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Course Descriptions

Cluster Three

Cluster Three: The Natural World

Dr. Kit Murphy, Coordinator


Cluster Three Objectives


Scientific investigations into the natural world use analytical methods to evaluate evidence, build and test models based on that evidence, and develop theories. Mathematical studies of form and pattern can create a language that assists in these investigations. Packages in this cluster provide students with the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills in science and mathematics at the college level. Students will be introduced to a substantial body of scientific facts, concepts, models, and theories and will also gain experience in using basic mathematics to obtain knowledge about the natural world. Each package is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, thereby demonstrating boundaries and connections among mathematics, the sciences and other aspects of culture.

Cluster Three Packages

All students begin a package in Cluster Three during their freshman year and should complete it by the end of their sophomore year. Some individual courses in various packages satisfy requirements in a number of major and professional programs on campus, and students are encouraged to select an appropriate package in Cluster Three on the basis of their backgrounds, interests and educational objectives. However, all packages are open to all students as long as space is available.

Package A: General Science and Mathematics

GSCI 101 is prerequisite to GSCI 102 and GSCI 103. Check the semester’s course schedule for possible corequisites or prerequisites for particular sections of GSCI 104.

Choose one of the following:

MATH 103. The Nature of Mathematics

MATH 107. Fundamentals of Mathematics I

MATH 205. Introductory Calculus I

MATH 220. Elementary Statistics

MATH 235. Calculus I 1

GSCI 101. Physics, Chemistry, and the Human Experience

Choose one of the following:

GSCI 102. Environment: Earth

GSCI 103. Discovering Life

GSCI 104. Scientific Perspectives (may require GSCI 101, 102, or 103

or MATH 205 or 220 as a prerequisite or corequisite)

1 Students who choose MATH 235 will complete 11 credit hours in Cluster Three.

Package A provides the general undergraduate student with a survey of fundamental concepts, principles and theories in three of the four natural sciences (physics, chemistry and geology or biology) in an integrated sequence. Students choose one of the five possible math courses, based on the student’s proficiency and major requirements. GSCI 101 exposes students to the basic methods and content of both physics and chemistry at a level appropriate to the typical beginning undergraduate.

Building on this foundation, students take either a geologically or a biologically based course that presents basic principles in the particular science and also examines relationships between some geological processes and life on Earth. GSCI 104 provides students with the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of scientific topics and to participate in problem-solving activities in a small-group setting. Students should check the COMMENTS column in the particular semester’s course schedule for specific content of GSCI 104 and for possible corequisites or prerequisites.

Package B: Living Systems and the Environment: From Cell to Globe

GISAT 141 is a prerequisite or corequisite to GISAT 112. Students are strongly recommended to take GISAT 112 and GISAT 141 in the same semester if possible. GISAT 112 is a prerequisite to GISAT 113.

GISAT 141. Analytical Methods I

GISAT 112. Environmental Issues in Science and Technology

GISAT 113. Issues in Science and Technology: Living Systems

Package B focuses on some important scientific and technological issues facing modern society. Issues ranging from global warming to bio-diversity to the rise and threat of infectious diseases are covered, along with the scientific basis and mathematical reasoning behind them. This package is unique in that the science and mathematics needed to address these issues are woven together throughout the sequence. GISAT 141 and GISAT 112 integrate the science related to several important issues concerning the environment with some of the basic mathematics and statistics through joint projects and laboratory assignments.

The mathematics begins at the pre-calculus level and progresses through introductory statistics and the beginnings of calculus. GISAT 113 covers the rise and threat of infectious disease, the human-genome project and the development of genetic engineering within the context of modern microbiology and genetics. Throughout this package, students have numerous opportunities for learning through hands-on field exercises and laboratory experiments.

Package C: Health Issues

MATH 220. Elementary Statistics

CHEM 120. Concepts of Chemistry (CHEM 120 is a prerequisite to BIO 270.)

BIO 270. Human Physiology

Package C offers a set of health-related science and mathematics courses for students with above-average interest and background in human health. MATH 220 provides an introduction to the nature of mathematical truth and the skills for evaluating health-related data.

CHEM 120 introduces students to the fundamental principles and laws of chemistry with applications to the health sciences. BIO 270 explores the functions of the major body systems and provides students with an opportunity to participate in scientific problem solving in a small-group setting.

Package D: Basic Science and Mathematics

Choose one of the following:1

MATH 205. Introductory Calculus I

MATH 220. Elementary Statistics

MATH 235. Calculus I

Choose two of the following:2

BIO 114. Organisms (includes lab)

CHEM 131. General Chemistry & CHEM 131L

GEOL 110. Physical Geology (includes lab)

GEOL 211. Oceanography

PHYS 140. College Physics I & PHYS 140L

PHYS 215. Energy and the Environment

PHYS 220. Astronomy

PHYS 240. University Physics I & PHYS 140L

2 Package D is a minimum of 10 credits, but the selection of MATH 235 increases the number of credit hours in Cluster Three to 11 and the choice of two lab sciences increases the number of credit hours to 12.

3 Must be from different disciplines and at least one of which must include a lab

This package meets the needs of any student with a strong interest in science and mathematics who wishes to learn more about fundamental principles of science, the scientific method of inquiry and the role of science in our world.

The courses in Package D provide an introduction to calculus or statistics and to two different areas of science. The hands-on laboratory component of the package helps students integrate scientific theory with the scientific method and practical applications of science. Together, the three courses chosen from the package give students both depth and breadth of scientific knowledge and extend their understanding of the interconnections and issues among science, technology and society.

Package E: Humans and the Earth Environment

Math requirement is a prerequisite or corequisite to GSCI 115. Math requirement and GSCI 115 are prerequisites to GSCI 116.

Choose one of the following:

GMATH 115. Environmental Mathematics

MATH 205E. Introductory Calculus I

GSCI 115. Earth Systems, Cycles, and Human Impacts

GSCI 116. Human Ecology

Package E introduces students to ecology and earth science and the specific ways that humans influence and are influenced by the environment. Earth is viewed as a single system in which processes occur at time scales ranging from seconds to the age of the Earth. The package integrates aspects of geology, meteorology, oceanography and biology, with human beings as an integral part of the system. GMATH 115 or MATH 205E provide the mathematical tools and skills required in the other two courses. GSCI 115 explores the Earth’s dynamic equilibrium, which has existed for billions of years, with the cycling of matter, including gases and energy through a set of complex reservoirs (atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, solid Earth and the near-space environment). GSCI 116 focuses on humans as part of the biological and physical world by examining how human evolution has been affected by environmental phenomena, how human biological variation is shaped by the different environments in which humans live and how humans have biological relationships with other species.

Package F: Light and Sound - Science and Perception

Math requirement and GSCI 121 are prerequisites to GSCI 122.

Choose one of the following:

MATH 103. The Nature of Mathematics

MATH 107. Fundamentals of Mathematics I

MATH 205. Introductory Calculus I

MATH 220. Elementary Statistics

MATH 235. Calculus I 1

GSCI 121. The Physical Nature of Light and Sound

GSCI 122. The Science of Vision and Audition

1 Students who choose MATH 235 will complete 11 credit hours in Cluster Three.

The goal of Package F is to provide students with an understanding of two basic topics that are often ignored in the study of human communication. The first is knowledge of how information is produced in the form of complex sound and light waves and how these waves are propagated from source to observer. The second is the knowledge of how the observer physically interacts with this flow of sensory information and how the mind processes and perceives it. The math course is chosen on the basis of the student’s proficiency and major requirements. GSCI 121 includes topics on the physical description of both light and sound waves, the two models needed for describing the nature of light, methods of light and sound production, the spectral analysis of sound and light waves, wave propagation in various media, and some particular applications (e.g., musical instruments, room acoustics, optical instruments, color). GSCI 122 provides an overview of the methods used to study sensation and perception, basic neuroanatomy, the anatomy of auditory and visual systems, visual-perception phenomena (e.g., color vision, object perception, perceptual illusions), auditory-perception phenomena (e.g., pitch, loudness, sound localization), and visual deficiencies.

Package G: Understanding our World

MATH 107. Fundamentals of Mathematics I

(MATH 107 must be taken prior to GSCI 163.)

Courses must be taken in sequence:

GSCI 161. Science Processes

GSCI 162. The Science of the Planets

GSCI 163. The Matter of Matter

GSCI 164. How Things Work

GSCI 165. The Way Life Works

Beyond the science and math content, Package G emphasizes the learning environment and the unifying themes that link each of the individual classes: Scientific Investigation, Reasoning, and Logic; Force, Motion, and Energy; Matter; Life Processes; Living Systems; Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems; and Resources.

Cluster Three Objectives

§         Describe the methods of inquiry that lead to mathematical truth and scientific knowledge and be able to distinguish science from pseudoscience.

§         Use theories and models as unifying principles that help us understand natural phenomena and make predictions.

§         Recognize the interdependence of applied research, basic research, and technology, and how they affect society.

§         Illustrate the interdependence between developments in science and social and ethical issues.

§         Use graphical, symbolic, and numerical methods to analyze, organize, and interpret natural phenomena.

§         Discriminate between association and causation, and identify the types of evidence used to establish causation.

§         Formulate hypotheses, identify relevant variables, and design experiments to test hypotheses.

§         Evaluate the credibility, use, and misuse of scientific and mathematical information in scientific developments and public-policy issues.


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Last Modified: 6/12/2003