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Okay, the title of this post might make you think it’s about zombies but…it isn’t. Sorry to disappoint you! But it IS about brains so the title isn’t totally misleading 😉

I have the great privilege to not only be a published author but a biology professor as well. Teaching college has been one of the  most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. Each class brings new challenges and new insight into the minds of my students. As a professor, I have the opportunity to teach what are known as topics courses. These are generally geared toward upper division students as a way for them to get credit hours for a class that’s not offered as part of the regular curriculum. The classes are usually offered during summer or the period between fall and spring semesters, giving professors the opportunity to make extra money and to have something to do during the summer break if they are so inclined.

I decided to teach a topics course on neurodegenerative diseases. This is just a fancy way of saying diseases where the nerves die off. Some of the diseases I discuss are those many people are familiar with: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, multiple sclerosis. Others, not so much: fatal familial insomnia, kuru, spinocerebellar ataxia.

*waits for people to Google aforementioned diseases*

During the last hour of class today I took the students to the new anatomy lab that will be used exclusively for the gross anatomy class which dissects human cadavers. We are pretty lucky to have this program at CMU and I believe it’s the only one of its kind where nurses in the nursing program can actually have hands-on experience with human anatomy. Russell Copelan spoke with the class about some of the diseases we’ve covered and showed them areas of the brain that are affected. They all had such a blast and it was amazing to see their eyes light up when shown the substantia nigra (area of the brain affected in Parkinson’s) or the caudate (involved in Huntington’s). As a professor, there is no greater joy 🙂

What classes do you remember as having an impact either on your understanding of a particular subject or just because it touched you in some way? I’d love to hear from you!

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