Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Pandemics & Plagues: Biological Causes and Societal Effects


Massive scale infections or plagues often occur, affecting millions of individuals for a number of years or quickly killing thousands. In this seminar, we will examine infectious agents and the plagues they caused through both biological and societal lenses. To provide framework for our explorations, the course will begin with a very brief overview of the principles of microbiology and immunology. We will proceed to inspecting biological causes and social responses to “Black Death”, cholera, the 1918 influenza pandemic, polio, and the ongoing HIV pandemic. The course will conclude with similar looks at some infectious agents likely to cause new pandemics.

This seminar is offered in Autumn and Winter.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Thomas L. Cherpes, DVM, MD

"I am an assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine in the Department of Comparative Medicine. My lab investigates host immunity to microbial infections. This seminar will likely interest individuals interested in medicine and the history of medicine, but all curious students are welcome to participate."