November 13, 2007

Corey Shea ’11 Shares his Experiences with his First-Year Seminar

‘Science: A Human Endeavor’ is taught by William Miles, professor and head of chemistry

Corey Shea ’11 (Hanson, Mass.) is currently taking the First-Year Seminar “Science: A Human Endeavor.” The course is taught by William Miles, professor and head of chemistry. The following is a first-hand account of Shea’s experiences with the course.

When I got the list of First-Year Seminars to choose from when it was time to register for my first semester of classes, I knew that I wanted to sign up for something that I was truly interested in. I began to look at my options and there was not much that caught my eye. That was, of course, until I saw “Science: A Human Endeavor.” Science has always been of particular interest to me, which is probably why I am a pre-med, biology major. Because of this, it was almost impossible for me to avoid choosing a seminar class with the word science in the title.

When I got to school in late August and brought my books back to my dorm room, I sat down and began to look over what I might be reading this semester in the class. Still feeling a little bit disheartened that it was no longer summer and that I would have to get back to the hectic flow of an academic lifestyle, I was a little skeptical when I realized that there were several books I was going to be reading. I glanced over some of the titles which included The Double Helix, What Mad Pursuit, The Youngest Science, and The Two Cultures and began thinking, “Why did I choose this seminar?”

To be quite honest I thought it was going to be a boring semester considering other than the story of DNA nothing really seemed to grab my attention. It seemed as though the books did not have too much to do with science in the world today, which is what I was really interested in learning about. Little did I know, over the next few weeks I was going to be pleasantly surprised.

Over the past couple of months, “Science: A Human Endeavor” has explored a variety of different topics, bringing us through the history behind some of the most important scientific discoveries, including the discovery of the DNA structure. At first we read The Double Helix by James Watson in which one of the men behind the discovery gave his account of the story. However, we were also able to see a variety of different viewpoints of the historical event when we read What Mad Pursuit by Francis Crick, James Watson’s partner, and other accounts from those involved in the great discovery.

Also, instead of learning just about past events, the class has been doing a lot of talking about modern medical topics. For instance, recently we have been focusing on the transition of medicine through the early 20th century into the modern medicine that we know today.

The class has hardly been just reading and discussing books. On the contrary, we have been working hard all semester on putting together a web site about Halden Keffer Hartline, one of the two Lafayette graduates who have won the Nobel Prize in medicine.

In gathering information for our site we have gotten the opportunity to meet and interview two of Hartline’s three sons, Fred and Dan Hartline. It has been an incredible experience to get the chance to talk to not only the sons of a Nobel Prize winner, but also two very established scientists as well. In getting the chance to speak with these two men, we have learned a lot about the childhood and family life of one of science’s greatest minds.

Of course no FYS would be complete without an “out-of-classroom” experience. We were fortunate enough to journey up to New York City and explore the Bodies Exhibit. To some people seeing the parts and bodies of real humans would not exactly be an ideal trip, but to a class full of biology and neuroscience majors, some of which are pre-medical students, we could not have picked a better place to visit. All of us were given the chance to witness an extraordinary scientific display and see science’s application in today’s world, instead of reading about it in a book or a magazine.

In college, I hope I get the chance to enroll in more classes like my First-Year Seminar. Being able to learn about something that I am truly passionate about not only by reading books, but through meeting people and firsthand experience is, at least to me, what learning is all about.

  • Students Explore the Nature of Science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • First-Year Seminar
  • First-Year Experiences
  • Class of 2011

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