Introductory Science Experiments is designed to achieve three main objectives: (1) to encourage a change in consciousness from studies up to high school to learning at a university; (2) to leave students well-acquainted with experiments—and thus with the natural world—through the process of thinking logically about complex natural phenomena and developing the ability to extract the most essential features of a problem; and (3) to equip students with the ability to describe nature scientifically (that is, logically) in writing. An additional goal is to motivate students to tackle new topics, new projects, and new initiatives enthusiastically. After all, a hallmark of modern society is the constant pursuit—at breakneck speed—of new phenomena, new forms of medical care, new pharmaceuticals, new products, new crops, new agricultural techniques, and more.
These goals motivate the choice of topics addressed by this course, which we organize into five broad themes. Three of these —life, Earth and the environment, and energy—are central societal challenges of the 21st century. A fourth —materials— corresponds to the study of material science, a field in which Tohoku University has traditionally been strong and can boast numerous accomplishments. Finally, we chose to add the study of science and culture, which shows that methods borrowed from the natural sciences can also be effective for explaining societal phenomena. As illustrated in the figures below, each of the experimental projects in this course addresses a single theme from the perspective of multiple fields of research; we have prepared the course to facilitate students acquiring a multi-dimensional understanding of the topics we cover. The experiments in this course thus combine elements from traditional courses in physics, chemistry, biology, and Earth science. In addition, to cultivate skills for communicating newly acquired knowledge to others, we guide students through the preparation of scientific reports.
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