Biology

Biology is the study of life in its broadest sense, ranging from topics such as the role of trees in affecting global atmospheric carbon dioxide down to the molecular mechanisms that switch genes on and off in human brain cells. Biology includes a tremendous variety of disciplines: molecular biology, immunology, histology, anatomy, physiology, developmental biology, behavior, evolution, ecology, and many others. Because Sarah Lawrence College faculty members are broadly trained and frequently teach across the traditional disciplinary boundaries, students gain an integrated knowledge of living things—a view of the forest, as well as the trees.

In order to provide a broad introduction and foundation in the field of biology, a number of courses appear under the designation General Biology Series. Each of these open-level, semester-long courses have an accompanying lab component. Students may enroll in any number of the General Biology Series courses during their time at Sarah Lawrence and in any order, although it is strongly recommended that students begin with General Biology Series: Genes, Cells, and Evolution in the fall semester. Completion of any two General Biology Series courses fulfills the minimum biology curriculum requirements for medical school admission. These courses typically meet the prerequisite needs for further intermediate- and advanced-level study in biology, as well.

2018-2019 Courses

Biology

General Biology Series: Genes, Cells, and Evolution

Open , Lecture—Fall

Biology, the study of life on Earth, encompasses structures and forms ranging from the very minute to the very large. In order to grasp the complexities of life, we begin this study with the cellular and molecular forms and mechanisms that serve as the foundation for all living organisms. The initial part of the semester will introduce the fundamental molecules critical to the biochemistry of life processes. From there, we branch out to investigate the major ideas, structures, and concepts central to the biology of cells, genetics, and the chromosomal basis of inheritance. Finally, we conclude the semester by examining how these principles relate to the mechanisms of evolution. Throughout the semester, we will discuss the individuals responsible for major discoveries, as well as the experimental techniques and process by which such advances in biological understanding are made. Classes will be supplemented with weekly laboratory work.

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Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, we will explore life on land and in the sea, both far-flung and local. Our focus will be on how organisms interact with the world around them—and the endlessly creative ways humans alter those interactions. We will begin with a whirlwind tour of the tree of life before delving into the diversity of relationships that individuals have with members of their own species, members of different species, and the physical environment. We will tackle current issues—such as habitat destruction, overfishing, and the curse of the small population—blending lecture and discussion, exploring primary scientific literature, and visiting the Center for the Urban River at Beczak. Students will also learn to use real-world data to ask and answer real-world questions, such as: How apocalyptic has the Hudson River zebra-mussel invasion been? What does postwar ecosystem recovery look like in Mozambique? How can we best design marine protected areas in the Bahamas to benefit both coral-reef dwellers and the humans that depend on them?

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Introduction to Genetics

Open , Seminar—Fall

Genetics is the study of the basic unit of all life: genes. Genes are composed of DNA, intricately packaged in structures called chromosomes that ultimately encode proteins that are key for the normal development and homeostasis of all of the cellular and molecular processes in the cell. These process are crucial to maintain the optimal function of all the organs and systems that comprise the human body. Changes such as mutations in genes can lead to a plethora of defects and, hence, diseases and disorders. This course will not only introduce the amazing variety and diversity found in life due to the changes at the genetic level but also how many of those genetic changes are responsible for numerous disease states, as well. We will learn about and discuss the basic molecular mechanisms that determine heredity, such as mitosis and meiosis, leading into Mendelian genetics, various kinds of mutations, population and evolutionary genetics. We will also introduce and discuss some of the exciting genetic techniques that present great promise to increase our ability to further explore the vast treasure chest of information that lies in our genes. Classes will be supplemented with weekly laboratory work.

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Principles of Botany

Open , Seminar—Fall

Understanding the basic principles of plant biology is crucial to understanding the complex web of life on Earth and its evolutionary history. Nearly all other organisms, including humans, rely on plants—directly or indirectly—for their basic needs. Consequently, plants are essential to our existence; and by studying them, we learn more about our self and the world we inhabit. This course is an introductory survey of botanical science and is designed for the student with little science background. We will broadly examine numerous topics related to botany, including: cell biology comprising DNA/RNA, photosynthesis, and respiration; plant structure, reproduction, and evolution; as well as plant diversity, ecology, and habitats. Seminars and textbook readings will be supplemented by a field trip to the New York Botanical Garden. Conference projects will provide the opportunity for the student to explore specific botanical interests in detail.

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Hormones, Food, and Sex

Open , Seminar—Fall

Hormones are released from diverse tissues, including the brain, ovaries, testes, and fatty tissues. These small molecules travel around the body via the circulatory system and can influence the activity of distant cells involved in key biological processes. In this course, we will study the principles of hormone signaling (endocrinology) by focusing on two overarching topics: hormones that modulate food intake and utilization and hormones that control reproduction. The key molecules, cells, and tissues that play a role in hormonal signaling pathways will be examined. We will study the hormones that control appetite, fat deposition, and weight; we will discuss how hormones affect our perception of flavor; and we will consider the role of hormones in the rise of obesity in people around the world. We will study the hormones that control many aspects of reproduction, including puberty, ovulation, sexuality, sex, pregnancy, birth, lactation, and menopause; we will consider how hormones define male and female characteristics; and we will discuss how hormone therapy is used for transitioning transgender individuals.

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Sensory Biology

Open , Seminar—Spring

Why do chili peppers taste “hot,” while peppermint gum tastes “cold”? How can humans distinguish between a trillion different odors? Scallops have dozens of eyes...really? Can onions be confused with apples if our noses are plugged? Why do flowers appear different to humans and to bees? Why can’t we hear the echolocation calls of most bats? The answers to these questions lie in our understanding of how animals interact with their environments via sensory perception. In this course, we will study the sensory systems underlying hearing, balance, vision, smell, taste, and touch. We will explore senses from a neurobiological perspective and, therefore, will begin with an overview of the nervous system and the structure and function of neurons. We will then study how each sense is based on the perception of a particular stimulus by specialized sensory neurons within specialized sensory tissues. We will discuss how stimuli are converted to cellular information and how this is communicated to the brain, leading to perception. We will also explore the remarkable abilities that underlie animal navigation, including the magnetoreception used by butterflies and sea turtles during migration.

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General Biology Series: Anatomy and Physiology

Open , Seminar—Spring

Anatomy is the branch of science that explores the bodily structure of living organisms, while physiology is the study of the normal functions of these organisms. In this Anatomy and Physiology course, we will explore the human body in both health and disease. Focus will be placed on the major body units such as the skin, skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. By emphasizing concepts rather than the memorization of facts, we will make associations between anatomical structures and their functions. The course will have a clinical approach to health and illness, with examples drawn from medical disciplines such as radiology, pathology, and surgery. A final conference paper is required at the conclusion of the course. The topic of the paper will be chosen by each student to emphasize the relevance of anatomy/physiology to our understanding of the human body.

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Neurons and the Nervous System

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

The brain is the most complex organ. The human brain contains 100 billion neurons whose functions underlie our remarkable capacities, including the ability to sense our environment, communicate via language, learn and remember, perform precise movements, and experience emotions. In this introduction to neuroscience, we will focus on the structure and function of the nervous system, considering molecular, cellular, systems, and cognitive perspectives. We will learn how the nervous system develops and how the major cells of the nervous system—neurons and glia—function. We will examine the chemical and electrical modes of communication between neurons, with a focus on the action potential and neurotransmission. We will consider the major subdivisions of the brain and how those regions control neural functions, including learning and memory, attention, emotion, language, sleep, movement, and sensory perception. Finally, we will study disorders of the nervous system and consider how they inform our understanding of healthy brain function.

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Biology of Cancer

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Cancer is likely the most feared and notorious of human diseases, being devastating in both its scope and its prognosis. Cancer has been described as an alien invader inside one’s own body, characterized by its insidious spread and devious ability to resist countermeasures. Cancer’s legendary status is rightfully earned, accounting for 13% of all human deaths worldwide and killing an estimated eight million people annually. In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a “war on cancer”; since then, more than $200 billion has been spent on cancer research. While clinical success has been modest, tremendous insights have been generated in understanding the cellular, molecular, and genetic mechanisms of this disease. In this course, we will explore the field of cancer biology, covering topics such as tumor viruses, cellular oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, cell immortalization, multistep tumorigenesis, cancer development and metastasis, and the treatment of cancer. In addition, we will discuss new advances in cancer research and draw from recent articles in the published literature.

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Plant Systematics and Evolution

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Understanding the diversity of plants and their evolutionary relationships is fundamental to understanding the complex web of life on Earth. Nearly all other organisms, including humans, rely on plants—directly or indirectly—for their food and oxygen. Consequently, plants are essential to our existence; and by studying plants in detail, we learn more about our own species and the world we inhabit. This course is a detailed survey of plant diversity and the evolutionary relationships of plants. In the course, you will gain a thorough understanding of the diverse morphology of plants and will acquire an understanding of the plant “Tree of Life.” You will be able to describe morphological structures of plants using botanical terminology and learn how to identify prominent plant families using diagnostic morphological characters and plant keys. Seminars and associated labs will be supplemented with independent field collections.

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Environmental Metagenomics

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Students who wish to enroll in this course should have previous laboratory experience in biology and a willingness to learn some basic command-line programming.

How many different species of fungi can live in tiny plant seeds? You may be surprised to learn that that number is actually quite large. The amount of biodiversity in the microbial world is vast; but, until recently, peering into this “black box” has been extremely difficult. With the advent of high-throughput DNA sequencing methods, it is now far easier to characterize this cryptic diversity. In this course, students will participate in an ongoing research project on the hidden fungal diversity in plant seeds and determine if and how those fungal communities shift in response to landscape fragmentation. Students will learn current methods to characterize microbial communities, including both high-throughput DNA sequencing and bioinformatics techniques. The course will involve both laboratory work and data analyses.

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Synaptic Transmission

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

This course will delve deep into the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying synaptic transmission between neurons and other cells. Through careful readings of primary and secondary literature, including select textbook chapters, we will consider the current state of knowledge of how neurotransmitters are released and detected. Topics will include: the biophysics of the neuron, including how concentration gradients of key ions allow for the generation and propagation of the neuronal action potential; how changes in ion concentration lead to vesicle fusion and the controlled release of neurotransmitters via exocytosis; how activation of neurotransmitter receptors leads to electrochemical changes in postsynaptic cells; the structure and gating of key ion channels; the synaptic correlates of learning and memory; and disorders of the synapse, including channelopathies. Throughout the semester, we will discuss how neurotoxins used by species from across the animal kingdom—from platypuses and cone snails to funnel web spiders and cobras—immobilize prey by targeting specific synaptic proteins.

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General Chemistry I

Open , Lecture—Fall

Chemistry is the study of the properties, composition, and transformation of matter. Chemistry is central to the production of the materials required for modern life; for example, the synthesis of pharmaceuticals to treat disease, the manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides required to feed an ever-growing population, and the development of efficient and environmentally-benign energy sources. This course provides an introduction to the fundamental concepts of modern chemistry. We will begin by examining the structure and properties of atoms, which are the building blocks of the elements and the simplest substances in the material world around us. We will then explore how atoms of different elements can bond with each other to form an infinite variety of more complex substances called compounds. This will lead us to an investigation of several classes of chemical reactions, the processes by which substances are transformed into new materials with different physical properties. Along the way, we will learn how and why the three states of matter (solids, liquids, and gases) differ from one another and how energy may be either produced or consumed by chemical reactions. In weekly laboratory sessions, we will perform experiments to illustrate and test the theories presented in the lecture part of the course. These experiments will also serve to develop practical skills in both synthetic and analytic chemical techniques.

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General Chemistry II

Open , Lecture—Spring

This course is a continuation of General Chemistry I. We will begin with a detailed study of both the physical and chemical properties of solutions. This will enable us to consider the factors that affect both the rates and direction of chemical reactions. We will then investigate the properties of acids and bases and the role that electricity plays in chemistry. The course will conclude with introductions to nuclear chemistry and organic chemistry. Weekly laboratory sessions will allow us to demonstrate and test the theories described in the lecture segment of the course.

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Nutrition

Open , Seminar—Fall

Nutrition is the sum of all interactions between ourselves and the food that we consume. The study of nutrition includes the nature and general role of nutrients in forming structural material, providing energy, and helping to regulate metabolism. How do food chemists synthesize the fat that can’t be digested? Can this kind of fat satisfy our innate appetite for fats? Are there unwanted side effects, and why? What constitutes a healthy diet? What are the consequences of severely restricted food intake seen in a prevalent emotional disorder such as anorexia or bulimia? These and other questions will be discussed. We will also discuss the effect of development, pregnancy, emotional state, and disease on nutritional requirements. And we will consider the effects of food production and processing on nutrition value and food safety.

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Organic Chemistry I: A Guided Inquiry Seminar

Open , Seminar—Fall

No prior knowledge of chemistry is required. Students will be able to take this course and Organic Chemistry II (Guided Inquiry) in the spring semester and then take General Chemistry or other chemistry courses in subsequent years.

Research has shown that students learn much more effectively when they are actively engaged and when ideas and concepts are developed by the students themselves rather than simply being presented by a professor or read in a textbook. This course is designed as a series of interactive Guided Inquiry exercises. During each seminar, you will be presented with data and important observations regarding the topic being studied. The class will work in small groups to answer a series of directed questions designed to lead each student toward the development of a target concept or idea. These classroom activities are designed to follow the scientific process as much as possible. You will be asked to make predictions based on the model that has been developed by the class. Further data or information will then be provided that can be used to check your predictions. In this way, you will simultaneously learn both the course content and the key critical thinking skills that constitute scientific thought and exploration. After each topic has been developed in class, you will be asked to read the relevant section of the textbook and then answer a series of problems to reinforce your understanding of the material. You should consider taking this course if you enjoy highly interactive seminars, working in small groups, and figuring out problems yourself rather than simply listening to a professor while taking notes in class. Organic chemistry is the study of chemical compounds whose molecules are based on a framework of carbon atoms, typically in combination with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Despite this rather limited set of elements, there are more organic compounds known than there are compounds that do not contain carbon. Adding to the importance of organic chemistry is the fact that very many of the chemical compounds that make modern life possible—such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, pigments, and dyes—can be classed as organic. Organic chemistry, therefore, impacts many other scientific subjects; and knowledge of organic chemistry is essential for a detailed understanding of materials science, environmental science, molecular biology, and medicine. This course gives an overview of the structures, physical properties, and reactivity of organic compounds. We will see that organic compounds can be classified into families of similar compounds based upon certain groups of atoms that always behave in a similar manner no matter what molecule they are in. These functional groups will enable us to rationalize the vast number of reactions that organic re-agents undergo. Topics covered in this course include: the types of bonding within organic molecules; fundamental concepts of organic reaction mechanisms (nucleophilic substitution, elimination, and electrophilic addition); the conformations and configurations of organic molecules; and the physical and chemical properties of alkanes, halogenoalkanes, alkenes, alkynes, and alcohols. In the laboratory section of the course, we will develop the techniques and skills required to synthesize, separate, purify, and identify organic compounds. Organic Chemistry is a key requirement for pre-med students and is strongly encouraged for all others who are interested in the biological and physical sciences. In addition, the Guided Inquiry exercises will sharpen your analytical skills and teach you how to think like a scientist. Your experiences working as part of a team in this course will help you in future situations where the ability to collaborate to solve problems is a critical measure of success.

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Inorganic Chemistry

Open , Seminar—Spring

In this course, we will investigate the properties of the chemical elements and some of their most important compounds. In so doing, we will discover the trends in structure, bonding, and reactivity that emerge as we move from one element to the next in the periodic table. Included in our survey will be discussions of the important roles that inorganic substances play in our everyday lives, particularly in the fields of bioinorganic chemistry, industrial materials, and nanotechnology. In the laboratory section of the course, we will prepare important examples of inorganic compounds and then investigate their reactivity. This will involve learning how to work with highly reactive and air-sensitive materials using vacuum-line and glove-box techniques. Chemistry plays a pivotal role in all of the natural sciences. Accordingly, this course will be useful for any students with an interest in the physical, biological, and medicinal sciences and for pre-engineering students.

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Organic Chemistry II: A Guided Inquiry Seminar

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Organic Chemistry I.

This course is a continuation of Organic Chemistry I: A Guided Inquiry Seminar. This semester, we will explore the physical and chemical properties of additional families of organic molecules. The reactivity of aromatic compounds, aldehydes and ketones, carboxylic acids and their derivatives (acid chlorides, acid anhydrides, esters, and amides), enols and enolates, and amines will all be discussed. We will also investigate the methods by which large, complicated molecules can be synthesized from simple starting materials. Modern methods of organic structural determination—such as mass spectrometry, 1 H and 13 C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and infrared spectroscopy—will also be introduced. In the laboratory section of this course, we will continue to develop the techniques and skills required to synthesize, separate, purify, and identify organic compounds. Organic Chemistry II is a key requirement for pre-med students and is strongly encouraged for all others who are interested in the biological and physical sciences.

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Biochemistry

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisites: Organic Chemistry and General Biology.

Biochemistry is the chemistry of biological systems. This course will introduce students to the basic principles and concepts of biochemistry. Topics will include the structure and function of biomolecules such as amino acids, proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids, RNA, DNA, and bioenergetics. This knowledge will then be used to study the pathways of metabolism.

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TBA

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Bio-Inspired Artificial Intelligence

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

At least one semester of prior programming experience is expected. Students should be very comfortable programming in a high-level, object-oriented language such as Python, Java, or C++.

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is concerned with reproducing in computers the abilities of human intelligence. In recent years, exciting new approaches to AI have been developed—inspired by a wide variety of biological processes and structures that are capable of self-organization, adaptation, and learning. Examples of those new approaches include evolutionary computation, artificial neural networks, autonomous robots, and swarm intelligence. This course will provide a hands-on introduction to the algorithms and techniques of biologically-inspired AI—focusing primarily on genetic algorithms, neural networks, deep learning, reinforcement learning, and robotics—from both a theoretical and practical perspective. We will use the Python programming language to implement and experiment with those techniques in detail and test them out using both simulated and real robots. Students will have many opportunities for extended exploration through open-ended, hands-on, lab exercises and conference work.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open , Lecture—Fall

Mathematical prerequisite: basic high-school algebra and geometry.

Correlation, regression, statistical significance, and margin of error...you’ve heard these terms and other statistical phrases bantered about before, and you’ve seen them interspersed in news reports and research articles. But what do they mean? And why are they important? And what exactly fueled the failure of statistical polls and projections leading up to the 2016 US presidential election? An introduction to the concepts, techniques, and reasoning central to the understanding of data, this lecture course focuses on the fundamental methods of statistical analysis used to gain insight into diverse areas of human interest. The use, misuse, and abuse of statistics will be the central focus of the course; specific topics of exploration will be drawn from experimental design, sampling theory, data analysis, and statistical inference. Applications will be considered in current events, business, psychology, politics, medicine, and other areas of the natural and social sciences. Statistical (spreadsheet) software will be introduced and used extensively in this course, but no prior experience with the technology is assumed. Conference work will serve as a complete practicum of the theory learned in lecture: Students working closely in small teams will conceive, design, and fully execute a small-scale research study. This lecture is recommended for anybody wishing to be a better-informed consumer of data and strongly recommended for those planning to pursue graduate work and/or research in the natural sciences or social sciences.

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Calculus I: The Study of Motion and Change

Open , Seminar—Fall

Prerequisites: the minimum required preparation for study of the calculus is successful completion of study in trigonometry and precalculus topics. Students concerned about meeting the course prerequisites are encouraged to contact the instructor as soon as possible. This course is also being offered in the spring semester of this academic year.

Our existence lies in a perpetual state of change. An apple falls from a tree; clouds move across expansive farmland, blocking out the sun for days; meanwhile, satellites zip around the Earth transmitting and receiving signals to our cell phones. The calculus was invented to develop a language to accurately describe and study the motion and change happening around us. The Ancient Greeks began a detailed study of change but were scared to wrestle with the infinite; so it was not until the 17th century that Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, among others, tamed the infinite and gave birth to this extremely successful branch of mathematics. Though just a few hundred years old, the calculus has become an indispensable research tool in both the natural and social sciences. Our study begins with the central concept of the limit and proceeds to explore the dual processes of differentiation and integration. Numerous applications of the theory will be examined. For conference work, students may choose to undertake a deeper investigation of a single topic or application of the calculus or conduct a study of some other mathematically-related topic. This seminar is intended for students interested in advanced study in mathematics or sciences, students preparing for careers in the health sciences or engineering, and any student wishing to broaden and enrich the life of the mind.

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Calculus II: Further Study of Motion and Change

Open , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisites: one year of high-school calculus or one semester of college-level calculus. Students concerned about meeting the course prerequisites are encouraged to contact the instructor as soon as possible. This course is also being offered in the fall semester of this academic year.

This course continues the thread of mathematical inquiry following an initial study of the dual topics of differentiation and integration (see Calculus I course description). Topics to be explored in this course include the calculus of exponential and logarithmic functions, applications of integration theory to geometry, alternative coordinate systems, infinite series, and power series representations of functions. For conference work, students may choose to undertake a deeper investigation of a single topic or application of the calculus or conduct a study of some other mathematically-related topic. This seminar is intended for students interested in advanced study in mathematics or sciences, students preparing for careers in the health sciences or engineering, and any student wishing to broaden and enrich the life of the mind. The theory of limits, differentiation, and integration will be briefly reviewed at the beginning of the term.

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Game Theory: The Study of Conflict and Strategy

Open , Lecture—Spring

The minimum required preparation for successful study of game theory is one year each of high-school algebra and geometry. No other knowledge of mathematics or social science is presumed.

Warfare, elections, auctions, labor-management negotiations, inheritance disputes, even divorce—these and many other conflicts can be successfully understood and studied as games. A game, in the parlance of social scientists and mathematicians, is any situation involving two or more participants (players) capable of rationally choosing among a set of possible actions (strategies) that lead to some final result (outcome) of typically unequal value (payoff or utility) to the players. Game theory is the interdisciplinary study of conflict, whose primary goal is the answer to the single, simply-stated, but surprisingly complex question: What is the best way to “play”? Although the principles of game theory have been widely applied throughout the social and natural sciences, their greatest impact has been felt in the fields of economics, political science, and biology. This course represents a survey of the basic techniques and principles in the field. Of primary interest will be the applications of the theory to real-world conflicts of historical or current interest.

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Introduction to Mechanics (General Physics Without Calculus)

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course or equivalent is required to take Introduction to Electromagnetism, Light, and Modern Physics (General Physics Without Calculus) in the spring.

This course covers introductory classical mechanics, including dynamics, kinematics, momentum, energy, and gravity. Students considering careers in architecture or the health sciences, as well as those interested in physics for physics’ sake, should take either this course or Classical Mechanics. Emphasis will be placed on scientific skills, including problem-solving, development of physical intuition, scientific communication, use of technology, and development and execution of experiments. Seminars will incorporate discussion, exploratory activities, and problem-solving activities. In addition, the class will meet weekly to conduct laboratory work. A background in calculus is not required.

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Introduction to Electromagnetism, Light, and Modern Physics (General Physics Without Calculus)

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Calculus is not a requirement for this course. Students should have had at least one semester of physics (mechanics).

This course covers electromagnetism and optics, as well as selected topics in modern physics. Students considering careers in the health sciences, as well as those interested in physics for physics’ sake, should take either this course or Classical Mechanics. Emphasis will be placed on scientific skills, including problem-solving, development of physical intuition, scientific communication, use of technology, and development and execution of experiments. Seminars will incorporate discussion and exploratory and problem-solving activities. In addition, the class will meet weekly to conduct laboratory work. A background in calculus is not required.

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First-Year Studies: The Senses: Art and Science

Open , FYS—Year

The perceiving mind is an incarnated mind. —Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1964

Sensory perception is a vital component of the creation and experience of artistic works of all types. In psychology and neuroscience, the investigation of sensory systems has been foundational for our developing understanding of brains, minds, and bodies. Recent work in brain science has moved us beyond the Aristotelian notion of five discrete senses to a view of the senses as more various and interconnected—with each other and with the fundamental psychological processes of perception, attention, emotion, memory, imagination, and judgment. What we call “taste” is a multisensory construction of “flavor” that relies heavily on smell, vision, and touch (mouth feel); “vision” refers to a set of semi-independent streams that specialize in the processing of color, object identity, or spatial layout and movement; “touch” encompasses a complex system of responses to different types of contact with the largest sensory organ—the skin; and “hearing” includes aspects of perception that are thought to be quintessentially human—music and language. Many other sensations are not covered by the standard five: the sense of balance, of body position (proprioception), feelings of pain arising from within the body, and feelings of heat or cold. Perceptual psychologists have suggested that the total count is closer to 17 than to five. We will investigate all of these senses, their interactions with each other, and their intimate relationships with human emotion, memory, and imagination. Some of the questions we will address are: Why are smells such potent memory triggers? What can visual art tell us about how the brain works, and vice versa? Why is a caregiver’s touch so vital for psychological development? Why do foods that taste sublime to some people evoke feelings of disgust in others? Do humans have a poor sense of smell? Why does the word “feeling” refer to both bodily sensations and emotions? What makes a song “catchy” or “sticky”? Can humans learn to echolocate like bats? What is the role of body perception in mindfulness meditation? This is a good course for artists who like to think about science and for scientists with a feeling for art. This is a collaborative course. The main small-group collaborative activity is a sensory lab where students will have the opportunity to explore their own sensory perceptions in a systematic way, investigating how they relate to language, memory, and emotion. The other group activities include some museum visits: The American Museum of Natural History has a current exhibit devoted to the senses, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an encyclopedic collection that will be the focus of a group curation assignment, and MOMA holds a wealth of abstract perceptual possibilities that we will investigate together.

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Challenges to Development: Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Spring

We live in a society that often seems preoccupied with labeling people and their characteristics as “normal” or “abnormal.” This course covers some of the material usually found in “Abnormal Psychology” courses by addressing the multiple factors that play a role in shaping a child’s development, particularly as those factors may result in what we think of as psychopathology. Starting with a consideration of what the terms “normality” and “pathology” may refer to in our culture, we will read about and discuss a variety of situations that illustrate different interactions of inborn, environmental, and experiential influences on developing lives. For example, we will read theory and case material addressing congenital conditions such as deafness and life events such as acute trauma and abuse, as well as the range of less clear-cut circumstances and complex interactions of variables that have an impact on growth and adaptation in childhood and adolescence. We will try, however, to bring both critical lenses and a range of individual perspectives to bear on our discussion of readings drawn from clinical and developmental psychology, memoir, and research studies. In this process, we will examine a number of the current conversations and controversies about assessment, diagnostic/labeling, early intervention, use of psychoactive medications, and treatment modalities. Students will be required to engage in fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or elsewhere and may choose whether to focus conference projects on aspects of that experience.

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Eco-Poetry

Open , Seminar—Year

In this poetry class—a yearlong school of poetry and the Earth—we will consider the great organism Gaia, of which we are a part. We will read the long and rich tradition of poetry addressing itself to this subject, from the early indigenous peoples through the Zen monks and Wordsworth and right up through Gary Snyder and to utterly contemporary poets such as Brenda Hillman and Chase Twitchell. We will also read books and articles that teach us about the physical world. We will wonder how eco-poetry is different from nature poetry. We will practice one and then the other. Each student will research an aspect of the natural world and incorporate that knowledge into documentary poems. Each student will present his/her knowledge and poems to the class community as a conference project each semester. We will read books of poems but also watch films, take field trips, and meet with each other outside of class. By the end of the class, my hope is that each of us will have a greater understanding of the great organism that we call Earth and will create a collection of poems that engage the questions that our class raises: What is time? What is death? What is Eden? Where is the garden now? Who are the other organisms? How have we, as a species, affected the other organisms? How have we affected the oceans, the earth, the air? How can poetry address the ecological crisis? Required for this class: intellectual curiosity, empathy, and a willingness to observe the world—to pay attention and to write poetry that matters—beyond the individual self. This is a class for experienced writers, as well as for those who want to give writing poetry a try. All are welcome.

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