Courses in Science and Society at Columbia University

Columbia and Barnard have a constellation of faculty members located in a variety of departments and institutes whose research and interests lie at the intersection of science and the humanities. Among many specializations, include the historical development of scientific knowledge and in the processes—technical, social, political, intellectual, material and cultural—by which knowledge has been acquired, disseminated, and employed.

List of Courses: 2015 Fall Undergraduate

Archive for 2015 Fall Undergraduate

HIST BC4910x: Global Politics of Reproduction: Culture, Politics, and History | N. Milanich

Tuesdays 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.; 4 Points
Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 15. Preregistration required. Comparative, cross-cultural examination of social organization and historical construction of human reproduction, with emphasis on 20th century. Topics include role of states and local and transnational “stratification” of reproduction by race, class, and citizenship; eugenics; population politics; birth control; kinship as social and biological relationship; maternity; paternity; new reproductive technologies.


PSYC W3615: Children at Risk | G. Downey

Tuesdays & Thursdays 10:10 – 12:00; 4 Points
Considers contemporary risk factors in children’s lives. The immediate and enduring biological and behavioral impact of risk factors.
Link to Vergil

PSYC W1010: Mind, Brain and Behavior | K. Nautiyal

Mondays & Tuesdays 7:40pm-8:55pm; 3 Points
Introduction to the biological approach to the experimental study of behavior. Includes consideration of the types of biological data relevant to psychology, as well as the assumptions and logic permitting the interpretation of biological data in psychological terms.
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PSYC W1001: The Science of Psychology | P. Lindemann/ K. Taylor

Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:10- 2:25 or Mondays and Wednesdays 8:40 – 9:55; 3 Points
Attendance at the first two class periods is mandatory. Broad survey of psychological science including: sensation and perception; learning, memory, intelligence, language, and cognition; emotions and motivation; development, personality, health and illness, and social behavior. Discusses relations between the brain, behavior, and experience. Emphasizes science as a process of discovering both new ideas and new empirical results.
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CLEN W3937: Literature and Oil | J. Wenzel

Wednesdays 4:10 – 6:00; 4 Points
Students from all schools and majors are welcome and encouraged to apply: this course thrives upon interdisciplinary discussion.This course will investigate the connections between literary/cultural production and petroleum as the substance that makes possible the world as we know it, both as an energy source and a component in the manufacture of everything from food to plastic. Our current awareness of oil’s scarcity and its myriad costs (whether environmental, political, or social) provides a lens to read for the presence (or absence) of oil in texts in a variety of genres and national traditions. As we begin to imagine a world “beyond petroleum,” this course will confront the ways in which oil shapes both the world we know and how we know and imagine the world. Oil will feature in this course in questions of theme (texts “about” oil), of literary form (are there common formal conventions of an “oil novel”?), of interpretive method (how to read for oil), of transnational circulation (how does “foreign oil” link US citizens to other spaces?), and of the materiality (or “oiliness”) of literary culture (how does the production and circulation of texts, whether print or digital, rely on oil?).
(in order of appearance on syllabus):
Watts and Kashi, Curse of the Black Gold
Habila, Oil on Water
Hogan, Mean Spirit
Munif, Cities of Salt
Dickinson, The Polymers
Said, Ali and Nino
Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker


HSPB W2950: Social History of American Public Health | J. Colgrove

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:40 to 9:55

4 points.

The purpose of this course is to provide students with an historical understanding of the role public health has played in American history. The underlying assumptions are that disease, and the ways we define disease, are simultaneously reflections of social and cultural values, as well as important factors in shaping those values. Also, it is maintained that the environments that we build determine the ways we live and die. The dread infectious and acute diseases in the nineteenth century, the chronic, degenerative conditions of the twentieth and the new, vaguely understood conditions rooted in a changing chemical and human-made environment are emblematic of the societies we created. Among the questions that will be addressed are: How does the health status of Americans reflect and shape our history? How do ideas about health reflect broader attitudes and values in American history and culture? How does the American experience with pain, disability, and disease affect our actions and lives? What are the responsibilities of the state and of the individual in preserving health? How have American institutions–from hospitals to unions to insurance companies–been shaped by changing longevity, experience with disability and death?

Link to Vergil

HSPB W3950: Social History of American Public Health | J. Colgrove

Tuesdays/Thursdays 8:40 – 9:55

3 points.

Through assigned readings and a group research project, students will gain familiarity with a range of historical and social science problems at the intersection of ethnic/racial/sexual formations, technological networks, and health politics since the turn of the twentieth century. Topics to be examined will include, but will not be limited to, black women’s health organization and care; HIV/AIDS politics, policy, and community response; “benign neglect”; urban renewal and gentrification; medical abuses and the legacy of Tuskegee; tuberculosis control; and environmental justice. There are no required qualifications for enrollment, although students will find the material more accessible if they have had previous coursework experience in United States history, pre-health professional (pre-med, pre-nursing, or pre-public health), African-American Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, or American Studies.

HIST W3523: Histories of Health and Inequality in the 20th Century U.S. | S. Roberts

Time TBA

HIST BC3388: Introduction to History of Science since 1800 | D. Coen

Tuesdays/Thursdays 1:10 – 2:25

3 points.

BC: Fulfillment of General Education Requirement: Historical Studies (HIS).

How has modern science acquired its power to explain and control the world? What are the limits of that power? Topics: the origins of scientific institutions and values; the rise of evolutionary thought and Darwin’s impact; the significance of Einstein’s physics; ecology and environmental politics; the dilemmas of scientific warfare.

EESC W2330: Science for Sustainable Development | J. Mutter & R. DeFries

Mondays/Wednesdays 2:40 – 3:55

3 points.

CC/GS: Partial Fulfillment of Science Requirement

Prerequisites: None; high school chemistry recommended.

Survey of the origin and extent of mineral resources, fossil fuels, and industrial materials, that are non renewable, finite resources, and the environmental consequences of their extraction and use, using the textbook Earth Resources and the Environment, by James Craig, David Vaughan and Brian Skinner. This course will provide an overview, but will include focus on topics of current societal relevance, including estimated reserves and extraction costs for fossil fuels, geological storage of CO2, sources and disposal methods for nuclear energy fuels, sources and future for luxury goods such as gold and diamonds, and special, rare materials used in consumer electronics (e.g., “Coltan”, mostly from Congo) and in newly emerging technologies such as superconducting magnets and rechargeable batteries (e.g., heavy rare earth elements, mostly from China). Guest lectures from economists, commodity traders and resource geologists will provide “real world” input.  Discussion Session Required.

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