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: 2017 Spring Undergraduate

Archive for 2017 Spring Undergraduate

GU4811: Encounters with Nature | K. Sivaramakrishnan

Undergraduate and Graduate Seminar
Tu 2:10-4PM

This course offers an understanding of the interdisciplinary field of environmental, health and population history and will discuss historical and policy debates with a cross-cutting, comparative relevance: such as the making and subjugation of colonized peoples and natural and disease landscapes under British colonial rule; modernizing states and their interest in development and knowledge and technology building, the movement and migration of populations, and changing place of public health and healing in south Asia. The key aim of the course will be to introduce students to reading and analyzing a range of historical scholarship, and interdisciplinary research on environment, health, medicine and populations in South Asia and to introduce them to an exploration of primary sources for research; and also to probe the challenges posed by archives and sources in these fields. Some of the overarching questions that shape this course are as follows: How have environmental pasts and medical histories been interpreted, debated and what is their contemporary resonance? What have been the encounters (political, intellectual, legal, social and cultural) between the environment, its changing landscapes, and state? How have citizens, indigenous communities, and vernacular healers mediated and shaped these encounters and inserted their claims for sustainability, subsistence or survival? How have these changing landscapes shaped norms about bodies, care, and beliefs? The course focuses on South Asia but also urges students to think and make linkages beyond regional geographies in examining interconnected ideas and practices in histories of the environment, medicine, and health. Topics will therefore include (and students are invited to add to these perspectives and suggest additional discussion themes): colonial and globalized circuits of medical knowledge, with comparative case studies from Africa and East Asia; and the travel and translation of environmental ideas and of medical practices through growing global networks.

Link to Vergil

W2901: Data: Past, Present, Future | M. Jones, C. Wiggins

Undergraduate Lecture
Tu Th 10:10-11:25AM

Critical thinking and practice regarding the past, present, and future of data. Readings covering how students, scholars, and citizens can make sense of data in science, public policy, and our personal lives. Labs covering descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive modeling of data.

Prerequisites: Instructor’s permission.

Link to Vergil

UN3960: Law, Science, & Society | J. Cole

Undergraduate and Graduate Lecture
M 10:10AM-12PM

The course examines basic contemporary social, political, and cultural issues from the perspective of scientists, social and behavioral sciences, and judges.

Link to Vergil

AMST W3930.6: Life at the End of Life | R. Pollack

Thursday 4:10pm-6:00pm | 4 Points
This Seminar is designed to provide opportunities for readings and reflections on the experience of volunteer service work in the At Your Service program at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center. Students will learn how to critically reflect on their experiences at the health care center in the context of questions raised in the texts read in the seminar. Shared experiences and reflections on texts and interactions at TCC will enhance the critical reflection of all students engaged in the course. Students will experience what it means to be a long-term or short-term patient in a nursing home. Students will provide assistance and support, whether emotional or recreational, or by simply serving as the person consistently there for someone during chronic illness or at the end of their life. At the core of this framework is the patient; however, it is important to think about the impact this will have on the student as well. Students will develop skills necessary to critically reflect on the significance of emotional care as a medical practitioner, as well as form a deeper understanding of the role of palliative care and comfort care in a life cycle of care. Students are required to read The Anatomy of Hope by Jerome Groopman, M.D., and What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine by Danielle Ofri, M.D. Ph.D. At least one prior semester of volunteer work in a clinical setting relevant to the syllabus is recommended. Permission of instructor required.
Link to Vergil

SCNC W3920: Ignorance: How it Drives Science | S. Firestein

W 6:10-8:00 | 2 Points
Prerequisites: have completed the CORE science requirements. Scientific knowledge increases at an exponential rate. Curiously ignorance does not similarly decrease. The basic activity of science is to engage ignorance. In this course we will examine the scientific approach to ignorance, though readings, discussions and visits from working scientists who will discuss the state of ignorance in their field and in their individual laboratories. We hope to gain an understanding of the scientific process by analyzing how it approaches what it doesn’t know. We will also include the scientific approach to uncertainty, doubt and failure – all crucial ingredients in the activity of scientific investigation. Requirements will include weekly postings based on readings and visiting lectures, and a final paper. This class will meet only ten times between February 4 and April 15 (thus its value of 2 points). Because of this short, but intense, schedule absences will not be excused and will have a negative impact on the final grade. This course does not satisfy any science requirements. Admission to the course is limited and requires permission of the instructor. This can be gained by submitting a brief (max 350 words) statement outlining your interest in taking this course and what you hope to achieve in the course. “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done” -Marie Curie, letter to her brother 18 March 1894


HIST W4769: Health and Healing in African History | R. Stephens

Wednesdays 10:10 – 12:00

4 points.

This course charts the history of health and healing from, as far as is possible, a perspective interior to Africa. It explores changing practices and understandings of disease, etiology, healing and well-being from pre-colonial times through into the post-colonial. A major theme running throughout the course is the relationship between medicine, the body, power and social groups. This is balanced by an examination of the creative ways in which Africans have struggled to compose healthy communities, albeit with varied success, whether in the fifteenth century or the twenty-first. Field(s): AFR

GU4321: Human Nature: DNA, Race & Identity | M. Pollack

Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Undergraduate and Graduate Seminar
W 2:10-4PM

The course focuses on human identity, beginning with the individual and progressing to communal and global viewpoints using a framework of perspectives from biology, genetics, medicine, psychiatry, religion and the law.

Link to Vergil

CPLS W4220: Narrative, Health, and Social Justice| S. Dasgupta

Tu 10:10-12:00, 4 points


Narrative medicine – its practice and scholarship – is necessarily concerned with issues of trauma, body, memory, voice, and intersubjectivity.  However, to grapple with these issues, we must locate them in their social, cultural, political, and historical contexts.  Narrative understanding helps unpack the complex power relations between North and South, state and worker, disabled body and able-body, bread-earner and child-bearer, as well as self and the Other (or, even, selves and others).  If disease, violence, terror, war, poverty and oppression manifest themselves narratively, then resistance, justice, healing, activism, and collectivity can equally be products of a narrative based approach to ourselves and the world.

This course will explore the connections between narrative, health, and social justice.  In doing so, it broadens the mandate of narrative medicine – challenging each of us to bring a critical, self-reflective eye to our scholarship, teaching, practice, and organizing.  We will examine such questions as: How do power and hierarchy – on an interpersonal, institutional, cultural, social, or political scale – impact the work of Narrative Medicine? How can we ‘read’ multiple, simultaneous narratives – ie. the individual and the sociopolitical? What are the intersections of Narrative Medicine with health advocacy and activism on local, national, and global levels? How can the pedagogy of Narrative Medicine enact social justice in health care? In other words, how do we teach Narrative Medicine and why? Finally, how are the stories we tell, and are told, manifestations of social injustice?  How can we transform such stories into narratives of justice, health, and change?

The class will be run in seminar format, and will pedagogically centralize learner participation and presentation.  Texts assigned weekly will be broadly interdisciplinary – drawing from literature, feature and documentary films, post-colonial studies, disability studies, sociology, anthropology, psychology, criminology, public health, and trauma studies. Students should come to class prepared to engage with each other and with the instructor and to offer their questions, comments, insights, and analysis. Students who are able to read texts in the original language are encouraged to do so (and may be required to do so in the case of certain majors).

Link to Vergil

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