Introduction to Natural Science
Fall 2014, Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters
This program will offer students a conceptual and methodological introduction to biology, chemistry, mathematics and computation. In order to understand our world from a scientific perspective, we need to be able to analyze complex systems at multiple levels. We need to understand the ways that matter transforms chemically and how energy and entropy drive those transformations. Biological systems can be understood at the molecular level, but we also need to know about cells, organisms and ecological systems and how they change over time. The language for describing these systems is both quantitative and computational.
The integration of biology, chemistry, mathematics and computing will assist us in asking and answering questions that lie in the intersections of these fields. Such topics include the chemical structure of DNA, the mathematical modeling of biological population growth, the equations governing chemical equilibria and kinetics, and the algorithms underlying bioinformatics. Program activities will include lectures, small group problem-solving workshops, laboratory and field work and seminar discussions. Students will learn to describe their work through scientific writing and public presentations. Our laboratory work in biology and chemistry will also allow us to observe phenomena, collect data and gain firsthand insight into the complex relationship between mathematical models and experimental results. There will be a significant laboratory component—students can expect to spend at least a full day in lab each week, maintain laboratory notebooks, write formal laboratory reports and give formal presentations of their work. Biology laboratories in this program will include participation in the SEA-PHAGE program coordinated by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the use of bioinformatics tools on a bacteriophage genome.
In addition to studying current scientific theories, we will consider the historical, societal and personal factors that influence our thinking about the natural world. We will also examine the impacts on societies due to changes in science and technology. During spring quarter, there will be an opportunity for small student groups to conduct an independent, scientific investigation designed in collaboration with the program faculty.
This program is designed for students who want a solid preparation for further study in the sciences. Students who only want to get a taste of science will find this program quite demanding and should consult the faculty before the program begins. Overall, we expect students to end the program in the spring with a working knowledge of scientific, mathematical and computational concepts, with the ability to reason critically and to solve problems and with hands-on experience in natural science.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day