All Course Descriptions

Foundation Courses

AHSE2199/SCI1299 Integrated Course: The Intersection of Biology, Art and Technology

This project-based course will cross boundaries between art, biology and technology with hands-on projects inspired by work in these fields. The Olin Biology Foundation requirement is satisfied by this course and it is also an AHS elective. How do technological breakthroughs inform new possibilities in biology and art? How might biology inform art practice and how might art inform biological concepts? What are the implications of being able to change the genome of an organism? Students will conduct lab work that includes a CRISPR genome editing experiment and also visualization technologies such as the scanning electron microscope (SEM). Studio projects will employ technologies and use engineering tools that are old and new such as modeling software, 3D printing, video, photography, audio, and traditional mark-making, such as drawing, depending on student preference and project needs. Final student-directed projects will be informed by foundational coursework activities. Advances in biology and its essential link with technology have led to rapid changes in applications to health care, understanding how organisms work and the impact of human activity on the environment. We will draw upon a large variety of media and resources and listen first-hand to practitioners in these areas about the advances in fields that most would regard as unrelated. The goal by the end of the course is to acquire an attitude that allows fluid movement from one field to the other in thinking and doing so as to garner creative strength not possible from study of each field alone.

Credits: 4 AHS and 4 SCI

Hours: 2X per week ~ 4 hrs per class/studio plus weekly laboratory

Usually Offered: Spring

AHSE 1130 Seeing and Hearing: Communicating with Photographs, Video, and Sound

Seeing and Hearing, a semester length course, is an Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHS) foundation course normally taken by first year students during the fall semester. The course concerns the communication of ideas developed by research, reflection, and evolving thought, using as a vehicle for expression contemporary digital media tools. In this project-based course, students will have opportunities for hands-on learning in audio recording and editing, photography and printing, and video recording and editing. Science and engineering content are integrated in order to provide a reasonably comprehensive understanding of the devices we use to gather sound and images and in order to understand more fully the properties of seeing and hearing. A major goal is to enlarge our awareness of the environment we inhabit and to respond to the perceived environment by producing original visual and sonic artwork. Students will complete projects including a self-portrait, a soundpiece, a staged-narrative, and a short documentary. One of the latter two projects will be developed on the theme of concern for the environment and sustainability. Since AHSE 1130 is an AHS foundation course, students will engage with written communication in a variety of assignments including one substantial writing project. Our process is to share work through discussion sessions as we follow projects from their initial stages to completion and final presentation. Additional context for Seeing and Hearing is provided by selected readings, visits by guest lecturers, additional faculty and staff participation and by viewing work of other professional practitioners. This course does not require prior experience with image/sound gathering or editing. Specific learning objectives include the following: 1) Learn how to make art that reflects enlarging of one’s awareness and communicates one’s intent, 2) Learn how to use digital tools for art making and learn how the tools work, 3) improve critical and contextual thinking ability, 4) improve written communication.

Credits: 4 AHS

Hours: 2 x week, ~2 hrs per class meeting

Usually Offered: Fall

Also see the following publication:

Donis-Keller, H. (2009). A Course in Communication and Creativity for Undergraduates in Engineering: Seeing and Hearing: Communicating with Photographs, Video and Sound. 2009 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Meeting, June 14-17, Austin, TX, DVD meeting publication.

AHSE1135 The Digital Eye

We live in a world that is fundamentally visual and yet formal teaching and learning about visual communication is almost entirely reserved for specialists. Similarly learning about the evolution of vision and the molecular foundations of human vision are not often dealt with in introductory biology courses. This course seeks to remedy the lack of engagement with these topics at the foundational course level. In this studio-based project-oriented course students will develop an understanding of what it takes to make original art through first-hand experiences in a supportive environment. As a means to this end, students will gain facility with digital single- lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, digital photo editing and printing methods using state-of-the-art equipment.  As this is an AHS foundation course students will also have an opportunity to further develop writing communication skills and critical thinking ability. The course will also address the history of photography, consider the work of a number of contemporary fine art photographers and answer the question “Why has photography changed everything?”

SCI 1210-02 Principles of Modern Biology with Laboratory: Human Genetics and Genomics

While the core concepts amongst the three versions of SCI1210 are held in common, the emphasis in this section is on human genetics and genomics. Most of the course material is concerned with our current understanding of the fundamentals of life at the molecular and cellular level. Concepts and information from the disciplines of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, evolutionary and cell biology contribute in different ways to provide a coherent view of the components, processes, interdependencies, and other properties common to all organisms. The structure and regulation of genes, properties and synthesis of proteins, and the organization and communication between cells and multi-cellular organisms are essential elements for cellular growth and differentiation that will be studied in detail. Special topics to be considered include, but are not limited to, human genetics, molecular medicine, cancer biology, evolution, genomics, synthetic biology, and ethical implications of the applications of biological research. Students will gain experience with research methods and scientific reasoning through laboratory section experiments, written laboratory research summaries and from other project work.

Credits: 4 SCI (required for all students)

Hours: 2 x week, ~2 hrs each class meeting + 3 hrs 1 x week Laboratory Section

Usually Offered: Fall and Spring

ENG 2250 User Oriented Collaborative Design

Students develop detailed concepts and models of authentic new products and services. Our focus is on user-oriented, collaborative approaches to design and seeking holistic solutions integrating user and functional perspectives. We emphasize the importance of process and the development of strategies. Students observe and engage people to develop a deep understanding of their values and the patterns of their lives. They work collaboratively in a studio environment to create a shared understanding of the people they design for (and with) and the product ideas they develop. Topics covered include design thinking, ethnographic methods, concept development and interaction design.

Credits: 4 ENG

Hours: 2 x week, ~3 hrs per class meeting

Usually Offered: Spring

(required for all students)

Elective Courses

AHSE 2130 The Intersection of Art and Science

Science and Art are often considered entirely different worlds inhabited by practitioners who have nothing in common. In this course, we will debunk this myth by closely examining the discovery process in both disciplines and by comparing the culture of science to that of art, historically and in the present. We will consider the influence of scientific discoveries, from optics to “new media” on the production of art and discuss the corollary question “Has art influenced the progress of science?” We will also consider ways in which science allows us to understand artists and the work they create. In contemporary society, artists have begun to comment on science, sometimes with disastrous results, which leads us to ask, “What is needed in order to establish a meaningful dialogue between scientists and artists, and does it matter?”

Credits: 4 AHS

Hours: 2 x week, ~2 hrs per class meeting

Usually Offered: Spring

AHSE 2131 Responsive Drawing and Visual Thinking

Responsive Drawing and Visual Thinking is a semester length course that meets twice per week for two hours per session. The course assumes no prior experience in drawing. Students will learn to visualize objects in three-dimensional space and commit them to the two-dimensional space of a page, gaining critical experience with “idea sketching”, an ability that can be put to many uses in future courses. Students will also draw subjects from life, i.e. stationary objects and life models using media including charcoal, graphite, and conté. The emphasis will be realistic depiction as compared to non-objective abstraction. Students will begin with basic exercises in drawing and rapidly move to more complex intensive drawing experiences. Approximately one-third of the classroom time will be used for drawing from a life model. Class discussion and sketchbook homework assignments will be an essential element in the learning process. Weekly homework assignments will consist of drawing and visual thinking exercises to be completed in personal sketchbooks. Field trips are planned to The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and possibly the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University in Cambridge to view art and to draw on the site. Reading selected text material is also part of the homework requirement. Other in-class activities will include participation in discussion of drawings (old master and contemporary) that are presented to illustrate various objectives of classroom work (e.g. use of line to indicate form) and group critique sessions. Assessment will be based on weekly homework assignments, classroom work, and major drawing projects to be completed outside of class.

Credits: 4 AHS

Hours: 2 x week, ~2 hrs per class meeting

Usually Offered: Fall

AHSE 3130 Advanced Digital Photography

In this project-based course, students will develop a personal photographic point of view matched with consistently well-crafted imagery informed by the work of leading contemporary photographers. While communication with visual images is paramount, technical issues will be addressed in some depth. For example, there will be instruction and practice with image capture and editing including High Dynamic Range (HDR) exposure and processing, color management methods and printing, Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop tools and techniques, graphic design and book production methods. Initial projects will stimulate creative thinking and group critiques will help monitor progress and inspire new directions. The culminating project will be the design and production of a photography-based book by each member of the class. A critical awareness of the medium of fine art photography will be fostered through selected readings, discussions, and visits to galleries and museums.

SCI 3220 Bacteriophage Genomics Research Project Laboratory

The process of discovery in biology must be experienced, not simply read about in a textbook, in order for one to fully appreciate what it takes to do science and how it feels to have discovered something not previously known. Bacteriophages (viruses of bacteria) are particularly interesting and relevant subjects for study because they constitute the majority of all biological entities. An estimated 1031tailed phages inhabit the planet earth! Knowledge of phages and their host bacteria is important from a public health perspective and phages present an opportunity for study of bioengineering organisms. In this hands-on, project-based course, students will isolate bacteriophages from nearby locations and purify them in the laboratory. Purified viruses, named by their discoverers, will be investigated by a variety of means including Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), restriction enzyme digestion analysis, host range characterization, and via help from collaborators, DNA sequencing of their entire genomes. Students in this course will gain bioinformatics experience and learn about genomics by analysis of the DNA sequences from new phage genomes. Putative new genes will be identified and compared with those from similar organisms in order to better understand the extent of diversity and evolution of mycobacteriophages. In addition to laboratory studies students will participate in regular journal club discussions and study text-based material that will enhance understanding of phage biology and the field of genomics.

Credits: 4 AHS

Hours: 2 x week, ~2 hrs per class meeting

Usually Offered: Fall

SCI 3210 Human Molecular Genetics in the Age of Genomics

It is now understood that many, if not the majority, of human disorders, including cancers, have an underlying genetic component. In this modern age of healthcare, we are expected to choose amongst an array of options for ourselves and for our children rather than respond to specific directives from the medical establishment. In addition, we are called upon as voting citizens to make ethical decisions, e.g. the appropriateness of stem cell cloning. Therefore, it is in the interest of each person to learn more than the fundamentals of biology and genetics in order to make educated choices. In this course we will be concerned with the traditional concepts of human genetics including pedigree analysis, linkage mapping, Mendelian, multi-locus and complex traits, and genetic testing. However, for the most part the course will view human genetics through a molecular lens. For example, the molecular basis of pathological conditions such as Huntington’s disease, hypercholesterolemia, Fragile-X and others will be examined in detail, as will gene imprinting and imprinting-related abnormalities (e.g. Angelman and Prader-Willi syndromes). Comparative genomics will be applied to the study of heritable traits in humans. The structure, function, and evolution of the sex chromosomes will also receive special attention. Gene therapy, cloning (stem cell, germ line) and the associated ethical issues will be considered in some depth. Students who are interested in bioengineering or medical school should find this course useful as well as those who have a general interest in the human as an organism.

Credits: 4 AHS

Hours: 2 x week, ~2 hrs per class meeting

Prerequisites: SCI 1210

Usually Offered: Spring

Mentor for Visual Arts Capstone Projects, i.e.

AHS4190 Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences (AHS) Capstone

The AHS Capstone is an advanced, self-designed AHS project that builds upon a student’s prior experience in one or more AHS disciplines. All students must complete either an AHS Capstone or an Entrepreneurship Capstone in order to graduate. AHS Capstones must be proposed to the AHS Committee and approved by the end of the academic year prior to the Capstone except in extenuating circumstances. Additional information on the AHS Capstone is available at http://projects.olin.edu/ahs. AHS Capstone students will complete a proposal, a journal, a disciplinary deliverable, an analysis of their deliverable, and a presentation. Class sessions will vary between “plenary” meetings of all students and faculty, small group workshops, and individual meetings.

Credits: 4 AHS

Hours: 2 hrs per week, ~10 hrs outside class meeting

Usually Offered: Fall or Spring