Natural Science and Mathematics Division
Chair: Peter E. Busher
The Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics includes a laboratory-based core program in the natural sciences during the sophomore year that fulfills the natural science requirements for non-science majors for the bachelor’s degree in all university programs. Students needing to fulfill a mathematics requirement for their major may take one or more of the mathematics courses offered by the division during their freshman or sophomore year. The mathematics courses are in the areas of applied mathematics, statistics, and calculus.
Natural Sciences Courses
CGS NS 201: Biology I
Science as a way of knowing and understanding our contemporary world is the most profound and powerful intellectual and practical tool the human species has developed. Science has allowed humans to understand their physical place in the universe as well as their origin as a species on Earth. Science in our modern, global world can seem increasingly complex, while at the same time be reduced to a relatively few conceptual paradigms or accepted ideas. Many of these major paradigms will be covered in this course including modern cosmology, the origin or life, the molecular and cellular theories of life, human origins and genetics and evolutionary theory. The underlying pedagogy of the course is to examine what we know about an accepted paradigm, how we know these scientific “facts” and theories, and what are the contemporary applications of the accepted paradigms. The course also provides the primary scientific tools required to explore scientific, ethical and sociological concerns that arise from our understanding of the origin, evolution and diversity of life including that of our own species. Two hours lecture, Two hours lab. (4 credits)
CGS NS 202: Human and Global Ecology
What is the fate of the biosphere and our species? Can humans reconcile economic and technological growth with ecological sustainability? Building on the concepts and information from the first semester, this course examines the impact of one species, Homo sapiens, on the ecosystems of the biosphere, seeking answers to these broad questions. This includes an investigation of the physical forces that shape global climates and ultimately constrain life on Earth. An examination of the interrelationships between the abiotic and biotic components in ecosystems leads to an investigation of the forces that influence biological diversity. The integrative study of population biology culminates in an investigation of the population dynamics of our own species and the implications the exponential growth of the human population may have on global resources and the biosphere. The foundation in general ecology and human population dynamics allows a serious consideration of the technological impact of humans on the delicately balanced ecosystems of Earth. The interrelationship between science and society that has been explored in this course and throughout the year leads to the Capstone Project, which concludes the sophomore year. Two hours lecture, Two hours lab. (4 credits)
The Division also offers students the opportunity to complete the natural sciences core courses during the summer between their freshman and sophomore years by participating in the CGS Natural Sciences London Summer Program. The summer program is competitive and standard international program requirements apply.
A weekly laboratory exercise is scheduled for each natural sciences course. The laboratories are generally two hours long although some may include off-campus field excursions, requiring more time. The laboratory sessions focus on the general themes presented in each course. They are designed to encourage students to take a proactive approach to their learning and are student inquiry-based. Each successive laboratory experience provides students with more responsibility for the design of experimental procedures and encourages them to not just learn about science, but also practice science.
CGS MA 115: Statistics
For students needing a general statistics course for their major. It fulfills the mathematics requirement for CAS and the statistics requirement for SHA. The course covers the general concepts of tests and hypotheses, numerical and graphical summaries of univariate and bivariate data. Students work with problems involving basic probability, random variables, binomial distribution, normal distribution. One-sample statistical inference for normal means and binomial probabilities are examined. Applications in the natural sciences and social sciences. (4 credits)
CGS MA 121: Calculus
For students continuing to management or needing an introductory calculus course for their major. Fulfills the CAS mathematics requirement. This course covers differentiation and integration of functions of one variable and emphasizes application over mathematical generality. Applications in the natural sciences, social sciences, and management. (4 credits)
Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the College of General Studies
The one-year core program in the natural sciences takes students beyond the normal “facts” of science common to most general education or even specialized courses and allows them to both study science and to act as scientists. The two core courses engage students in both the process and practice of science and provide a framework allowing them to better understand the natural world. Science, as a human activity, is a search for explanations of natural phenomena using naturalistic philosophy. Our program encourages students to further their understanding of the process of science and to become active participants in investigating and developing scientific explanations for our world.
Our courses emphasize the unifying concepts that undergird the structure of science and the evidence on which scientific views are based. Studying and understanding the implications of these concepts provide the foundation necessary to make informed decisions about the complex problems in our modernized, global world. Covering the unifying concepts allows students to approach the study of science with a sophisticated knowledge of its nature, methods, and the kinds of problems it can address.
Our approach to the natural sciences is integrative among the scientific disciplines since modern societal and scientific challenges require knowledge of the interrelationships among those disciplines. This approach is vital for students, regardless of whether they plan to continue to study specific scientific disciplines or major in non-scientific fields. Our modern world is a scientific one and it is critical that every educated citizen have integrative scientific knowledge.
The courses offered by the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics develop critical and analytical thinking through the study of scientists, their approach to scientific questions, their methodology, and their findings. The courses also illustrate the relationship between scientific study and the other academic disciplines covered in the College of General Studies core curriculum. Critical and analytical thinking builds mature judgment and a real sense of social and scientific responsibility allowing students to understand and accept their place in society as participating citizens.
The natural sciences courses function as a two-course continuum. The concepts and data students study in the first course form the foundation for understanding the second course. Ideas are connected not just class-to-class, but semester-to-semester, providing a comprehensive understanding of our natural world and the role humans play in the natural world. Each course meets four hours per week and includes lectures, laboratories, and discussions. For most students, this program represents the only formal study of the natural sciences they will undertake at the university level. The program is an integrative exploration of the natural sciences, which is enhanced by the courses being taken consecutively within the sophomore year. Students completing the program will understand the major concepts of science and the integration of science in society.
The natural sciences courses encourage students to realize that science is progressive, with no absolute truths, and that it is a process in constant search of further understanding about the natural world. The courses introduce students to the idea that science is not an independent human venture but one integral to society. Through the courses, students come to appreciate that modern scientific inquiry is very much directed by the needs of society rather than divorced from societal input. Students also become aware that scientific methodology, while providing a mechanism for solving problems, also imposes limitations on the types of problems that science can address.
The natural sciences courses focus on instilling an appreciation and an understanding in students that humans are part of an intricately interwoven ecological system. Students come to view themselves as biological organisms that play a key role in ecological activities within our biosphere; this is especially important in light of the fact that many of the problems currently facing our society have a scientific basis. These problems require sound scientific understanding, critical analysis, and responsible solutions. Through our courses, students become well prepared to discuss, analyze, and propose solutions to the many serious scientific problems facing our species and all other species on our planet.
The two-course sequence of natural sciences courses provides the sound foundation that is necessary for a scientifically literate citizen in the twenty-first century.
The mathematics program in the division offers students the opportunity to fulfill the mathematics requirements of their majors while at the College of General Studies. This allows students access to the same high quality, effective, student-oriented teaching found in the CGS core program while fulfilling their university mathematics requirements. Due to the diversity of the mathematical backgrounds of students and varied major program requirements, the courses are taught alongside, but are not part of, the core curriculum at CGS. However, since the faculty members teaching the mathematics courses have taught in the core program, are members of the college faculty, and know the core curriculum, they are able to offer some integration with the CGS core courses. The courses fulfill all or part of the mathematics requirements in many major programs in Arts and Sciences, Management and Hospitality Administration, as well as other university programs. The courses are directly equivalent to mathematics courses offered in the mathematics department in the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) at BU, as well as those at other universities.