mary morrison lycoming college

Mary Morrison, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Lycoming College

Williamsport, Pa. - The COVID-19 pandemic still isn't over. There still is work to be in order to understand the impact it has had on nearly every facet of our society.

To try and help students make some sense of it all, Lycoming College professor Mary Morrison, is making it the focal point of a new course she will teach this fall.

“Viruses, Pandemics, and Society,” taught by Mary Morrison, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Lycoming College, aims to help students understand what can be expected after a pandemic, by studying pandemic events throughout history and how pathogens have influenced not just the biology field, but the very structures of society.

Students will learn about historic viruses ranging from the bubonic plague; smallpox; influenza; cholera; and polio; to HIV; Ebola; SARS; Zika virus; and COVID-19.

In addition to studying history, course material will cover the fundamentals of virology, immunity, and vaccine development; as well as the sociopolitical impacts that arise in the wake of a pandemic.

“I want students to feel empowered and educated enough to be able to seek out reliable sources of information about infectious diseases, and pandemics that will emerge across their lifetimes,” said Morrison.

When it comes to recovering from this pandemic, and combatting future ones, Morrison believes it is important for everyone to let science guide their actions.

From reaching herd immunity, to developing public health policies which protect everyone, understanding the science of how viruses spread; recognizing how to sort out misinformation surrounding them, is vital to responding effectively now and in the future.

Global crises, such as pandemics, historically bring about sociopolitical persecution, which the course curriculum takes into consideration.

“After most pandemics, there is some sort of wave of persecution of some group, which is usually falsely blamed for that pandemic,” she says.

As an example, the increase of attacks against Asian people with the COVID-19 pandemic. Students will read first-hand accounts from targeted groups throughout history alongside other resources to guide important discussions on this topic.

“This is an ugly side of human behavior, but if we don’t talk about it, it will continue to recur," Morrison said.

The course will encourage students to view the topic of pandemics from multiple angles and perspectives, staying true to liberal arts tradition.

Given recent events, “Viruses, Pandemics, and Society” is sure to be a popular choice among biology majors and non-majors seeking their science requirements.

Morrison may teach the course again in the Fall of 2022.


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