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Cluster Three: The Natural World (10 credits)

Cluster Three Coordinator:  Dr. Scott Paulson


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. Courses 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 track is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, thereby demonstrating boundaries and connections among mathematics, the sciences and other aspects of culture.


All students begin either Track I or Track II in Cluster Three during their first year and should complete it by the end of their sophomore year. Individual courses in the tracks satisfy requirements in a number of major and professional programs on campus. Students are encouraged to select appropriate courses in Cluster Three on the basis of their backgrounds, interests and educational objectives.

If a student needs to enroll in a cluster three course that is closed, he or she must have permission from General Education. The form linked below will allow you to request an override for Cluster Three Track I General Education courses that were closed at the time of your enrollment appointment. If you need an override for a Cluster Three Track II course, please contact Ms. Donna Garber in the IdLS office.

Due to the small number of overrides available and the large demand, overrides are only granted for students that meet all of the following criteria:

 1)      The student has not yet fulfilled the general education requirement. (i.e overrides will not be granted for repeat/forgive or for elective credit)

 2)      The student is on track to graduate during the next academic year.

 3)      There are no open seats in courses that fulfill the requested requirement and fit into the students existing course schedule.


Track I:

In this track, students take one course from each of three groups: Group 1 consists of mathematics courses, and Groups 2 and 3 consist of science courses. The groups may be taken in any order. The courses in Group 2 and Group 3, denoted by an asterisk (*), require a Group 1 (mathematics) prerequisite or corequisite. Students are required to have at least one lab experience. The lab experience can be met by taking a course from Group 2 or Group 3 that includes a lab, or through GSCI 104.

Group 1 Choose one of the following

  • ISAT 151. Analytic Methods I: Topics in Applied Calculus for ISAT
  • ISAT 251. Analytic Methods III: Topics in Statistics for ISAT 
  • MATH 103. The Nature of Mathematics
  • MATH 105. Qualitative Literacy and Reasoning
  • MATH 205. Introductory Calculus I
  • MATH 220. Elementary Statistics
  • MATH 231. Calculus with Functions I
  • MATH 235. Calculus I

Group 2 Choose one of the following

  • CHEM 120. Concepts of Chemistry
  • CHEM 131. General Chemistry I (CHEM 131L required lab corequisite)
  • ISAT 100. Issues in Energy and the Environment
  • ISAT 112. Environmental Issues in Science and Technology (includes lab)
  • ISCI 101. Physics, Chemistry and the Human Experience*
  • PHYS 121. The Physical Nature of Light and Sound (includes lab)
  • PHYS 140. College Physics I (PHYS 140L required lab corequisite)*
  • PHYS 215. Energy and the Environment*
  • PHYS 240. University Physics I*

Group 3 Choose one of the following

  • BIO 114. Organisms (includes lab)
  • BIO 222: Interdisciplinary Biology for Engineering and Physical Sciences. (3, 0)
  • BIO 270. Human Physiology (includes lab)*
  • ANTH 196. (formerly GSCI 116). Biological Anthropology
  • BIO 103. (formerly GSCI 103). Contemporary Biology
  • GEOL 110. Physical Geology (includes lab)
  • GEOL 200. Evolutionary Systems (includes lab)
  • GEOL 211. Introduction to Oceanography
  • GEOL 102 (formerly GSCI 102). Environment: Earth
  • ISAT 113. Issues in Science and Technology: Living Systems
  • PSYC 122 (formerly GSCI 122). The Science of Vision and Audition
  • GEOL 115. Earth Systems, Cycles and Human Impact*
  • ASTR 120. (formerly PHYS 120) The Solar System
  • ASTR 121. (formerly PHYS 121)  Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology

ISCI 104

Students are only required to take ISCI 104 if they have not taken a Group 2 or Group 3 course that includes a lab component.

Track II:

In addition to the science and math content, Track II emphasizes the learning environment and the unifying themes that link each of the individual classes. Track II is meant to serve primarily, but not exclusively, IDLS majors.

MATH 107 must be taken prior to ISCI 163; ISCI 161 and 162 are corequisites; ISCI 163 and 164  are corequisites.  Corequisite pairs may be taken in any order. 

  • MATH 107. Fundamentals of Mathematics I
  • ISCI 161. Science Processes
  • ISCI 162. The Science of the Planets
  • ISCI 163. The Matter of Matter
  • ISCI 164. Physical Science: Learning Through Teaching
  • ISCI 165. The Way Life Works

Learning Objectives:

After completing Cluster Three: The Natural World, students should be able to meet the following 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.