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Oceans and Climate

Oceans and Climate

The oceans drive our climate and, ultimately, life on earth. Students will get a hands-on introduction to the processes governing oceans, climate, and ecosystems through laboratory experiments, field trips aboard Bowdoin marine research vessels, and computer-based data analysis. By investigating records of paleoclimates preserved in deep-sea sediments and glacial ice cores, students will learn how natural climate variations can be distinguished from human-induced changes. The course takes students backwards in time hundreds of thousands of years to explore the cyclical nature of ice ages -- and back to the present, where rapidly increasing C02 in the atmosphere is having a major impact on oceans and climate worldwide.

“I love this course because it enables me to bring students into the science by starting with their own experiences and existing intuition. They gain skills in examining observations and data that reveal natural processes they haven’t thought about before. What I hear from students is that it fundamentally changes the way they look at the world. They no longer look at weather as a static event, but as part of the long-term pattern of climate.” - Collin Roesler

Berlin: Sin City, Divided City, City of the Future

Berlin: Sin City, Divided City, City of the Future

The tempestuous history of the city of Berlin reflects some of the most significant events and epochs of the 20th century, from the “Roaring ‘20s” to Cold War and post-Wall periods. This course explores Berlin’s dramatic cultural, political and physical transformations and compares Anglo-American representations of the German capital with those produced by Germans. Each time period will be examined through architecture, history, film, literature and visual arts. Films include original works from the 1920s, ‘50s and the present made by Berlin artists. No knowledge of German is required

“It’s a city where you can see the physical imprint of the 20th century everywhere: The remnants of the Berlin Wall, the restored Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. There is also Berlin’s vibrant club culture and arts scene. It’s now a major center of migration and reflects the globalization of society. The city is constantly changing.”  - Jill Smith

Free Radicals and Antioxidants

Free Radicals and Antioxidants

Oxygen is essential for the survival of multicellular life. It can, however, adopt forms that are highly toxic, so-called oxygen free radicals. In response to the danger they pose, organisms have evolved elaborate antioxidant systems to detoxify free radicals. Scientists believe an imbalance between free radical formation and antioxidation could be intimately involved in the aging process, neurodegenerative diseases of the brain, diabetes and other illnesses.  Age-old cultural practices and modern pharmaceuticals combat malaria by increasing the formation of free radicals in the bloodstream because the malarial parasite is unusually sensitive to free radical damage.  This capstone course looks at free radicals and antioxidants in organisms ranging from bacteria to plants to humans, a rare offering at the undergraduate level.

“I find this course attractive because it surfs across evolution, organic chemistry, biochemistry, genetics and human disease. Nearly any topic discussed across biology and chemistry can be meaningfully related back to free radicals and antioxidants. It’s a great way to connect up students’ experiences in various classes.” – Barry Logan

Ghosts

Ghosts

We are exposed to ghost stories and the literature of ghosts from our earliest years, but rarely stop to think about them and what they mean. They can be frightening, amusing, can make us think about politics and social justice, or stir up the past. This first-year seminar explores “actual” and metaphorical instances of ghosts in 19th, 20th and 21st century literary and cinematic contexts, including the Victorian ghost story, the gothic novella, and the horror film. Texts include work by Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Shirley Jackson and Toni Morrison.

“Ghosts appear in so many different forms that it’s interesting to consider the ways in which they allow us to think about how various literary and cinematic texts work. How do you represent what is essentially not representable, something you can’t see or touch? How do readers or viewers of ghosted works respond to fear? There is an incredible versatility of ghosts to represent different traditions.” - Aviva Briefel

Image: Spirit Seance, John Beattie, 1872, Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Bird Song, Human Song

Bird Song, Human Song

Tune into the musical life of birds as ornithologist Nat Wheelwright and music professor Robby Greenlee team up to explore the surprising connections between birdsong and human song. Through classroom, lab work and field trips, students will explore the mechanics, anatomy and neurobiology of sound production and recognition – as well as the ecological and evolutionary contexts of song. Key musical concepts introduced include rhythm, meter, tempo, scales and harmony, culminating in student-composed music based on birdsong. No music or biology experience is required. 

“For me, the hope of this course is to open the eyes of students who perhaps haven’t studied nature up close. If a student can suddenly discover the dawn chorus as a joy, I hope he or she will become a better citizen who will protect the land for future generations. “ - Nat Wheelwright

Optimization

Optimization

It’s easy to get “hooked” on optimization, once you learn how to construct optimization models of real-world problems, and how computer algorithms solve the models. This course builds on multivariable calculus to introduce optimization’s uses for relevant and realistic problems. How should a nationwide shipping service decide where to put its hubs? How can a paper mill clean up its waste most economically? How should voting districts in a county be repartitioned? The course includes information on three fundamentally different approaches to solving optimization models, with an engaging textbook written by the professor.

“Every semester students come to me and tell me they do these problems in their spare time, for fun. It’s a little unusual, because it’s not just the math types who do this. Optimization pulls in people who like math, but also people who like to solve real problems they can recognize from their daily lives. These can involve very complicated questions and being able to solve them is a magic thing.” – Adam Levy

Feeding the World: The Nature and Challenges of our Food and Agricultural Systems

Feeding the World: The Nature and Challenges of our Food and Agricultural Systems

Few things are more essential to us than food. Although we live in a world where global food abundance is at record highs, and prices are at historic lows, our modern food system has its share of challenges. Methods of food production, marketing, distribution, and consumption have spawned waves of criticism, including concerns about farm economics, food justice, worker safety, animal welfare, famine, ecological degradation, climate change, biotechnology, and public health. In the wake of these challenges, alternative systems of food production, distribution, and consumption are beginning to emerge. This seminar is an interdisciplinary exploration of three major questions: How do we produce and eat food? What major social and environmental consequences have arisen from food production and consumption? What should we produce and eat? Current or prior enrollment in Environmental Studies 201, 202, and 203 is recommended.

“Everyone has a personal connection to food, but when you start to look at the historical antecedent that led to our modern challenges, it can really be a real eye-opener. If we are going to be able to feed 9 to 12 billion people by the end of the century, how can we organize an ecologically and economically sustainable food system, while feeding everyone? Students often get really excited about the opportunity to address these food justice issues.” - Philip Camill

The History of History

The History of History

What is history and how do we come to know it? Are there such things as historical periods? Does history follow a plan? This course examines the idea of history from the ancient world to the present, with particular emphasis on the way in which western religious thought has shaped conceptions of history. Topics include progress and providence, secularization, apocalypticism and "bad history" -- egregiously poor historical work that tries to pass itself off as legitimate. Reading includes works by Augustine, Vico, Nietzsche and Heidegger.

"This course appeals to people who like the history of ideas and philosophy. We step back from the normal work of history and reflect on what history is and why we should care about it. Students like it because it’s about big ideas that teach us things about ourselves." - Dallas Denery