UCO 1200: Breakthroughs and Controversies in Science and Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Sarah
Human beings are driven to explore ourselves and the world around us and to ask how things work. Today it may be difficult for us to imagine how mysterious the inside of a living person seemed only about 100 years ago, when x-rays were discovered in 1895. Amazing breakthroughs have been made since then, such as the invention of the atomic bomb, penicillin, cloning and artificial intelligence. In this course we will look at the process of discovery as well as the implications of recent breakthroughs and developments. Students will choose topics and explore these issues using articles, books, and television programs. We might choose to debate global warming, string theory, or Lawrence Summers' comments about the innate ability of women in mathematics, discuss the ethics of biodiesel or unbreakable codes, or explore articles about whether we still need to learn multiplication tables. In this context we will focus on what science and mathematics is, strategies for success in these fields, ethical and philosophical considerations, public perceptions, applications to daily tasks, and the relationship of science and mathematics to American competitiveness and the global economy. The only prerequisite is an open mind.
TAKING SIDES: Clashing Views in Science, Technology, and Society
by Thomas A. Easton.
McGraw-Hill Companies, 11th Edition Expanded, 2013.
(This text is available for purchase
from the bookstore.)
Defining Moments in Science: Over a Century of the Greatest
Discoveries, Experiments, Inventions, People,
Publications, and Events That Rocked the World,
by Mark Steer, Hayley Birch, and Andrew Impney.
Sterling Publishing, 2008. (This text is available for
rental from the bookstore.)
iClickers (available for rental from the bookstore).
The Common Reading book Clapton's Guitar
On-line access to check
the course web pages before each class.
A course calendar is located at
and a daily overview of class activities at
Printouts of your work
Grades and Required Attendance at Events in and Outside of Class
Research Projects 50% These publication-quality
typed projects articulate research and analysis.
Work must be turned in on or before the due
Discussion Questions 15%
Discussion questions are written responses to
targeted questions on homework readings and
activities that are due in advance of a class
The lowest 2 discussion question grades will
be dropped - save this for emergencies.
These typed expositions
are typically 1/2-1 page long, single-spaced,
that are due
the day after a class discussion.*
The lowest reflection grade will
be dropped - save this for emergencies.
Participation 20% You are expected to contribute to
discussions in a meaningful way and actively engage the material. You must
be prepared for each class and check the main web page regularly for homework.
Satisfactory completion of these kinds of baseline activities will
result in a participation grade of
16/20. Other activities can increase or decrease this grade.
Utilizing office hours, the writing center and ASULearn,
asking and answering thought provoking questions, coming up with
creative ways of thinking about the material, and explaining the material to
others are some other examples of positive participation that will
increase your grade. On the other hand, actions that illustrate you are not
taking the class or the activities seriously or that detract from
the professional classroom environment will result in a lower
Many activities and class discussions are designed to be completed during
attendance is required at ALL classes and outside activities, and will form
a portion of your grade.
In addition, missing more than the equivalent of 3 weeks during the
semester (6 classes) will result in an automatic F in the course
(the final exam day counts as 2 classes).
Save your absences for emergencies. If the university is open and you
miss a class, then that counts as an absence. If you must be late to a
class, or must leave early, then do still attend.
Work Completion +1
If all of your discussion questions, reflections, and research projects
are turned in on time and you have received at least a grade of 60% for
all work (including the dropped ones),
then you will receive +1 added onto your final average.
*Grades and Policies
Work may occur during the last week of classes.
No late work accepted. If there is some reason you must miss a
class, then turn in your work early by dropping it off to my
office in 326 Walker or submitting it on ASULearn.
Accommodations in the determination of your final grade will be made for extenuating circumstances that are documented to prevent you from completing work early/on time.
The grading scale is A ≥93; 90≤ A- < 93; 87 ≤ B+ <90...
Use of interactive technology is allowed only when it is related to our class. Put cell phones away and set them to vibrate. Photos or video or audio recordings may not be taken in class without prior permission. Food and beverages are allowed as long as they aren't distracting, but e-cigs, chewing tobacco/spit cups and other products are not allowed.
When writing up work, be sure to give acknowledgment where it is due. Submitting someone else's work as your own (PLAGIARISM) is a serious violation of the
University's Academic Integrity Code, which defines:
Also see the
syllabus and policy statements which we adhere to.
Outside of Class
As per the
Statement on Student Engagement with Courses
you can expect to spend (on average) 2-3 hours
outside of class for each hour in class.
This includes convocation.
All first-year seminar students are required to attend convocation -
classes are cancelled until after it is finished for this purpose.
You'll also be attending two additional
university sponsored activities over the course of the semester,
with at least one of those related to science or mathematics
You should strive to turn in work of publication quality
in your research projects: neat and easy to
read, complete sentences, proper grammar and spelling, correct units,
well-organized, and a demonstration of your mastery of the subject matter.
Future employers and teachers will expect this quality of work. Moreover,
although submitting work that is
publication quality requires "extra" effort,
shown that the effort you expend in clearly explaining your ideas solidifies
your learning. In particular, research has shown that writing and speaking
trigger different areas of your brain. By communicating your ideas to
others - even when you think you already understand them - your learning is
reinforced by involving other areas of your brain.
Where to Get Help
326 Walker Hall,
Sometimes, if no one comes to office hours, I go down the hall to the mailroom, photocopy machine, or to talk to another professor. If I am not in my office during office hours, you should walk down the hall to look for me, and interrupt to tell me that you are there. I am always around and happy to help you during office hours unless otherwise posted to the webpage. You do not need to make an appointment to use office hours - just drop by! If you can't make office hours, use the forum on ASULearn, which will be answered at least once a day.
Check the main web page often for homework and for access to the other
are the easiest way to ask a question outside of class and office hours.
You are responsible for reading all posts from me. I prefer that you use
office hours since it is easier to discuss material in person, but if you
cannot make them, then it is a great alternative. I usually check it
every day including the weekends.
The Learning Assistance Program,
Help Labs, First Year
FYS blog for first year students
University Writing Center
Our First Year Seminar (FYS)
FYS is the foundation of the university's
Seminar, where the seeds of research were planted, is
from the Latin root semen, which meant "seed".
In the modern definition of seminar (Compact Oxford English Dictionary of
Current English, 2005), it is
"1. a conference or other meeting for discussion or training. 2. a small
group of students at university, meeting to discuss topics with a teacher."
Here is a tentative plan to satisfy the
general education requirements for the class. Specific details may change
over the course of the semester:
Modes of Inquiry
We will choose topics and explore the process of discovery using the scientific method, mathematical thinking and statistical analyses as we examine the
theme of when are we convinced that a theory, experiment or proof is correct?
We will also explore the controversies and implications of recent
developments as we connect to interdisciplinary perspectives such as
ethical, philosophical, economical and psychological implications.
TAKING SIDES: Clashing Views in Science, Technology, and Society is
described as a book that "presents
current controversial issues in a debate-style format designed to stimulate
student interest and develop critical thinking skills."
This text will be required and used to introduce various modes
of inquiry. As a specific example of various modes, during one
course, one newspaper article the students chose to discuss was
titled How Baboons Think (Yes, Think).
The article described a number of
experiments in which researchers recorded baboon sounds and replayed them to baboons in their natural habitat.
In the context of the related discussion, we highlighted:
Connections to Faculty, Students, Courses, and the University
In order to build connections to your courses, faculty, and the university,
you will reflect on your own process of discovery and its implications in
classes and you
will also interview a professor on campus about these issues. You
will be required to attend and reflect on out-of-class university sponsored
experiences, with at least one of those related to the course themes.
Each week we will research and advertise
the mathematics and science activities at the university. Depending on
interest, the class might also visit related places on campus, such as faculty and departmental labs, the F. Kenneth and Marjorie J. McKinney Geology Teaching Museum, and the Math and Science Education Center, or we might take a field trip off campus to the Small Wind Research and Demonstration Site or the Dark Sky Observatory and Cline Visitor Center.
In order to build connections among the students, most of
class time will be used to
engage in group activities or class discussions and reflections.
Freshman-Level Research Activities
will engage in increasingly sophisticated research activities on
historical and unsolved questions in mathematics and science, and on
living scientists and mathematicians.
Library research and academic integrity will be addressed as a
fundamental part of the course.
will conduct "low-stakes" research activities, such
In the first research project, you will collect data in the summer reading
book using two different lenses. In the second project you will
create a historical timeline and annotated bibliography
that explores the interesting and important scientific and/or
mathematical breakthroughs and
In the third research project,
you will research an unsolved scientific question or problem of interest.
You will conduct a literature review and create a list of references,
you will design an experiment or discuss an approach for solving the problem,
and you will summarize two conflicting viewpoints related to the problem
(in the style of the text TAKING SIDES:
Clashing Views in Science, Technology, and Society). You will present
your work in a poster session format. While you
will not conduct any experiments, you
will be encouraged to consider the possibility of doing so in the future. We will discuss the IRB process and research opportunities such as the Appalachian Undergraduate Academy of Science program and the Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) program.
Ways to Meet the General Education Objectives for the First-Year
I am a Professor of Mathematics and a Women's Studies core
faculty member at Appalachian State University. I received my PhD
from the University of Pennsylvania. My scholarship areas include
Riemannian geometry of orbifolds
(linear algebra is important here),
popular culture as it pertains to mathematics, and women and minorities
in mathematics. Recognition for my teaching includes a
2005 Mathematical Association of America Alder Award
winner for distinguished teaching and the winner of the 2010
Appalachian State University Wayne D. Duncan Award for Excellence in Teaching in General Education. In 2010 I was also inducted into the Appalachian State University College of Arts and Sciences Academy of Outstanding Teachers and in 2011 I was named the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher of the Year.
I am the associate editor of the Association for Women in
Mathematics Newsletter and a member of the editorial board of
PRIMUS. Andrew Nestler and I co-created the educational website SimpsonsMath.com. My interactive mathematics lecture has been distributed on approximately one million DVDs worldwide as a 25-minute DVD extra for the 20th Century Fox Futurama movie Bender's Big Score and it is listed as "Mind-bending." Jill Thomley and I co-edited the 3-volume Encyclopedia of Mathematics & Society, which was named a "Best Reference 2011" by Library Journal. I've spoken about the impacts of scientific popular culture representations on NPR's Science Friday and all over the country.
I am married to the bassist
Landsberg. We both happen to be on IMDb:
My Erdos Bacon number
is 6-7 or infinity, depending on what/how you count.
In my spare time I like to travel, hike and conduct genealogy research
(I also enjoy popular culture, as you can probably tell from some of my
scholarly interests). In addition to my own personal genealogy, I like to
give back to the broader community. I am the project coordinator for sites
like the Bialobrzegi ShtetLink and the Book of Remembrance of the Community
of Bialobrzeg. These projects strive to research and preserve information
about communities that were destroyed in World War II. My
great-grandparents lived there (it was the Russian empire back then!) in the
late 1800s. Some of what I really like about mathematics is also what I
enjoy about genealogy - the sense of exploration, discovery and aha moments
that come with lots of patience and effort.