We heard recently that 36% of university students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” upon graduation, although they may have bettered their Xbox skills, social lives, and tolerance to alcohol. Physics professor Chad Orzel isn’t surprised by this number, saying it “seems consistent with my experiences both as a student and as a faculty member.” According to Chad, laziness is just human nature, and there are other important (if not academic) lessons that college provides. The new statistics, drawn from a book called Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, also jibe with professor Ethan Siegel’s experience. But while the book’s authors blame underachievement on a lack of rigor in college curriculum, Ethan says “a quarter to a third of students in college aren’t intrinsically motivated to be there.” The solution, he says, is to make sure students are pursuing their passion, even if it’s in a garage rather than a lecture hall.


Dinner With a Dinosaur X

You are cordially invited to Dinner With a Dinosaur X—that’s a Roman numeral, not a mysterious appellation. The event happens March 12, 2010, in the Great Hall at Chicago’s Union Station, located at 210 South Canal Street, 60606. Yes, there will be a dinosaur, and no, it will not be alive. Other relics include Honorary Dinner Chairs Governor Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin.

More importantly, proceeds from the event will benefit Project Exploration, “a nonprofit science education organization that makes science accessible to the public—especially minority youth and girls—through personalized experiences with scientists and science.” Individual tickets are $300, with Fossil, Field, and Expedition level tables ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. You can also make a donation of your choosing online. So if you’re in the Chicago area, and even if you’re not, consider supporting this worthy cause.

Infection and Consequence

i-aa15ba02dbd171ba051767a461dfc852-infectbuzz.jpgOn Aetiology, Tara C. Smith shares some intriguing student work on the role infections play “in cancer, autoimmune disease, mental illness, and other chronic conditions.” First, Ahn To investigates the causes of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Smoking is not a prerequisite for this type of cancer, but risk factors include infection with Epstein-Barr virus and “consumption of ‘salted fish.'” Ron Bedford explores Post Polio Syndrome, which occurs among polio survivors who experience “significant deterioration of their neuromuscular functioning” after a long period of stability. Although “the mechanism of PPS occurrence is not well understood,” the immune system may be to blame. And Zainab Khan asks if too much cleanliness is bad for children, as “not enough exposure to germ can and does cause insufficient development of an individual’s immune system.” An inexperienced immune system is not only vulnerable to disease, but may also contribute to allergies and asthma. Keep an eye on Aetiology as Tara posts more student work over the coming week.

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