In late spring, when Rowan University’s department of biological sciences offered adjunct professor EJ Karetny a special topics seminar for the fall, it didn’t take him too long to settle on a subject.

Karetny says he decided to “dive into the biology of the pandemic” for his weekly Wednesday class, officially classified as BIOL 01445 — Special Topics in Biological Sciences but given the subtitle Origin and Transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Over the summer and throughout the fall, Karetny compiled peer-reviewed scientific literature from around the world on the origin of the coronavirus for use in the fully remote, writing-intensive course. His students “were pretty gung-ho in the beginning,” he says, and over time, the enthusiasm continued with discussions that were “really lively.”

“Students in general really appreciate an open forum where they can express themselves,” Karetny adds. “They introduced their own sources and their own perspectives and experiences.”

Karetny’s Origin and Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 class concluded this month. He did reach out to the department chair about teaching it again in the spring but was told special topics doesn’t run in that semester. Karetny says he’d like to teach it in the summer or next fall “with the hopes that it’s a look back at where we came from.”

“It’s been a great exercise in the nature of science to figure out how we came to understand this, especially in light of conspiracy theories and geopolitics,” he says.

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