Frontiers of Science


Welcome to Frontiers of Science!

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.

Intellectual Structure of the Course

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.

Frontiers and the Core Curriculum

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:

Klejda Bega
Nicholas Christie-Blick
Virginia Cornish
Stuart Firestein
Brian Greene
Donald C. Hood
Emlyn Hughes
Ivana Hughes
Jerry McManus
Don Melnick
William Menke
Paul Olsen
Terry Plank
Robert Pollack
David Schiminovich

Science Fellows

Suzzette Arnal
Travis Bain
Imre Bartos
Allison Franzese
David Garofalo
Melinda Han
Sharon Hoffmann
Corinne Kendall
Elizabeth Leininger
Kelly O'Donnell
Allyson Sheffield
Helena Uthas