What this Course Promises You

In the 1970's and 80's, Former Senator William Proxmire awarded what he called the “Golden Fleece” Award, a sarcastic recognition of what he thought were projects that wasted public funds.  Some of the recipients of this dubious honor were scientists whose studies appeared to the senator to be examinations of ridiculously small questions that had no value.  Was Senator Proxmire justified in his criticism?  What do research scientists do?  Why do t hey sometimes spend years studying extremely small questions?  What kind of research takes place at this university?  Is it worthwhile? Some projects funded with public dollars may be ridiculous, while other strange- sounding endeavors may actually have enormous value.  How do you tell the difference?

In this course, you will have an opportunity to explore some of the exciting research being done at this university on biological clocks. In the process, you will develop considerable insight into the nature of science and the research lives of scientists. You may or may not become a research scientist, but you may some day have to decide about funding for a research endeavor. This course will help you make those decisions wisely. It will also help you understand more about how your own internal clock and the clocks that exist in every animal work. Why do college students often like to stay up late while their parents are “early to bed and early to rise” people? Why do people suffer from jet lag? How do we find out about how Biological Clocks work? How do scientists draw conclusions? How certain are those conclusions?

 Next Element
 See Ken Bain, What the Best College Teachers Do.  Harvard University Press.  Cambridge, MA:  2004, for additional ideas and approaches