Spring Classes Are Out of This World


(Graphic by Ivy Smith)

(Graphic by Ivy Smith)
(Graphic by Ivy Smith)


What do Martians, dinosaurs and E.T. have in common? They are all topics of classes taught at the U.

Among the regular course schedules filled with math, behavioral science and the fine arts lurk the hidden offerings that many students have yet to discover.

Taught by George Cassiday, “Does E.T. Exist?” is among the classes students labeled as “unique” or “weird” this semester. Cassiday, however, does not want students to simply dismiss his class as an easy way to get past a general education requirement.

“This course is not simply a ‘watered-down’ version of an introductory class in some single scientific discipline, such as basic physics or chemistry,” Cassiday said. “Students learn a lot about different scientific disciplines by attempting to answer a question in which I have never found a single person who is not interested.”

The question students attempt to answer in Cassiday’s course is how life emerged in the universe. Students also discuss the probability that life could evolve into an intelligent civilization capable of establishing contact with another intelligent civilization, such as ours.

Another interesting course on the schedule for Spring Semester is “World of Dinosaurs,” taught by Randall Irmis. Irmis is passionate about dinosaurs and sharing his knowledge with students who join his class for a variety of reasons.

“There are a broad range of folks enrolled in the course,” Irmis said. “There are people who just love dinosaurs. There are also students who want to satisfy their science course requirement. And there are also those exploring whether they might be interested in majoring in geology. All are welcome.”

Irmis’ class allows students to visit an actual dinosaur excavation in central Utah and see real dinosaur fossils still intact in the ground. The course also explores the ancient world dinosaurs lived in 235 to 265 million years ago. The course will not only cover the well-known dinosaurs, but also the weird dinosaurs and why they became extinct.

Marjorie Chan, professor of “Mars for Earthlings,” said her class is unique because she gets to talk to students about Martians. More specifically, she shares with students advances in Martian exploration, as well as topics pertaining to Mars exploration.

“The U is one of the few campuses that has been offering an undergraduate class on Mars,” Chan said. “More frequently, Mars content is an advanced graduate course at universities that have special planetary emphases. An unusual feature of my class is that in our new digital technology age we can search real-time new data and imagery as it comes in from NASA rovers.”

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