By Jamie Phares
The Daily Pennsylvanian
"You are an alien from the planet Mensana about to embark on an intense, four-month expedition to study the most complex species found on the planet Earth -- the human. You are to report the findings of your research every two weeks and report to mission meetings once a week for three hours. Good luck."
Although this seems like a scene from a science-thriller film, it is actually an excerpt of the syllabus of Psychology Professor Justin Aronfreed's out-of-the-ordinary course, "Human Nature."
The class has been chosen as one of this semester's 10 most highly requested undergraduate courses. The list was released by the University last week.
University spokesperson Barbara Beck said the classes on the list were included on the basis of demand -- how fast the class fills up and whether there is a waiting list for the class.
Unlike Aronfreed's course, Philosophy Professor Jay Wallace's "Ethics" course has "very traditional subject matter," Wallace said.
But he said the subject matter and readings are somewhat complex and he strives to teach his class as well as he can.
"I'm always dissatisfied with how I teach the course and I go back and see how I can make it more intelligible," he said. "I try to be accessible to students with review and discussion sections."
"Cell Biology and Biochemistry," which is a requirement for the molecular biology concentration of the biology major, is also often taken by chemistry majors or curious pre-med students. The class is co-taught by Biology professors Sally Zigmond and Richard Schultz.
Several students said the course is very difficult and should not be taken by non-majors.
"We all wish we hadn't taken this class," said a student who did not want to be named. "We all would rather die. It's one of the toughest courses I've taken at Penn. You can study 40 hours for it and still fail."
"Brain and Behavior," a major requirement for Biological Basis of Behavior majors, is also taught by multiple professors.
"We've had eight different teachers, because each teacher specializes in a different topic," College junior Paola Ayora said.
Two freshman seminars also made the top 10 list.
"Animals and Society," which is taught by Veterinary School Professor Charles Newton, features different speakers on animal-related issues. It was described by many students as "a gut."
But not all freshman seminars are thought of as easy.
Aronfreed said his seminar, "Human Nature," which boasts a waiting list of over 100 students, is aimed toward intellectually stimulated students who are ready to read a wide range of readings, from the Bible to modern science journals.
He said the alien theme of his class was designed to foster an objective study of the species.
"We don't get involved with any emotional, moral or philosophical issues," Aronfreed said. "We're not interested in what humans think their agenda is -- just of how nature disposes of them.
"But I sometimes have to remind them of human customs like reminding them to go to the Princeton game -- you know, mingle with the humans," he added.
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