Contemporary Issues in Science (CS) is a course focused on natural science or technology that examines the ways in which science contributes to the study of significant problems in the contemporary world, and can help individuals and society make informed decisions about these issues.

CS courses explore how knowledge is created in the natural sciences. They have a central goal of providing an understanding of the methods used to discover and create factual and theoretical scientific knowledge. These courses will examine particular scientific or technological issues and at the same time explore the methodological and theoretical foundations of scientific inquiry.

CS courses, for example, might devote some time to examining the history of particular contemporary scientific issues and the ways in which truths or assumptions about these issues have changed over time. They might examine the social and political consequences of scientific and technological discoveries, or ethical issues arising from their use, or how science and scientific methods can aid public, personal, and professional decision-making.

CS, like Inquiry courses, will build on the critical thinking and communication skills developed in other core courses, particularly those of the University Seminar and College Writing courses. By enhancing students' understanding of the process of scientific inquiry, they will enrich students' experience of the core Research and Creative Experience and may incorporate non-traditional teaching methods, including small group learning activities and guided research projects.


To receive a CS designation, a course should:

  1. Have a clearly defined science and/or technology focus, and explore a contemporary science or technology issue.
  2. Examine ways in which science and/or technology can contribute to the study of a significant problem in the contemporary world, and can help individuals and society make informed decisions about such issues.
  3. Explore how knowledge is created in science and/or technology (at least one-third of the course should be devoted to this goal).
  4. Include at least one major, discovery-based learning activity.
  5. Emphasize critical thinking, writing and oral communication skills.
  6. Ask students to independently analyze information from multiple sources.
  7. Develop students' abilities to work effectively in small groups.
Student Learning Outcomes

After completing a Contemporary Issues in Science course, students will:

  1. Explain how science contributes to analyzing complex problems in the contemporary world.
  2. Describe the scientific method, the kinds of questions asked by scientists and the methods used to explore those questions.
  3. Demonstrate critical thinking, writing and oral communication skills.
  4. Work effectively in small groups.