Inquiry Seminar in the Natural Sciences

Courses that introduce students to the subjects and methods of inquiry of the natural sciences by engaging in focused study of one or more particularly important questions arising from a natural science discipline. These courses introduce students to key concepts, knowledge, and principles of the relevant discipline as they relate to the questions being studied in the individual section. They are not intended to be survey courses or broad introductions to the discipline, but should be content-rich, with the content revolving around and connected to the central questions being studied.

These courses engage students in studying questions about the physical/biological universe. All sections incorporate the direct examination of natural phenomena in either laboratory or field settings; use observation to develop and evaluate principles and hypotheses; and explore how knowledge of key scientific principles can be used to understand and interpret observations.

Sample Sections

Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology

Faculty: Joanne Hughes Clark

How did we deduce that the Milky Way is not the only galaxy in the universe? We use the physics of gravity and light to discover the properties of stars, which enabled Edwin Hubble to determine the distance to the Andromeda Galaxy in the 1920s. Soon afterwards, he proved that our home was only one of a multitude of "Island Universes," scattered throughout a vast, expanding cosmos, connecting his observations with Einstein's General Relativity. We use the scientific method to show how stars and galaxies formed, and explore the open questions about the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

Chemistry of Food and Cooking

Faculty: Peter Alaimo

In this course you will learn scientific concepts that underpin both everyday cooking and haute cuisine. In the classroom you can expect a mixture of lecture, videos, and small-group activities, all of which will be based on reading to be completed prior to class. In the laboratory portion of the course, you will conduct cooking experiments in your own kitchen; thus, weekly access to a kitchen is required.

The Elwha River Undammed

Faculty: Josephine Archibald

Why would anyone want to remove two functioning dams after 100-years of profitable operation on the Elwha River? This class examines how dams can impact riverine ecosystems by looking in depth at the largest dam removal project in history - right here in the Olympic National Park. In this class we will learn how dam removal can impact the shape of a river, salmon recolonization, and the nearby ecosystems. We'll also discuss the different ways that scientists are studying these processes.