The Common Curriculum

Scholars Research Seminar 2015

Winter/Spring 2015

  • The Green Life | Professor Kara Doyle

    Which is more important – maintaining the environment or growing the economy? Should we preserve natural resources or aim for energy independence? Is hydrofracking a good or a bad thing? Should we choose to be frugal consumers or green consumers? The answer in each case, of course, is “both” – but the balance between them often proves elusive. In this course, you will acquire and hone research skills, analytical thinking skills, and communication skills (both written and oral) as you pursue a 15-to-20 page research project about an environmental issue of your own choosing. We will take as our starting point recent and current debates about environmental concerns, and examine the arguments being made on opposing sides of the arena. We will closely examine the way both sides use and present scientific and other evidence to support their economic and environmental claims, looking at them both as bad and good models, and discuss how to move past “either/or” thinking into the complexity of real world scenarios. You will learn how to track down sources of information, beginning with footnotes and bibliographies and expanding outwards to databases, indexes, and even – gasp! – books. Along the way you will develop an interest in a particular environmental problem, which will become the springboard for your project. In the second half of the course, after having narrowed your initial idea down to a manageable size, you will work intensively on your own project, researching it thoroughly in order to present a possible solution.

  • Research to Improve Union’s Energy Efficiency | Professor Doug Klein

    The focus of research for the class will be energy efficiency. Students will work in small teams on a major collaborative research project using the Union College campus to address the issues of future energy needs. Specifically, the course objective is to recommend ways to improve Union’s energy efficiency. This Scholars Research Seminar is inspired by the idea of utilizing data to help make the world a better place, under the broader umbrella of creating what IBM calls a “Smarter Planet.”

  • Water, Water, Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink | Professor Laura MacManus-Spencer

    This section is for students in the NSF SUCCESS Program only.
    Water: It is one of the most abundant substances on Earth, yet only 2.5% of the world’s water supply is fresh, and much of that is locked in glaciers. Due to rapidly increasing consumption, these days, water sometimes “flows uphill toward money.” Just as wars have been fought over oil, so have conflicts arisen over precious water resources (and this will likely increase). At the same time, exciting new developments in both high- and low-tech water treatment technologies will help deliver fresh water to the seven billion people on the planet. In this course, we will explore global water issues from a variety of perspectives. Topics covered will include the history of water use, water pollution, water shortages, climate change, water treatment technologies and water reuse, impacts on ecology, and basic aquatic chemistry.

  • Import/Export/Convergence | Professor Timothy Olsen

    Selected texts will examine three related topics: globalization and America's appetite for cheap foreign imports; one of America's most important exports-the blockbuster movie; and the convergence of traditional and new media in our ever-shrinking, information-overloaded world. The reading consists of four books of general, non-expert interest: Pietra Rivoli, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy; Mark Harris, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood; Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide; Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

  • A Brief History of Timekeeping | Professor Chad Orzel

    One of the major drivers of progress in science and technology through history has been the steady improvement in technology to measure and keep track of time. In this course, we'll look at the development of timekeeping from Neolithic calendar markers like Newgrange and Stonehenge through the invention of mechanical clocks to modern atomic clocks. We'll also look at the basic science developed through the study of time, including both special and general relativity.

  • Nazism | Professor Mark Walker

    This seminar will focus on the National Socialist (NS) movement in Germany during the first half of the twentieth century. Topics will include: the rise of the NS movement during the Weimar Republic; the establishment of a dictatorship; the NS goal of a "People's Community", the NS policies of "racial hygiene" and autarky (national self-sufficiency) and their consequences; military expansion and war; genocide; and the postwar "denazification" of Germans. Reading will include primary sources -- letters, speeches, reports, film and images from the NS period -- and selections from secondary accounts--articles and books written by historians. Students will both interpret the primary sources for themselves, and compare and contrast how various historians have written the history of NS.