A spellbinding course for Potter putterers

Updated: 2012-01-06 09:19

By Huang Yuli (China Daily)

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A spellbinding course for Potter putterers

A movie poster of Harry Potter.

GUNANGZHOU - An elective course at Sun Yat-sen University became famous at the beginning of the new year. It was not about magic, but has Harry Potter in its name.

Micro-blogger "Peng Aqian" posted a screenshot online and wrote, "Who can tell me is this real?" The screen was a description of an elective course at the Zhongshan School of Medicine at the university named "Harry Potter and genetics". The course takes 20 hours, earns one credit, can accept 100 students, and had as its sole requirement: "Interest in Harry Potter novels or films".

A spellbinding course for Potter putterers

That micro blog was forwarded almost 2,000 times and received 100-some comments.

Many applauded the idea and expressed a wish to sign up for this class; some thought it was funny but doubted it was real.

Chen Suqin, lecturer at the Zhongshan School of Medicine and creator of the course, confirmed with the China National Radio on Wednesday that "it is serious".

She said she was an ardent Harry Potter fan and that there are many things in Harry Potter's story that can be analyzed from a genetics perspective - such as cats of different colors, and people of different colors are phenomena of genetics.

According to Chen, genetics courses are generally dry, and she hoped to arouse students' interest in this way.

She said many scientists in the United States and Europe study medicine and biology using Harry Potter as case, though they are conducting serious research, they can formulate it in an easy and humorous way, and that's where she got the idea for the course.

Chen declined a request to be interviewed by China Daily on Thursday.

Sun Yat-sen University was not alone in offering courses with a fresh take on their subjects. China University of Political Science and Law started an elective course about micro-expressions, brief facial expressions that betray an emotion, which entered popular culture in the US with the TV series Lie to Me; He Yuan Polytechnic College, in Guangdong province, offered an elective on Killer of the Three Kingdoms, a hot table game.

Jiang Zhenyu, the micro-expression course teacher, said the 36-hour and 2-credit course was limited to 50 students, but more than 90 crowded into the small classroom for the first lecture in September.

However, he was not excited about the gushing enthusiasm.

"Many people come to the course just for fun because they watched series such as Lie to Me, but it's a serious and complicated science and so is my course. I ask the students really to study, conduct experiments and make analyses."

"I told them two weeks ago the semester exam would be closed-book, and two students quit."

"Interest is good for the popularization of science, but I'd rather focus on the effect and use of a course," Jiang said.