.
For the final, students worked in groups to conduct a further believed experiment, even though Campbell-Staton asked them to come up with far more inventive formats for their completed items — possibly even a comic book.
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