Center for Science and the Common Good Sets Opening Speaker

Ursinus College has taken the bold step of creating a program with the goal of producing citizen-scientists who can confront the ethical implications of their work — scientists for the 21st Century with the expertise needed for research, but also the judgment to decide which scientific endeavors best advance the common good.

An event is planned to celebrate the Center’s opening. The free event is open to the public.

Sept. 12, 7 p.m., Lenfest Theater, Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center

Lessons from Abroad: The Opportunities of a Borderless World

Richard Heinzl, Doctors Without Borders

Richard Heinzl is the founder of the first North American chapter of Doctors Without Borders, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization that has inspired a movement among medical professionals to help the world’s most vulnerable populations. Heinzl founded the chapter in 1988, just out of medical school, and shortly thereafter he became its first field volunteer, spending an extraordinary year in remote Cambodia. His experiences are captured in his memoir, Cambodia Calling. Hundreds of volunteers have since followed in his footsteps.

The Ursinus College Center for Science and the Common Good is funded by an $800,000 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to provide opportunities for all Ursinus science majors to consider the impact of science on society by presenting a seminar series, hosting a Science Writer in Residence, and developing new courses.

Thirteen student Fellows of the Center were selected from a diverse group of applicants. They range from a student who worked in clinics in India, to a football quarterback who tutors youths and is interested in medicine, to a Vietnamese student who wants to return to Vietnam to work in health care, to the organic farm director who works with bees.

During the academic year, the FUTURE Program will recruit  students from groups underrepresented in science to join a research project during the summer immediately before or after their first year at Ursinus and continue that research during subsequent academic years.

Center faculty are seeking a Science Writer in Residence who will teach writing about science for non-science audiences. Three new interdisciplinary courses are being developed (Science and the Common Good, Decoding Science, and Global Health Care).  The speakers, who will also include business entrepreneurs, will be resources for internships. Fellows will engage these speakers, examining issues such as the implications of genetic enhancement, concerns for the environment and the requirements of economic development, and the effect of cultural diversity on global health policy.

Now more than ever, scientists need to understand the ethical, political, and religious context in which science operates in order to judge how scientific endeavors can best advance the common good, said Biology Professor Robert Dawley.  “The Center for Science and the Common Good will insure that Ursinus science majors acquire this judgment by encouraging them to make the most of the liberal education that Ursinus offers. By creating new courses and fellowship programs, and by bringing to campus prominent speakers and science writers, the Center will engage science majors more closely than ever with the humanities and social sciences on campus. For the judgment that our future scientist so urgently need can come only from a truly interdisciplinary and liberal education.”

“Our hope,” said Professor of Politics Paul Stern, “is that we can provide not only the technical education that will enable students to become accomplished researchers, but the liberal education that will equip them to be responsible leaders of science in the 21st century. What higher education offers of greatest value is not expertise in a particular field but individual growth in character and in the ability to make sound judgments.”

Upcoming seminars at the Ursinus College Center for Science and the Common Good:

Our Options Have Changed: Consumer Health Literacy in a Changing Environment

Oct. 9, 7 p.m., Lenfest Theater, Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center

Population growth, aging Baby Boomers, an expected shortage of primary care doctors and expansion of coverage under the new health care law will require innovative solutions – and more informed consumers! The paradox of the healthcare information age is that consumers have more access to more medical information than they have ever had before. The Internet has democratized access to information about health trends, medical data, and information about health resources…  but consumers still lack the basic information they need to make informed health decisions.  Plan to join in this discussion about how innovations in health care delivery, costs and payment systems have changed our experiences as health care consumers.

The Quest for the Higgs Boson, and Why It Matters

Oct. 29, 7 p.m. Lenfest Theater, Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center

Matt Strassler, Theoretical Physicist, Professor at Rutgers UniversitDr.
Strassler believes that science is one of the world’s great spectator sports, and should be a source of joy and excitement for the public — especially for kids and for kids at heart. He explains particle physics and events related to the Large Hadron Collider. He went to college at Simon’s Rock, Princeton University and got his Ph.D. at Stanford. He has worked at the Institute for Advanced Study, University of Washington and University of Pennsylvania, and has been a visiting assistant professor at Harvard.




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