Science and Technology
Any great university must provide all of its students with a complete and well-rounded education, including at least a basic understanding of science and technological development. Science uses empirical investigation to pursue many of the deepest questions pondered by scholars throughout history. Engineering uses empirical knowledge to design and develop technology: products, processes, machines, and structures to solve the major challenges that face society. Together, science and technology are essential in the positive advancement and evolution of the human condition.
The teaching of science and technology is therefore a critical component in the preparation of our students for their lives after Notre Dame. We expect that many of our graduates will become leaders of tomorrow’s society. They must be prepared to intelligently discuss the impact of existing science and technology, as well as the potential ramifications (positive and negative) of future scientific and technological advances. Our graduates will be consumers of scientific information and the fruits of technology throughout their lives. They will be bombarded with studies, statistics, health warnings and fantastic claims (some true, some not) and it will be their responsibility to sort these out. This requires information and training of the kind offered by a science and technology curriculum.
In addition to developing a sense of scientific and technological literacy, students should learn the distinctive thought process that has characterized science and engineering throughout history. All areas of science and engineering share the common goal of building bodies of knowledge based on observation, experiment, and evidence, and developing predictive theories that encapsulate this knowledge. Furthermore, both science and engineering are dynamic fields. Current scientific theories are open to scrutiny, and scientific knowledge is continually refined and changed as new evidence comes to light. Likewise, engineers continually recognize new challenges and must improve existing technologies or develop new ones to meet changing demands with the goal of increasing the standard of living of all humanity.
Courses in science and technology must emphasize not only our current understanding but also how that understanding has evolved over time as ideas were tested, developed, and refined into a base for further conceptual advancements. Courses in the science and technology curriculum should thus teach our students how to look at evidence with a critical eye, and how to use this evidence to compare and contrast different theories and conclusions. They should encourage all of our students to become questioning, critical thinkers by teaching them the inquisitive, creative, and analytical thought processes with which scientists and engineers view the world.
It is expected that, by taking any course that fulfills the university science and technology requirement, Notre Dame students will:
- Gain knowledge of the fundamental concepts and laws in the relevant fields of study.
- Develop a basic understanding of scientific methods and/or engineering design processes, including an appreciation for the interplay between theory, modeling, and experiment, and how an advance in each drives the others.
- Attain an appreciation for how mathematical structures help to describe the natural world and to model the behavior of engineering systems, including learning to analyze and interpret sets of quantitative data.
- Learn how to evaluate scientific or engineering claims by asking critical questions and then using the methods of scientific and engineering inquiry and valid evidence to answer these questions.
- Acquire a sense of historical and societal context, including an appreciation of how our current scientific understanding and technologies fit in with past developments and future aspirations, and an exploration of the relationship of science and technology to society.