- GA 0001
- Days and Times
- MW 9:05 a.m - 9:55 a.m.
- Course Description
This course is intended to introduce students from the sciences and humanities to key elements of scientific research: observation and experimentation. Observations and experiments foundational to science: They put assumptions and expectations to the test, they provide a framework for learning basic principles, and they inspire new ideas. Some observations and experiments are easy, and can be done in one’s back yard or in the field. Others require expensive specialized equipment, materials, and trained specialists. Yet others raise serious ethical concerns because they involve human subjects, live animals, or endanger the environment.
We will start with general discussions about what observations and experiments are, how they are used to test ideas, and how they vary across different scientific fields. We will then examine some classic experiments to illustrate important aspects of observation and experimentation that are relevant in the experimental sciences today. Guest lecturers will also present illustrative examples from their ongoing research. We will then discuss more generally what experiments and observations can ascertain and how and what can be learned from them. We discuss experimental methods and protocols, responsibility, validity and control, replication, negative results, risk, and failure. In the last part of the course, students will carry out a group project where they analyze a methodological issue arising from observational and experimental practice.