Academic Year 2021 Courses

Academic Year 2021 Courses

Our courses provide opportunities for our members to delve more deeply into fascinating subjects, hear from outstanding teachers, and have fun as well: no exams, no grades, but ample opportunities to participate in discussions.

You must be a OLLI member to sign up for Courses!

→ Courses are limited to 2021 members of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UCSC. If you wish to join, go to our home page and use the section titled Join OLLI at UCSC or Renew Your Membership.  

Due to the Coronavirus there are changes to the schedule of courses.  We are planning to have one online course per month.  If you are a member of OLLI an email will be sent out prior to the course with the Zoom link for attending the online course.

Online Courses:

2028 Gravity - Apples to Black Holes
2030 The People Who Discovered the Nature of the Gene:  Mendel, Franklin, Watson and Crick

Short commentaries by Ronnie Gruhn

The OLLI Board has decided that there will be no fees for our classes during the pandemic.  

For future online courses:   We will open enrollment to all members... via email. First a message will go out informing all members of the upcoming course (title, date, time, instructor, description). 

Then, a week before the each class begins another email will remind members. Finally, on the day before or in the morning before the class begins (depends on timing), another email will go out to members with the actual Zoom link. 

There is no registration required for online courses.


2028 Gravity - Apples to Black Holes

Dates: Wednesdays, March 31, April 7, 14, 21, 28; 10 a.m. to Noon
Location: Zoom online
Instructor: Roger Knacke

The last five years have seen a spectacular revolution in our understanding of the force of gravity and its implications.  We’ve detected gravitational waves for the first time; seen huge black holes collide in titanic explosions; witnessed a neutron star collision with the formation of heavy elements including gold; saw many of Einstein’s ideas about general relativity corroborated; and, in 2019, imaged a colossal black hole’s shadow.  The course will begin with Isaac Newton’s first ideas of gravity, discuss major twentieth century theoretical and observational developments, describe the recent discoveries, and conclude with issues at the forefront of science.  No background in science is required for this non-mathematical course. 



  1. Newtonian Gravity
  2. The Einstein Relativity Revolution
  3. Black Holes Revealed
  4. The Mystery of Dark Matter
  5. Gravitational Waves

Dr. Roger Knacke is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Penn State Erie, where he retired as Director of the School of Science in 2010. His research interests are in interstellar matter and planetary atmospheres.


2030 The People Who Discovered the Nature of the Gene:  Mendel, Franklin, Watson and Crick

Dates:  Wednesdays, 10:30 to noon, May 5, 12, 19, 26  (Note Change in days)
Where:  Zoom online
Instructor: Barry Bowman

Barry Bowman is Professor Emeritus of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology at UCSC

I will present the biographies of four scientists who played central roles in the discovery of the genetic material that directs heredity.  The monk Gregor Mendel was the first person to show that traits were inherited as particles of information.  These particles were later shown to be DNA.  Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA, which soon led to our understanding of how a molecule could contain hereditary information.  The course will focus on information in the books listed below.  Participants are not expected to read all of these books but if you want to read just one I suggest "The Double Helix," James Watson's famous, but controversial, memoir.

  Gregor Mendel


The Monk in the Garden by Robin Marantz Henig
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox
Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic
The Double Helix by James Watson
Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code, by Matt Ridley
  • OLLI is not charging for these zoom classes, but we hope many of you will appreciate these classes so much that you will choose to make a contribution to our scholarship fund when you renew your membership. At this time, there are many UCSC re-entry students needing our help.