Professor wearing lab coat speaking in front of science lab background

Course offerings

Natural sciences

Natural sciences

The development of scientific thought from the early Greek period to modern times will be covered. The primary emphasis will be on scientists as people, analysis of their contributions, and the significance of these in the development of scientific theories. Scientists such as Galileo, Newton, Einstein and Darwin will be discussed. Infrequently offered.

For the lay public, the image which first comes to mind when they hear the word ‘scientist’ is almost always a white middle-aged male in a lab coat, with thick eyeglasses, wild hair, and a slightly rumpled look. While the scientific workforce is more diverse now than in the 1950's when this stereotype was first documented, and while noted minority and women scientists are among the ranks of contemporary public intellectuals, this stereotype is alive and well in the 21st century. This course will try to get at the source of this stereotype and determine how and why science as an enterprise has often seemed so remote and inaccessible, especially for minorities and women. Specifically, students will focus on the discouragements and obstacles facing those traditionally underrepresented in scientific careers, while highlighting the accomplishments and achievements of pioneers/trailblazers (minorities and women) in science. Students will delve into their lives exploring the personal, professional and psychological dimensions of attainment and achievement. Such understanding will provide a context for discussing the variety of contemporary programs designed to attract minorities and women to careers in science. The course will conclude by exploring the relationship between self and community for minority and women scientists who have "made it". Minority and women students in science must learn to formulate a career/life path that addresses these issues, while meeting such practical needs as earning a living, having time for a personal life, and maintaining a sense of self-confidence and esteem. Hopefully, this course will help them do so. Fall semester.

In this class, we will explore how science and the scientific process informs the development of our understanding of our climate and climate change. We’ll investigate the long-term patterns and variation in climates over Earth’s history and discuss what we can say about its future. At the end of the course, students will be able to evaluate and explain major climate drivers in the past, how past and future human activities are altering climate at local and global scales, the measurable impacts on our lives, and the pros and cons of actions we can take in response to climate change.

This global seminar course is designed to combine a survey of astronomy and its underlying physical principles with an exploration of the differences observed in the southern hemisphere. Students learn about the scientific method and developments that have enabled our current understanding of the dynamic universe. Main topics include the cycles of the sky, the history of astronomy, the stars, the Milky Way galaxy and the solar system. While abroad, students will examine differences in the astronomy of the southern hemisphere, as well as understand the way that astronomy has shaped culture, in particular navigation techniques. Laboratories with hands-on activities are an important component of the course, including astronomical observation on some evenings. No mathematical background beyond basic high school algebra is assumed. J-term, even-numbered years.

Our understanding of viral diseases extends beyond the physical effects they have on an individual. For example, viruses may influence governmental policies and create social stigmas that have long-term consequences. This discussion-based course will explore through literature and first-hand accounts how social, political, cultural, gender, and scientific views influence global healthcare and a global understanding of viral pathogens. The AIDS pandemic and Ebola epidemic will be the focus of this offering.

This course introduces students to the debate surrounding the topic of “climate change” and will focus on three primary questions: 1) Is the climate changing? 2) Do human activities influence climate change in measurable ways? 3) Can and should action be taken to mitigate or ameliorate the perceived climate changes? This course will examine, via discussion, analyses of primary and secondary sources, modelling exercises, student writing and occasional guest lectures, the scientific, political, economic and psychological factors that influence the modern discourse involving climate change. The competing interests in this debate as well as the complexity of issues relevant to the discussion make the material for this course timely, relevant and controversial. Students in the course will be encouraged to put aside their preconceived notions and view the topics discussed through a critical and objective lens.

This course will investigate the methods of development of biological weapons and the mechanisms of their use against military or civilian populations. Biological weapons are defined as those viral and bacterial pathogens of humans that induce illness in the affected individual and also those biological agents that can damage or destroy the food and water supply of a population. Protection against such attacks will be discussed. The effects on society as a whole and the responses of society to the threat of bioterrorist attacks will be emphasized. This course has a laboratory component in addition to a lecture format. In the laboratory, the principles of epidemiological spread of disease agents will be investigated by the use of simulations and the mechanisms of disease prevention will be addressed experimentally.

This course involves an extended inter-semester field trip to study the natural history and culture of an area (generally the neotropics). Students are required to attend regular classes before and after the trip. A research project and field book constitute the major course requirements.

This course focuses on the social and historical importance of infectious disease. The course will center around three main ideas: a summary of significant diseases in human history, a detailed analysis of the particular outbreak in history, and a detailed account of an emerging outbreak of infectious disease. Basic information regarding microorganisms and the human immune system will be included. A laboratory component will allow students to observe and handle non-pathogenic bacteria and fungi and conduct basic experiments in disease transmission.