Codisciplinary Code-Switching: Bridging Biology and the Humanities during COVID-19

Amanda K. Greene, Lehigh University

Jennifer Swann, Lehigh University

Date posted: January 2022

Greene and Swann set a model for their article by describing an experimental, interdisciplinary course on the immune system that was co-taught by a humanist and a scientist; this course’s creation coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. In turn, this course was designed to grapple with current events, helping students navigate the entanglement of science and society. Integrating codisciplinary code-switching into a pedagogical setting enables broader possibilities and alternative ways of integrating the humanities and the sciences in medical education. Greene and Swann argue that this type of medical education would nurture students’ capacities for more complex, nuanced, and powerful forms of code-switching, integrating medical praxis as a form of reading and interpretation, respecting both disciplines as tools for reading bodies, texts, and contexts.

Topic: code-switching, codisciplinary, interdisciplinary course


Online supplemental material for article only. Read below or download here.




While reading The Plague and learning about different epidemics over the past few weeks, we have seen that plagues are defined and shaped by both biological and social components. Biological mechanisms play a huge role in determining how contagious and virulent an epidemic is, but social interactions and political planning can likewise impact how fast an illness spreads through a population, how many people it kills, and how it impacts individuals’ psychological responses. In this assignment you will address both of these prongs (biological and social) in an imaginary plague.



Pretend that a plague (it must be driven by a real disease, but you have freedom to decide which one) has broken out at Lehigh, in your hometown, or in another location you prefer. You have been quarantined along with the rest of the population there.

Write a detailed account of your experience that documents the first weeks of the epidemic. Your audience is located outside of the quarantine zone. This account should include details about symptoms, virulence, mortality rate, mechanisms of contagion, etc. that you will have to do some research to figure out and will need to provide citations for. Aim to use and cite at least 4 different reliable sources. At least 2 of these must come from scholarly scientific journals (i.e. not WebMD). In addition to these details, reflect on how people around you are psychologically handling the situation and behaving.

In addition to describing what has already happened, present your prognosis for how long you think the plague will last and what the death toll will be based on the measures being taken within the quarantine zone (choose your own adventure – maybe it’s being mishandled and the consequences will be apocalyptic, maybe everything is under control, or maybe it’s something in-between). You can also suggest alternative measures you think should be taken to ameliorate the situation.

Assume in this scenario that you are addressing a fairly science literate audience that will be interested in the biology of the disease. Also assume that there has been very limited documentation of this plague thus far; it’s all on you to communicate the whole situation!

The key to success in this assignment is being creative and using your imagination, while also clearly grounding your writing in facts and external evidence.