School of Natural Science

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Science at Hampshire

Cole Science Center

In our view the natural sciences form a set of theories, methods, and data for understanding the world in which we live. For students therefore, science is not just information to learn; it is a process and way of thinking.

Events today present scientists with wide range of new challenges – from climate change, vanishing species, and dwindling water supplies to anthrax, malnutrition, and black holes. These demand new approaches at the interfaces of the sciences, for instance between physics and biology or human health and the environment. Right from the first semester, Hampshire’s School of Natural Science engages students deeply in the sciences and in interdisciplinary problem solving.

Division I

We design our first year courses so students will be responsible citizens who make informed decisions and also to prepare them for advanced science graduate programs beyond the bachelor degree. Thus all of our 100-level courses help students achieve a high level of scientific literacy. Most of these courses focus on a research topic of particular interest to the professor. In these classes students are expected to:

  1. Engage in scientific inquiry and own their questions
  2. Gain a clear sense of the scientific process
  3. See investigations in broader contexts
  4. Develop abilities to use quantitative information
  5. Develop oral and written communication skills

Division II

Students spend the second and third years in Division II which is analogous to “major” at a more traditional school. Based on virtually any scientific interest, students choose two faculty members who help them shape and expand what their course of study will be. Many students include internships, studies abroad, research, and other independent work. Thus, students set goals in Division II, but faculty set standards and provide advice and guidance. To see science faculty interest areas go to the NS Faculty Bios page and the Faculty Research page.

Beyond the foundational skills and core studies on which all scientific work is based, the School of Natural Science provides depth, focus and unusually rich learning and research opportunities for interdisciplinary study in two topical areas: environmental sciences/agriculture studies and health sciences. However, students can major in almost any branch of science (astronomy, bioengineering, etc.).

Division III

In the fourth year students complete a Division III thesis and take relevant courses. Division III students do research with NS faculty and with scientists nationally and internationally. Division III projects are substantial investigations that often result in publications or presentations at scientific meetings. (Look in the “Grant Activity” section here for examples.) Most Natural Science students go to graduate school, medical school, or other advanced programs and the diverse and rich Division III experience is excellent preparation for this.

Teaching Methods

The School of Natural Science faculty believe that students need to be actively engaged in finding knowledge, not just passively receiving it. Thus, we design our introductory courses so that students do their own research projects in the lab, field, or in the library. We are pioneers in Student-Active Science.

Some teachers use the case-based approach in which teams of students are given a case (such as a medical case) to solve, where they must figure out what information is needed, make tentative diagnoses, and get the background and knowledge to come to an answer.

Other classes involve students in designing and carrying out their own research projects–for example, testing water in local brooks for pollution, on seeing what chair design causes more tension in neck muscles. These research-based courses also have students working in teams.

At upper levels, students gain deeper skills and knowledge. In Division II students design their own majors, which can be interdisciplinary. In Division III, each student chooses and carries out a major research project.

Resource Guides for Natural Science Students

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