“What is an exoplanet?” “What causes global warming?” “How does gene therapy work?” Scientific terms and topics appear all the time in contemporary news coverage, but what do they really mean, and why are they important? This course aims to clarify some of these ideas, and its main objective is to familiarize non-science majors with the most important and cutting-edge scientific issues today.

Taught by a senior scientist from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), this class will explain important scientific topics – like global warming, fossil fuels and renewable energy, Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, and evolution – clarifying key concepts and explaining how these issues affect society. The class will emphasize team-work and class participation, and students will get the chance to present on the topics most important to them. The course will also include trips to D.C.-area museums like the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History or the National Air and Space Museum.