Media relations

Community education courses available this summer

Wednesday, May. 16, 2012 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Grinnell College faculty will offer courses in biology, chemistry, economics, and statistics through the Adult Community Exploration Series (ACES) this summer. The free courses, co-sponsored by the Community Education Council and Grinnell College, will be held on Wednesday mornings from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Caulkins Room at Drake Community Library, 930 Park St. Registration is requested to assist instructors in preparing for class needs. To register, send email to calendar@grinnell.edu, or call 641-269-3178.

Courses for summer 2012 include:

June 6, 13

“Water,” with Luther Erickson, professor emeritus of chemistry

These lectures will focus on water as a unique chemical substance (H2O) with unusual properties and as an essential resource to meet individual and collective needs. The source, composition, treatment, distribution, and cost of water—provided by Grinnell, area communities, and bottled water companies—will be examined and compared. Engineering projects and associated conflicts to manage and redistribute water flow will also be discussed, along with progress toward the articulation and acceptance of a water ethic.

Luther Erickson, professor emeritus of chemistry, taught courses in physical, inorganic, and analytical chemistry and pursued an active research program with Grinnell undergraduate collaborators described in about 40 scientific publications. He also taught a First-Year Tutorial about water for 25 years of his 50-year career at Grinnell and developed a drinking-water analysis module for the introductory analytical chemistry course that continues in use.

June 20, 27

“Thinking About Evolution, A History,” with Ken Christiansen, professor emeritus of biology

This course will consider early thinking concerning the diversity of living organisms and, later, the various attempts to explain “the enigma of fossils.” For example, it is commonly believed that Darwin was the first to offer ideas about evolution. Not so! How about Aristotle? By the 18th century, ideas of evolution were in the air, and theories were developed by natural philosophers, including Lamarck. The course will cover the Darwin years and end with recent changes in views of evolution.

Kenneth Christiansen, professor emeritus of biology, taught many courses in biology, including evolution. His research interest began with the study of dragonflies and later moved to the study of collembola in caves, an ideal laboratory for the study of evolution. Christiansen has published several books and numerous articles, many co-authored with Grinnell students.

July 11, 18 [July 18 session will meet at 1:30 p.m., instead of 10 a.m.]

“Fools and Their Money” with Mark Montgomery, professor of economics

This course will examine how financial markets thwart smart people and reflect on the nature of society. For example: in 1720, Sir Isaac Newton, one of history’s most brilliant intellects, lost his life savings investing in a bogus trading company; in 1995, London’s Barings Bros. Bank, which had helped finance the Louisiana Purchase, was bankrupted by speculations of an employee in a Singapore office; during the 1990s and early 2000s, Bernie Madoff’s investment clients included some of the wealthiest people and most prestigious institutions.

Mark Montgomery is Donald L. Wilson Professor of Enterprise and Leadership and professor of economics. He teaches mathematical economics, the economics of education, and environmental economics. His research has appeared in numerous economics journals, and his essays have been published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Dallas Morning News, The Mystery Readers Journal, and various edited volumes. He is also co-author with Tinker Powell, associate professor of economics, of the mystery novel, “Theoretically Dead.”

July 25, August 1

“Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics,” with Jeff Jonkman, associate professor of mathematics and statistics

These lectures will focus on some of the reasons people mistrust statistics and some of the effects of that mistrust. Mark Twain, who attributed the quote to Benjamin Disraeli, popularized this description of the “three kinds of lies” over 100 years ago. Today, many of us are still reluctant to trust statistics. The course will explore ways that people and organizations use statistics to “spin” study results, and some of the possible consequences for modern research. The course will also consider the use of statistics as vital for generating new knowledge.

Jeff Jonkman, associate professor of mathematics and statistics, came to Grinnell in 2009, after a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School and faculty positions at Mississippi State University and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Jonkman’s primary research is in the area of meta-analysis, which deals with statistical methods for combining results of different studies about the same treatment or phenomenon. He has also worked on statistical methods for dose-response data in pharmaceutical studies.

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