Fun Science Courses

Fun Science Courses


Spring 2022


Communication, Education and Politics

NSCI 320 - Public Science Communication Seminar. Scientists are increasingly expected to communicate with the public. In this course, students learn from people who regularly communicate about science with general audiences in order to gain an appreciation for the various types of public science communication, its importance to society and techniques used in effective public science communication.

NSCI 511 - Science Policy, and Ethics. An introduction to the policy, ethics, politics and legal issues that relate to science and technology—discovery and application. This course presents a framework for analyzing ethical issues in business and professional work. The course then explores the ways in which government policy and business practices can promote or inhibit advances in science and technology while influencing the ethical choices of the professionals involved. Case studies will be used.

BIOS 128 - BrainSTEM - Teaching STEM Through Neuroscience. BrainSTEM is a service organization that teaches STEM subjects through the lens of neuroscience. We perform hands-on, small-group activities with ~45 students per week. This course will prepare you to communicate science in a both effective and entertaining manner, as well as build your skills in managing small groups. More information can be found at ‘www.brainstem.club.’ 

POLI 310 - The Biology of Politics. This course is an interdisciplinary survey of the role that human biology plays in our political behavior. The biology covered ranges from genes to neural structures to neurochemistry, while the political behavior covered ranges from levels of participation to political beliefs to left/right ideology.

Field Trips and Outdoor Adventures

BIOS 204 - Environmental Sustainability: The Design and Practice of Community Agriculture. The course introduces the fundamentals of community garden design and practice. Responsibilities will center on developing and improving the Rice Community Garden. A strong emphasis will be on learning and applying ecological principles to the practice of community agriculture. Class has required meetings outside of regular class time.

BIOS 316 - Lab Module in Ecology. This course consists of a required multiple day trip to a field station in the Lower Rio Grande Valley over spring recess in February. Days will be spent in the field making observations and collecting data. Lectures and activities in the evenings will cover topics including population ecology, community ecology, habitat restoration and conservation biology. The course also includes meetings on campus before and after the required field trip.

BIOS 337 - Field Bird Biology Lab. This course centers on a series of five field trips to diverse habitats for observing birds both immigrants and residents. Each will be preceded by a lecture and students will do two projects. Class has required meetings outside of regular class time.

EEPS 103 - Field Trips for the Earth. In this course, students will gain a better appreciation of our planet, from how it formed and evolved through millions of years to how its surface environment has been shaped by life, including by humans. These concepts will be introduced through one or more field trips in Texas. Through this course, students will become better stewards of our planet.

Special Topics Seminars

CHEM 210/MSNE 210 - Wild Topics in Chemistry and Nanotechnology. A variety of topics related to chemistry and nanotechnology will be discussed. Some topics are classical while others are current. Topics may include nanocars, molecular electronics and how to form a start-up company. Grades will be based upon attendance and quizzes. 

PHYS 100 - Exploring Physics: Quantum Foundations for Regular People. Introduction to concepts, methods, debates and discoveries of physics, with a theme to be chosen from one of many fields of modern physics research. Designed for students interested in understanding science. This includes both science and non-science majors.

PHYS 100 - Exploring Physics: Exploring Physics with a Computer. Introduction to concepts, methods, debates and discoveries of physics, with a theme to be chosen from one of many fields of modern physics research. Designed for students interested in understanding science. This includes both science and non-science majors.

College Courses

COLL 155 - Introduction to Extremophiles: Fantastic Microbes and Where to Find Them. Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction. From bacteria that survive in scalding waters to viruses mistaken for bacteria, microbes challenge our views of biology. Exceptions abound for seemingly fundamental rules. Although “mitochondria are the powerhouse of the eukaryotic cell,” monocercomonoides do not have them. What can these strange microbes reveal about life and its limits? This course studies a variety of curious creatures to understand the mechanisms behind their existence. The course also delves into the broader evolution of microbes by exploring topics such as antibiotic resistance and the possibility of life on other planets. By discussing current scientific literature and preparing a presentation for an in-class conference, students will discover associations between different organisms and topics. Everyone, regardless of scientific background, is welcome to come and explore the fantastic world of microbes.

COLL 157 - Origins, Faith, Science: The Beginnings of Life in Monotheism and Modern Science. Our very existence poses the so-called greatest question: Why is there anything at all? Moreover, that humans have long asked such a transcendental question poses yet another: How did beings with such capacity for self-reflection come to exist? Whatever our answers, these questions shape the whole trajectory of our lives and communities. This course will focus on some of the most influential answers to the question of origins. Specifically, it will consider What do the monotheistic faiths and modern science say about origins of life, and how harmonious or conflicting are their visions? The course studies both the original historical context and modern-day interpretations of the religious texts, as well as the history of evolution as an alternative origins framework. At the end of the course, students will prepare a project with their personal synthesis of origin accounts in an answer to the question, “How compatible are faith and science?” No background knowledge is required, and diverse viewpoints are encouraged. There will be no exams.

COLL 161 - Environment in Fiction Film. How do fiction films portray the environment, how faithful are these cultural representations to environmental issues, and how does this affect people’s perception of the environment and environmental issues? In this class, students will watch environmental fiction movies spanning from the 1990’s to present day and will learn what fiction films get right and wrong about environmental issues. Students will participate in class discussion on how fiction films have shaped their own and society’s perception of the environment. Lectures and scholarly articles on environmental issues will be used to help shape students’ understanding of the reality of the environment. Students will complete a final project in which they present on a fiction film of their choice.

Science and Art

EEPS 309 - Visualizing Nature. An experimental course combining the scientific disciplines of the earth sciences with the artistic disciplines of creative photography to study the natural landscape and related ecosystems. The course will combine classroom lectures and laboratory demonstrations in geoscience with classes in the use of digital and film-based cameras and illustrated lectures on recognized achievements in landscape photography. Extensive field trips will be scheduled. Students will travel frequently, at times in pairs, other times in larger groups and as a full class, accompanied by one or both professors. The budget for the course includes funding both for travel and for photography expenses. 

ENST 316 - Environmental Film. Explores the ways film represents the environment and environmental issues (food, water, energy, waste, environmental justice, sustainability), and both expresses and shapes environmental values. Students will view and analyze a variety of genres, as well as read supplementary material.