With classes starting back at Brenau University today, some biology students may get a taste of pop culture.
Though Louise Bauck’s syllabus doesn’t make any direct reference to the “Twilight” series phenomenon, it takes little to guess the inspiration for her “Human (and vampire!) biology” course.
“I started out as a ‘Twilight’ mom because I have two daughters who are really into the books,” she said. “They insisted that I read them, I found that I enjoy them as well.”
When Bauck was deciding how to teach human biology, a course she’ll teach for the first time this fall, she wanted to find a way to interest the nonbiology majors.
“If you can engage students in the process a little bit and get them excited and keep the interest going, you have a better chance of delivering the material,” she said. “This is a challenging course with a lot of detailed and difficult content, and I want to engage them instead of droning on about the anatomy of the cell.”
After Bauck saw the “New Moon” movie with her daughter this summer, she started planning the “hemoglobin” section of the course and wondered if she could connect blood and vampires.
“I thought it would be a great idea for a term paper when we talk about the different types of blood diseases, such as malaria and sickle-cell anemia,” she said. “That’s a fun spin on the usual dreaded term paper.”
She also plans to talk about the scientific basis behind the legends of vampires and werewolves with human genetic diseases.
“There is an actual biochemical basis to legends of vampires, which have been associated with a genetic mutation thought to have originated in Eastern Europe in the late 1700s,” Bauck included on her syllabus. “This inherited disorder — porphyria — resulted in an abnormal heme molecule, with symptoms of pale skin, extremely sensitivity to sunlight and brain disorders including odd behavior. Further, individuals affected by porphyria often drank animal blood, as it was thought to alleviate the symptoms.”
Lecture titles include “Do werewolves have a fever?” to discuss the immune system and “Vampires behaving badly” to discuss hormones and the endocrine system.
“I had fun creating the visuals, and it was easy to incorporate the references into each section,” she said. “My husband thought I was absolutely crazy but was tolerant and my daughters, who live in Canada, had fun helping me. The oldest one, who teaches grade 10 science in Ontario, might be stealing some of it.”
While Bauck was in British Columbia this summer, she realized the Cullen residence featured in the movies is just down the street from the house where she grew up. She took pictures of the forest and roads where many scenes took place.
“The general ambience of the movie is familiar to me,” she said. “The scene where the motorcycle falls over in the second movie — I know exactly where that happened. These locations have a personal connection for me.”
Bauck will use her pictures, clips from the “Twilight” movies and the traditional biology book to draw students into the course taught on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
“When Edward says that Bella’s blood smells good and he can’t resist it, there might be a reason for that,” she said with a laugh. “The AB blood type, which is rare, has a double dose of sugar on the red blood cells, so in class we’ll discuss whether Bella could have the AB blood type.”