After a century in which physical sciences and engineering have dominated public attention, many of the most challenging issues in the 21st century are likely to be related to biology: dealing with emergent diseases, feeding the increasing world population, generating energy from biological sources, creating a better environment for sustainable growth. Biology is on the verge of answering some of the most fundamental questions of our existence: How do organisms grow and develop? To what extent can and should we manipulate biology for our purposes?
This course aims to equip students with little or no biological background with basic biological concepts needed to navigate in a world where biological knowledge is becoming increasingly essential for a global citizen. In this course, students will be guided to explore the intricacy and complexity of organisms and integrate this knowledge into the world around them.
The course will begin with an examination of the chemical basis of life, then move on to systems of increasing complexity, from genes to cells to ecosystems. At all times, the course will connect students to issues of human interest, examining social, ethical and environmental issues relevant to biology in the 21st century. The central theme is to apply biological concepts to familiar experiences and to help students share the excitement of science and its importance to their daily lives.