November 13, 2007

Exploring the Nature of Science

First-year students gather research on two Lafayette Nobel Laureates

The First-Year Seminar, “Science: A Human Endeavor,” taught by William Miles, professor and head of chemistry, explores the nature of science and how it relates to society. Over the course of the semester, the class studies how scientists approach problems, how science has changed the cultural norms of society, and what social, cultural, and political factors influence scientists’ work.

Along with exploring the nature of science, the class also looks at human influence on science. Miles says, “We also explore the human side of science, which is in contrast to the picture of a guy in a white lab coat using the ‘scientific method.’ Science is a lot messier, full of personality clashes, false starts, accidental discoveries, and conflicts with societal mores.”

The students are also involved in a research project focusing on two of Lafayette’s most famous alumni, Philip Hench ’16, who won the Noble Prize for Medicine in 1950, and H. Keffer Hartline ’23, who won the Noble Prize for Medicine in 1967.

The class will complete a group writing project, a web biography on Hartline. With the help of Diane Windham Shaw, special collections librarian and College archivist, students will gather research. Also, Hartline’s sons, Fred and Dan, have agreed to be interviewed about their father. One of Hartline’s former students, Bob Barlow, has also agreed to be interviewed.

Last year’s class performed research on Hench. They interviewed Philip Hench’s son, John Hench ’65, who provided a personal sketch of his father. The students also prepared a web biography.

The web site with the biographies of Hartline and Hench should be launched before the end of the semester with the help of Shrutarshi Basu ’11 (Kolkata, India), who is a member of the class.

Miles says,FYS is a wonderful means of introducing the students to the intellectual life of the campus. The students become familiar with the library resources, have to read and write critically, get to rigorously explore an area of interest, and develop the skills necessary to independently pursue a line of inquiry.”

Students in the course are Afua Akuffo (Accra, Ghana), Basu, Jen Cotennec (Cold Spring, N.Y.), Raphael Cuomo (Los Angeles, Calif.), Kristen Darragh (Orefield, Pa.), Zak Davis (Centerport, N.Y.), Brook Estifanos (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), Steve Fiorelli (Middletown, N.J.), Stephanie Galer (Middletown, Conn.), Farai Gombedza (Kariba, Zimbabwe), Jeff Hollander (Southborough, Mass.), Robert Morris (Short Hills, N.J.), Cesar Munoz (Lynbrook, N.Y.), Ian Owens (Sugarloaf, Pa.), Patti Plumeri (Princeton Junction, N.J.), and Corey Shea (Hanson, Mass.).

  • Corey Shea ’11 Shares His Experiences with His First-Year Seminar
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