Description and objective

Description and objective

This module will begin with Mithridates VI of Pontus (120-63 B.C), also known as the Poison King……

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a common saying that implies a positive response to an external stress. Yet, beyond the rhetorics, this notion is grounded in scientific principles, where the term “hormesis” has been described and applied. The goal of this module is to first discuss the theoretical basis behind this effect, and then to explore the reach of this phenomenon across different disciplines. These include addressing the risk-benefits of medications and health supplements, the effects of exercise on the physical body, concept of immunity and others. Based on this exposition of the concept, we hope to generate a platform for a deep dialogue on the potential analogies across domains even in sociology, psychology or economics (antifragility). We hope this would advocate the theories and practice of taking “calculated risk”, and for the learners to appreciate the merits of hard knocks or growing pains in life situations.

Rsrc TN 001417 


Tuesdays and Fridays, 4-6pm



Lectures will be conducted in seminar style. Following each topic, a tutorial will be run to support a problem-based learning, by expounding on the topic just discussed. This classroom discussion constitutes the classroom participation score for the module discussion. In addition, laboratory exposure will be included to provide hands-on learning in small groups. Application of the knowledge will be demonstrated through group presentation in the final two weeks of the semester, as well as an individual write-up on a relevant topic of interest.



There is no compulsory reading for this module. The following are some supplementary reading:

  • Hormesis in Health and Disease by Eric Le Bourg and Suresh Rattan
  • Casarett and Doull’s Toxicology by Curtis Klaassen
  • Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb