Scientific leaders of the 21st century must not only engage in research, but also consider the impact of that research on society. In particular, they must acquire an understanding of the ethical and political context in which science operates to judge how it can contribute to the common good. Such an understanding will also enable them to explain their goals to a sometimes skeptical public. In establishing a sound relationship between science and society, it is also important to ensure that members of underrepresented groups will be among these leaders. To guarantee that all our science graduates grasp the responsibilities that come with scientific leadership, we are establishing The Center for Science and the Common Good, which will provide opportunities for all our science majors to reflect on the impact science has on society.

The center will oversee three sets of activities aimed at science majors but open to the entire community. First, the HHMI Seminar on Science and the Common Good will bring scientists, ethicists, and policy makers to campus to speak about science and society. Second, the center will sponsor two science writers to teach courses in writing about science for nonscience audiences. Third, we will develop three new interdisciplinary courses. These courses will consider the relationship among science, ethics, religion, and politics; investigate how science is conveyed in public media and teach science majors to address the general public; and explore health care delivery in the United States and developing countries. Each of these courses is open to all students, but required for fellows of the center. These activities aim to accomplish one of our intended goals; namely, to ensure that all science graduates understand the responsibilities of scientific leadership.

The center targets two groups of science majors for development as responsible leaders in science. First, it establishes a fellows program to prepare science majors for leadership positions in science and the public sphere. The activities of the center will assist the fellows in acquiring a proficiency outside of science, developing their capacity to communicate scientific issues to the public, and enhancing their leadership skills through experiential learning on- and off-campus. Combined with their scientific expertise and research experience, this training will prepare our science graduates for futures as scientists who are also public intellectuals, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and providers of scientific expertise to populations in need.

The second group of students will be served by the FUTURE (Fellowships in the Ursinus Transition to the Undergraduate Research Experience) program, which is designed to accomplish another of our goals: to ensure that minorities and other underrepresented groups are among the leaders the center will train. These science majors will be involved in research early in their academic careers to increase the likelihood that they will graduate as science majors and apply for Ph.D. and M.D. programs. FUTURE students will begin research in the summer immediately before or after their first year and continue that research until graduation. Throughout this period they will be mentored by a faculty member and an upper-class student engaged in the same project. Simultaneously, FUTURE students will be nurtured and encouraged to become fellows of the center.

A professor of psychology and a member of the steering committee, will compile data and develop assessment tools. The assessment will track participants, academic and career paths, and productivity, as well as document milestones for achieving project goals. Kathy Pusecker, director of the Office of Educational Assessment at the University of Delaware, will assist Professor Principe. She is currently the external evaluator for the University of Delaware's HHMI 2010 grant and has extensive experience in evaluation and reporting for grants with HHMI, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other agencies.

For More Information

Rebecca Kohn, Ph.D.
Ursinus College
601 Main St.
Collegeville, PA 19426-1000


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