By Natasha Tremblay
Graphics by Christophe Young
Ever wonder how your favourite fictional character would survive modern reality?
McMaster University is offering a course asking students to examine how fictional characters could live in the real world, from both a biological and psychological perspective.
The course, titled “The Biopsychology of Fictional Characters,” is open to third-year bachelor of health sciences students, according to McMaster’s website. The course is taught by professor Michael Wong and was offered for the first time this fall.
The course started with analysis of pre-selected characters from the Pokémon universe, according to Wong.
“[Students] had a couple weeks to generate some hypotheses to explain the biology and the psychology of the characters, and then they formed really fascinating and beautiful infographics to showcase their work,” Wong said.
Students in the class were also asked to imagine they were living in the zombie apocalypse and determine how they would cure zombies, Wong said.
He said he asked the class what would need “to happen in the nervous system for the zombie behaviours to manifest.”
Students then came up with technological or biological solutions to address the question.
The next portion of the class was dedicated to a research assignment where students, in groups, chose a fictional character of their choice to analyze. Some choices this term were Wolverine, The Flash, and the werewolves in the Harry Potter world.
“The format of the course is very student directed, and I’m there more as a facilitator than a lecturer,” Wong said.
According to Wong, the course is project-based, and students have to hand in a report and document their work in a creative log in which “they have to pretend that they’re a scientist in their fictional character’s universe. . . It’s a creative way of [creating] a lab book.”
Three weeks into the course, Wong said he asked the students to come to class with a character without doing any research to discuss their ideas.
“What happened was the students got so excited with their projects that even at that point, three weeks into the course, they were more than half finished their projects,” he said.
The objective of the course isn’t so much about content as it is about developing scientific inquiry skills in an engaging way, Wong said.
“It allows the students to build upon all the knowledge that they’ve gathered in first, second, or even third year . . . and to really incorporate it into something that they care about,” he said.