For more than eighty years, Columbia College has sustained an extensive Core Curriculum, required of all students, which serves as an intensive introduction to the great ideas of western literature, art, music, and philosophy. In the University's 250th year, we launched a complementary course in science: Frontiers of Science.
The course is designed both to introduce students to exciting ideas at the forefront of scientific research, as well as to inculcate in them the habits of mind common to a scientific approach to the world. Each semester, four scientists in different disciplines deliver a series of three lectures each describing the background, context, and current state of an area of research; readings and other activities supplement the lectures. Consistent with the Core tradition, the course also includes small seminar sections in which these topics are discussed by students.
This course is not content driven. Instead, it attempts to outline the kinds of approaches that scientists take to answer interesting problems in the natural world. The topics selected, scientific disciplines and faculty vary from one semester to another.
To achieve our goals, a web-based text forms an essential element of the course. This text ("Scientific Habits of Mind") lays out the ideas and structures that are common to scientific approaches. The text provides a framework that unites the weekly assignments, based in specific disciplinary areas, and suggests how - exactly - one might think about these issues as a scientist.
For more than 80 years, the heart of the undergraduate experience at Columbia College has been its Core Curriculum, a set of courses that introduces every student to the great ideas of Western literature, art, music, history, and philosophy. For many, the Core, which constitutes a substantial portion of your coursework in your first two years of study, is a defining experience. All Columbia students share and can discuss a common set of works and themes drawn from the central ideas of Western culture. Yet following its adoption, the Core Curriculum long neglected an essential contribution of Western civilization: Science.
Emerging from the Renaissance as an original, creative, and profoundly powerful approach to the natural world, modern science has provided us with a fundamentally new view of the Universe. Beginning in the University's 250th year, we introduced all Columbia undergraduates to the study of this new view, and the modes of thought that lead to it, by instituting Frontiers of Science."
The Faculty of Frontiers in Science, 2012-2013:
Donald C. Hood