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Tuesdays / Thursday

Course description and expectations

Wonder about where things, the universe, the solar system, the Earth, Life, humans, consciousness, moral, society and language, technology, and disease come from? This first year seminar course is run by faculty experts from CU and elsewhere who will present ideas in these areas together with discussions of the ideas their presentations provoke. Our goal is to help you become a more disciplined thinker.

We will be considering different ways of understanding (and coping) with the world, together with their limitations.  At the same time, we will introduce you to how the University works so you can best navigate this educational system.

origins-roz chast

There is no required text: Readings & videos appear as links within the syllabus (below), but we expect you to read or watch them before class.

Requirements and Grading (in revision)
30% Journal (~300 word responses to each guest’s presentation)
30% Final project (8-10 pages or video)
20% In class presentation (maybe - we will see)
20% Class participation

Seminar Rules:
• please - no cell phone use in class - or web browsing
• 3 or more unexplained absences will lower final grade significantly
• if you know you need to miss class, talk with Prof. K. before
• late arrival or early exit will effect your participation grade.


11AM-12:15PM in
Porter Bioscience B121

About the organizing instructor

Michael Klymkowsky, Ph.D.

Mike Klymkowsky is a Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado-Boulder. His research interests include biology education, course & curriculum design, and teacher preparation, in addition to "traditional" molecular and cell biology using the clawed frog Xenopus and organiods. | Klymkowsky Research Group

About the course assistants

Luke Nordgren:

Luke is a second year student Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major, with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. His interest includes biology, chemistry, and veterinary studies, with a research interest in geography. 

Dante Salas (ex officio)

Dante Salas is a second year Math major with a minor in Biochemistry. He has a wide ranging interesting that include physics, chemistry, and biology. He is also serving as a Learning Assistant for Calculus 3.

education matters

Meeting day

topic / presenter what to do before class
Tuesday, 28 Aug.

Introduction to the course + How do we understand the world and ourselves - Prof. Klymkowsky - Molecular Biology

Thursday, 30 Aug. Questions to consider: what are people assuming, what is knowable (scientifically) and what is not, what is real (true) and what is wishful thinking?

Tuesday, 4 Sept. The origin of the universe - Prof. Duncan - Astronomy
video: The Accelerating Universe (90 minutes)
Thursday, 6 Sept.  
Questions to consider

Tuesday, 11 Sept. The oldest terrestrial minerals and what they tell us about the origins of habitats - Prof. Mojzsis - Geology
Thursday, 13 Sept.  

Tuesday, 18 Sept. Differences in Methodology between Historical and Experimental Science - Prof. Cleland - Philosophy
Thursday, 20 Sept.  

Tuesday, 25 Sept. Staying scientific when studying life’s origin(s) - Prof. Klymkowsky - Molecular Biology
Thursday, 27 Sept.
Questions to consider

Tuesday, 2 Oct. The origin of the Little Ice Age - Prof. Miller - INSTAAR

optional reading: Little Ice Age on Wikipedia.
watch video: here

Thursday, 4 Oct.  

Tuesday, 9 Oct. Origins of life on Mars? - Prof. Hynek - LASP + Geology
Thursday, 11 Oct.
Questions to consider

Tuesday, 16 Oct. Ancient Maya Commoner Life - Prof. Sheets  - Anthropology link
Thursday, 18 Oct.
Questions to consider

Tuesday, 23 Oct. Origins of affiliation and monogamy - Prof. Donaldson - NeuroScience + MCDB
Thursday, 25 Oct.
Questions to consider

Tuesday, 30 Oct. Origins of major animal groups - Prof. Medeiros  - EBIO
Thursday, 1 Nov.  

Tuesday, 6 Nov. The origin of (political) ideas - Prof. Ferguson - Political Science
reading: :
Thursday, 8 Nov.
Questions to consider

Tuesday, 13 Nov. The origin(s) of cancer - Prof. DeGregori - UC School of Medicine
Thursday, 15 Nov.

Questions to consider



Tuesday, 27 Nov. Origins of the Bible - Prof. Boyd - Religious Studies
Thursday, 29 Nov.
Questions to consider

Tuesday, 4 Dec. The origins of political collapse - Prof. Nakassis - Classics
Thursday, 6 Dec.
reading: Collapse, resilience, and transformation in 21st century archeology and
watch: Jared Diamond TED talk (18 minutes)

Tuesday, 11 Dec. Origins of Human Life: Lessons from 40 years of IVF  - Prof. Van Blerkom - MCDB
Thursday, 13 Dec.  
Questions to consider