2nd Year

The Nature of Inquiry

Students take a two-semester sequence, The Nature of Inquiry, that examines how we investigate nature, art, society, and their interconnections. It does so by examining and juxtaposing the practices of three disciplines per semester. The fields in question may vary, but they are chosen to ensure intellectual breadth. The individual units are tied together by reference to an underlying common theme.  Throughout the course, students consider fundamental ethical, social, and aesthetic issues posed by the relationship of human beings to each other, nature, and works of art.


2 courses
4 credits each
8 credits total

The course is divided into three units each semester that focus on topics designed to analyze human insights and inventions, such as experiments, laws, works of art, cities, and corporations, and are tied together by reference to an underlying common theme. Roughly one-third of the course is devoted to each of the three disciplines under consideration. Weekly discussion sections supplement three one-hour lectures per week with an additional laboratory component for five weeks each semester.

The fields will vary by semester and year. Possible topics in a given semester could include nature, art, and society from the perspective of fields in the arts and sciences such as history, physics, music, literature, and neuroscience, and the professions such as management, journalism, law, public health, and film.

The units are in no way intended to be a condensed survey course on a topic. The intention is to expose students to the modes of inquiry and problem solving in various fields.

The topics for Fall 2012 are:

  1. History: The Dark Years: France During the Nazi Occupation, with Professor Charles Dellheim (CAS, History)
  2. Biology: The Natural Science of Humanity, with Professor Les Kaufman (CAS, Biology)
  3. Classics: Homer’s Iliad, with Professor Steve Scully (CAS, Classics)

Fall 2012 Syllabus

The topics for Spring 2013 were:

  1. Music: The Riffings and Writings of Music History, with Professor Victor Coelho (CFA, Musicology)
  2. Biomedical Engineering: Engineering Health, with Professor Muhammad Zaman (ENG, Biomedical)
  3. Public Health: Bugs, Burdens, Behaviors, Budgets, and the Big Boys: The Case of Malaria Control in Modern Times, with Professor Jon Simon (SPH, International Health)

Spring 2013 Syllabus