2008-09 Catalog

Decorative graphic

Planning Unit

Scientific Inquiry

The faculty of the Scientific Inquiry planning unit is committed to the ideal of science education in the context of liberal arts education. We help students—whatever their primary interests may be—understand the wonders of nature as well as science as a force in our technological society.

Because science and technology are central to our world, citizens must be scientifically literate in order to participate intelligently in a democratic society. At the same time, scientists should understand the social implications and consequences of their work. Thus, our studies of science itself are combined with studies of the history and philosophy of science, bioethics, and public policy.

Some programs in this planning unit will allow students to learn basic science as part of their liberal arts education. Others help students prepare for careers in science, medicine, or technology. However, all of our offerings emphasize the application of theory to practice. Students will apply the scientific principles as they learn to solve real-world problems.

By engaging in laboratory and group problem-solving exercises, students will learn to think like scientists—to develop hypotheses and design experiments, to collect data and analyze them within a theoretical framework, and to apply these results to new situations.

Our students have unique opportunities to conduct scientific research using high-quality instruments, such as a scanning electron microscope and an NMR machine. In addition, they can use some of the best modern software available. Students also read current scientific journal articles and learn to write technical reports and papers.

Whether a freshman or a more advanced student, all students can find a scientific program that fits their academic plan. Some choose to follow a pathway that emphasizes a particular science, while others may simply want to explore the wonder and application of science in a broader context. There are programs that offer beginning, intermediate and advanced work in all the major scientific disciplines. Programs in Scientific Inquiry are mostly repeating: either every year, or alternate years, but we create new offerings on a regular basis.  The regular programs with significant content in each of the main scientific disciplines are listed below:

Foundations of Health Science, Introduction to Natural Science, Molecule to Organism, Advanced Biology (fall only)

Foundations of Health Science, Introduction to Natural Science, Environmental Analysis, Atoms, Molecules and Reactions (09/10)

Computer Science
Algebra, Algorithms and Modeling (spring only), Models of Motion, Computer Science Foundations, Computability, Student Originated Software (09/10)

Models of Motion, Computer Science Foundations, Methods of Mathematical Physics, Computability, Math Systems (09/10)

Music, Math and Motion, Models of Motion, Methods of Mathematical Physics, Energy Systems (09/10)
Refer to the individual program descriptions for more details about these programs and other not listed above. As another option, Evening and Weekend Studies also offers courses in the sciences.

Advanced students have many opportunities to do scientific research as part of a faculty research program. Research students have presented their work at scientific meetings and have become authors on technical papers. Scientific Inquiry students have an excellent record of success in graduate and professional schools, as well as working in a variety of scientific and technical fields. The possibilities are limited only by your energy and ambition.