Stem Cell Biology, Politics, and Ethics: Teasing Apart Issues
Spring 2023 - I went into this class as a non-STEM major, and while a class on stem cells seemed daunting, learning complex and relevant topics was a rewarding experience for me. Professor Austin is wonderful--she is knowledgeable and passionate about the material. Although this class is a GE, there are a lot of MCDB/STEM majors. The professor is aware of that, and at times, I felt overwhelmed as some bio topics were briefly glazed over in lecture. However, going to the professor's office hours and asking the TAs questions helped close that gap. There are numerous opportunities for extra credit, and all of the assignments, quizzes, and presentations are manageable. I never felt like my time was wasted or that I didn't gain anything from this class. The professor changes the material each quarter and makes it relevant to current day. This quickly became my favorite class. Also, the professor selects very committed, helpful TAs. I also want to mention that Professor Austin really values participation. I personally went to all of her office hours + occasionally raised my hand in class; I want to emphasize how important participation is to succeed in the class. She actually cares about her students and makes a note of the ones who are participating and trying to engage with the material. All in all, would recommend.
Spring 2020 - Mitra Hooshmand is an absolute GOAT. She is incredible knowledgeable, with engaging lectures that cover everything one needs to know about stem cell biology and policy. Although I am not a STEM major at all and was worried about learning all the biology, the science behind stem cells was actually the most fascinating part of the course for me. While she didn't cover as much of U.S. stem cell policy and ethics, she did an incredible job structuring the course, making the content easy to understand for non-STEM students, and getting us to critically think about stem cells. The tests do require studying and really good understanding of the material. I would absolutely recommend this class. (note: this class is definitely geared towards people without a background in stem cells, so it probably won't be as interesting for people that already know a lot) Grade breakdown: 5.5% - section participation 22% - homework (super short and easy, basically graded on completion) 13.5% - paper (kinda long tbh but not that hard) 11% - 2 short quizzes 32% - final
Fall 2021 - All you need to do to do well in the class is show up at discussions where you are given the answers to each week’s quiz. You don’t need to watch the lectures or do the reading (though it is very interesting). The weekly slack participation just involves commenting on a news article. The group project is pretty easy, and just takes some minimal effort. The only difficult assignment in the class is a 5 page research paper about diversity issues in stem cell treatment. As long as you can handle that, the course will be a breeze.
One of the most interesting and best classes here at UCLA. The class is easy, ALTHOUGH it is IS graded like a GE. Meaning stupid attendance, weekly assignments, etc. Very good class though, and easy midterms and finals with lots of extra credit. If you were looking for a GE that won't bore you to death, here it is. Take it.
Fall 2020 - Strengths: Dr. Lee seems very knowledgeable and the lectures and discussions are very interesting conversations. Weaknesses: during discussions, it would be helpful for Dr. Lee to respond with positive affirmation after a student shares because it is really nerve wracking to speak in front of other students and it's hard to read other people's body language over zoom. In addition, I would advise Dr. Lee to be careful with her choice of words. During one particular discussion where we discussing an ethical situation that involved saving lives, I wanted to share my opinion and was sort of put on the spot by Dr. Lee. I don't usually mind being grilled but I was arguing for the unpopular opinion and Dr. Lee said "I understand what you're trying to say but you're not putting it in a very elegant way". I felt that comment was a little insensitive because it is hard to think on the spot and be grilled in front of the other students about a stance that most of them don't support. Therefore, she could have worded that better. Additionally, I feel that Dr. Lee could be more lenient with grading especially during this pandemic and MCDB 50 being a General Education class and not a Biology major class. It is pretty heavy on biology knowledge and the midterm free responses were graded pretty harshly. If you are interested in stem cells and need to satisfy a GE requirement, it would be okay to take this class. Just make sure to double and triple check your midterm exam because they are very harsh with grading. Your responses need to match everything that was said in lectures and they take off big chunks of points very freely. My TA was Natalie G. and she was a really friendly and nice TA but I'm not sure about the other TA (Salena).