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aravind eye hospital India

In the fall, I'm planning on taking a class called "Biologic Lessons of the Eye," and I am super excited about it for a number of reasons. I've been hearing about this course since I was a sophomore, after talking to two of the other undergraduates working in the same lab as I. The class is only offered every two years, and is unique in many ways.

First of all, it's a really small class of only ten students. Almost all of the biology classes I've taken were foundation classes, meaning they had somewhere from 60-80 students. This class is also mostly seniors, so I recognize my fellow students from previous Biology classes or other parts of campus (not to mention, I would call a number of them my friends!).

The focus of the class, the eye, is also relatively narrow in scope. I took anatomy and physiology in the fall, and while we did discuss the eye in-depth, we also studied other parts of the body, such as the ear and eye, and all the major organ systems.

deer light
Fun fact: deers' (and other animals') eyes glow when you shine light on them because they have something called tapetum lucidum that reflects light back out. I got to see it in-person during our cow eye dissection!

I'm looking forward to spending more time on a single part of the human body, and because it has such a specific focus compared to other classes, a lot of our lectures span beyond the simple facts. We learn about diseases that can impact or damage the visual system and treatments for such diseases.

In fact, each of us will have some sort of independent project and ultimately present it in a research paper format. I've actually never written a research poster, so this will be a new opportunity for me. It's also great that I'll be learning not only from my professors, but also my classmates through their presentations.

There are two professors, and one is a professor of surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. I haven't had any classes with either of them, but I always enjoy getting to know professors from different academic and professional backgrounds. The other professor is the director of the Women in Science Project, which is a great program on-campus that allows first-year women to pursue paid internships in a variety of STEM fields. 

Finally, one of the coolest aspects of the class is that there's an experiential learning component! The students and professors typically travel to India in December to visit the Aravind Eye Hospital, a world-renowned center for providing medical service to underserved communities.

aravind india
The eye hospital is located in Madurai, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

While it's not entirely sure if we'll be going this year, I'm certain that the class will be an educating and rewarding experience no matter what. One of the best aspects of becoming an upperclassman is being able to try out different types of classes, especially after fulfilling other requirements that might limit your flexibility. Hopefully I'll be a mini eye-expert by the end of this!

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