Sophomores, please read me: If you consider yourself a Sophomore in academic year 2021-22 and the IntroSems' VCA shows you in a different cohort (i.e., Frosh or Junior), please make a note of your correct cohort within your statement of interest. It is not possible to change the cohort field in the IntroSems' VCA, but the instructor will see your note when they build their class.
IntroSems quarters and schedules subject to change--check back often. Visit Re-Approaching Stanford for the latest updates on Academic Year 2021-22.
Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Science in the News
News media call public attention to scientific problems and advances in a huge variety of fields. At the moment, the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences attract a large amount of coverage and interest. In the last couple of decades, the occurrence and consequences of climate change have been extensively studied and reported. New data obtained from new types of observatories is giving us new insights into the nature and history of the universe. Genomics is giving us information about evolution of species and about the history of the human species. There are many other topics of great interest and/or importance in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology, psychology, and sociology, as well as engineering and medicine.
Science news reports are usually brief. It is difficult to learn science by reading a few news articles. However, there are many publications easily available on the Internet that present science information designed to be understood by nonscientists. In some cases, even research papers written for experts in the field may be partially read and understood by nonexperts.
The first goal of this course is to teach you how to get access to these publications and how to judge their accuracy and reliability. In the first part of the course, most of the class time will be spent in discussions of topics chosen by you, your classmates, and/or by the class collectively. When the Nobel Prizes for the sciences are announced in early October, we will have discussions of the basic science behind this year’s prizes.
The second goal of the course is to give you the opportunity to prepare and present two talks to the class on some scientific topic of your choice. This will occur in the second part of the course. The preparation for these talks will require use of appropriate publications available on the Internet. In this part of the course you will also see and hear the talks prepared by your classmates. This will give you some idea of the breadth of activity in the scientific community.
The topics of the scientific discussions in the class meetings, with the exception of the Nobel Prize discussions, will be based on choices made by the class. It is not my goal to teach any specific subject, but rather to teach how to inform yourself about subjects you find interesting by using existing material on the Internet.
This course will be taught online using Zoom. Anyone who takes the course should have a computer (laptop or desktop) with a microphone and camera and Zoom software. Last year I found that the Zoom class of 16 students could have interesting and informative discussions, largely because everyone in the class is able to see everyone else face to face. Since every student will give two talks, it would be worthwhile for each student to be able to use presentation software (e.g., Apple Keynote, Microsoft PowerPoint, or Google Slides).