Opera, Hollywood, and Food Science: A Sampling of 2017 Spring Courses

Making ice cream with liquid nitrogen

As the second semester of the school year kicks off, students will be taking an operatic excursion, screening classic Hollywood films, and making their own ice cream. We sat down with faculty members from three different departments to discuss their distinctively interesting course offerings for the spring semester.

Making ice cream with liquid nitrogenCH 122: Chemistry of Food (Chemistry Department)

In a world where a new diet comes out every week, only one class can provide the knowledge to interpret the science behind them; Dr. Carolyn Weinreb’s Chemistry of Food.

Similar to Alton Brown’s popular show Good Eats, this course focuses on the fundamental science behind everyone’s favorite foods. Students will learn about everything from the acid-based chemistry behind milk and cheese to the physical properties and biological components of baking bread.

The course is especially popular with non-science majors, as it fulfills both the Scientific Reasoning and Writing Intensive core requisites. How else can you earn academic credit for making your own ice cream?

Dr. Weinreb explains that “students often don’t realize how much science they’re doing” in her class, which she has been teaching for five years. By examining the correlation between science and food, students of any major gain immediate real-world application to their lessons.

Her semester-long goal is “to help students gain scientific literacy,” a skill students can use to read, understand, and evaluate any scientific articles or data they encounter.

“I want my students to have a basic knowledge of science so they can appreciate [it] in their daily lives,” the chair of the Chemistry department elaborates.

MU 344: Opera and Gender (Fine Arts Department)

Did you know that a group of Saint Anselm students have been exploring the world of opera every Wednesday afternoon this semester? They are studying the art form and exploring gender through the medium with Professor Parr in the Fine Arts department.

The course will be an introduction to opera through the lens of gender. According to Professor Parr, “Throughout its four-hundred-year history, [opera] really plays with gender in a profound way.”

One example of a topic the class will explore is castrati, men who were castrated at a young age to preserve their high voices. This is a practice that lasted for almost 300 years and it is relevant to the class because, according to Professor Parr, “It is really interesting to think about how voices can sound one way and not match with what you see on stage.” The students will discuss this gender crossing and ambiguity within operas and how audiences react to it.

Johanna Materazzo, an English major from the class of 2017 is taking the course and said “I’ve learned so much about history and culture in this class, as well as gender traditions and stereotypes. Each class teaches me something new.”

The class will be attending a live performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Boston and will also be viewing five other recorded operas throughout the semester.

HI 150: History and Hollywood (History Department)

Reading historic records and listening to the speeches of the past might not interest all students, but Professor Moore is hoping that the joy of watching movies will draw history majors and non-history majors alike to his History and Hollywood course. Students taking this class will be looking at movies as more than merely a source of entertainment, they will be viewing them as historical primary sources from which to learn about the time period during which they were created.

Students will be watching movies including The Jazz Singer, Casablanca, Rebel Without a Cause, and Saturday Night Fever. Professor Moore shared that although written and oral texts are typically used as historical primary sources, films can also be used to analyze the experiences and the beliefs of people from a certain time period. “Movies reveal what people were thinking, or feeling, what they were concerned about, what they hope would happen.” From this basis, the class will explore American beliefs and how they are either questioned or perpetuated in the films they will watch.

The students in this course will also write a paper about a director or popular movie star. They will analyze that person’s body of work in regards to its social, cultural, and political context. This will hopefully allow the students to delve into a historical period or theme in which they have an interest.

Jonathan Burkart '18 contributed to this story.

Founder of Biotech Company Meets with Students

Dr. Kelleher-Andersson with students

Biochemist Judith Kelleher-Andersson, Ph.D., a member of the Class of 1981, returned to campus Jan. 27 as a guest of the Probe & Scalpel Society. She is the founder, president and chief scientific officer of Neuronascent, Inc., a biotechnology startup in Clarksville, Maryland. [Read more…]

Coins and Chemistry: Students Analyze an Ancient Artifact

Mary Kate with Bedford High School Students

Students from Bedford High School, 45 in all, used the beakers, solutions and instruments of Professor Mary Kate Donais’ chemistry lab to travel through time. Sophomores, juniors and seniors in the high school’s forensics and archaeology classes took a trip to the Syrian mints of the ancient Roman Empire in December, as they cut, dissolved and analyzed an unmarked ancient coin.

The coin was unearthed by Saint Anselm students, who each summer travel to Italy to work at the college’s archaeology site near Orvieto. By analyzing the metal content of coins, archaeologists are able to date them and even determine by their recipe which ancient mint produced them. Professor David George, chair of classics, manages the Orvieto site and spoke to the students about what they could learn from the artifacts.

The collaboration started with a request by Bedford High archaeology teacher Laura Dreyer that Donais speak to her class. Instead, the chemistry professor offered something better: to lead students through an experiment that she had already devised for non-science majors at Saint Anselm.

"I hope the students learned that science can help provide information for many disciplines, even in the social sciences and humanities," she says.  "As well, I hope they learned that science can be done by anyone with a little guidance – they shouldn’t be intimidated by it."

Even criminal justice majors might find the results of this experiment relevant. Donais says she is confident that the coin the students analyzed was an ancient forgery, referred to as a foure.