For the first time in CAS history, the departments of chemistry and biology, along with the neuroscience program, are offering a fully integrated two-semester lab sequence for first- and second-year science majors. The program, called “The Integrated Science Experience (ISE)” began this semester.

The ISE is a series of combined lab courses for first- and second-year students. ISE I serves first-year students concurrently enrolled in Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology or Biology II, and General Chemistry II. ISE II, set to roll out this fall, will combine Principles of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, and Organic Chemistry.

The ISE I lab meets twice per week and upends the traditional biology and chemistry lab courses from their siloed disciplinary focus and content orientation, and reconceives the lab experience as a gateway to scientific inquiry.

Experiments focus on principles of chemistry and how they regulate the properties of biological molecules and functions within a cell or neuron, and are meant to help students translate basic concepts of chemistry from the test tube to a physiological system. In addition, lab activities cover technical approaches used in modern research that are centered on changing or exploiting chemical properties of biological molecules to study them in a research setting.

“The goal of the new integrated program is for students to experience science as a collective endeavor that defines the modern research landscape,” says Paul Lipton, director of the Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience. “It was important to those of us developing the course that students recognize not just that chemistry is foundational to the biological sciences, but how. And how biology and neuroscience offer natural applications of chemical principles.”

By combining these three introductory courses and highlighting cross-disciplinary connections, he says, the hope is to nurture a sense of community where students no longer view their choice of major as a defining feature of their intellectual and academic identity.

Funding for the development of these courses was provided by two Interdisciplinary Course Development grants from the Office of the Provost, with additional support from the CAS Office of the Dean.

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