Members of the newly formed Undergraduate Scientific Society have come together with the claim that all sciences are important not just to science majors, but to every student’s complete education.
Society founder Braxton Collier ’05 said the group’s interdisciplinary approach would resemble that of Perspectives on Science. But unlike the selective program for freshman, the Undergraduate Scientific Society is open to all students and will be primarily student-run.
Many students said they would embrace a chance to share their own interests in the sciences with other students. Lucy Wang ’05 said the society’s emphasis on student leadership will attract many students.
“[The society] will be very interesting because it will have student lecturers rather than faculty members,” Wang said. “This will definitely encourage students to take a more active role the sciences.”
The society plans to meet every few weeks, Collier said. The group may organize debates over contentious public policy issues relating to science, such as government involvement and investment in the sciences. Students would also debate contemporary bioethical issues, such as stem cell research and cloning.
Collier said that as the sciences become increasingly specialized, professionals and undergraduates alike can easily forget they are all interconnected.
“It’s all fairly amorphous,” Collier said. “You really can’t understand biology without understanding chemistry, which you can’t understand without knowing physics and quantum mechanics.”
Although Collier said intense study is likely the only practical path to becoming a scientist, he also said years of demanding science classes often erode students’ initial penchant for their areas of concentration. The society would remind students why they first chose to pursue science, he said.
While designed for students majoring in the natural sciences, the society welcomes all students with an interest in science. The society aims to communicate important scientific concepts to all interested students in a less technical way, Collier said.
“It’s as important to understand the basics of biology, chemistry and physics as it is read ‘The Odyssey,’ ‘The Iliad’ and ‘Hamlet,'” Collier said. “So many scientific discoveries, from Darwin’s theory of evolution to the big bang affect the way in which non-scientists perceive the world.”
Brittany McClinton ’05 said she feels the University often falls short in its efforts to promote the importance of science to every student’s education.
“I think there’s been a lack of emphasis on education in the sciences,” McClinton said. “I’m glad to see that students are recognizing this deficiency and working to remedy it.”
One of the society’s primary goals is to demonstrate the sciences are multidimensional. It would explore the history of the sciences as a timeline of the development of the human mind. In addition, society members plan to discuss science’s impact on everyday life.
“Enthusiasm for science is not something which is limited to people who are science majors or studying one field,” Collier said. “I think there is a broader human will to understand things that are outside of their everyday discipline.”
Vladimir Vladimirov ’05 said the University would benefit greatly from a forum to discuss the experimental procedure and conclusions of such studies.
The society would also aim to speculate about the future of science. In light of the recent successful mission to Mars, the society plans to discuss the possibility of human beings colonizing the rest of the solar system or galaxy, as well as the possibility of extraterrestrial life.