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ASIC (Arts and Science Integrated Course) 200


Dr. David Ng
Senior Instructor
Michael Smith Laboratories
Director, Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory

Office: MSL Rm. 305
Office Hours: T 10:30 – 12:30
Phone (Office): 822 6264

Dr. Allen Sens
Senior Instructor
Department of Political Science
Chair, International Relations Program

Office: Buchanan C430
Office Hours: M 2:30 – 4:30;
W 2:30 – 3:30
Phone (Office): 822 6127

Combined office hours: MSL Rm. 105 (lab room) Th. 4:30 – 5:30
Course Website:

Teaching Assistants:
Dave Semeniuk
Anne Dalzal

Other Faculty:
Dr. Joanne Fox
Instructor, Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory
Michael Smith Laboratories

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Course Description:

Human society confronts a range of challenges that are global in scope. These changes threaten planetary and local ecosystems, the stability and sustainability of human societies, and the health and well being of human individuals and communities. The natural and human worlds are now interacting at the global level to an unprecedented degree. Responding to these global issues will be the greatest challenge facing human society in the 21st century. In this course students will explore selected global issues from the perspective of both the physical and life sciences and the social sciences and humanities. The fundamental philosophy of the course is that global issues cannot be fully understood or addressed without a functional literacy in both the Sciences and the Arts. In this course, students will develop the knowledge and the practical skills required to become engaged citizens in the local, national, and international civil society dialogue on global issues.

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Learning Objectives:

This course has four core learning objectives. Students will:

– Acquire a range of analytical perspectives used in the physical and life sciences and the social sciences and humanities to investigate global issues;
– Build an appreciation for the importance of interdisciplinary knowledge, education, and dialogue in meeting global challenges;
– Actively participate in group exercises to develop team work and leadership abilities; and
– Develop the skills necessary for active engagement in global issues in local, national, and international civil society which will include some combination of proposal writing, fundraising, event planning, and final report writing.

Instructional Methods:

In this course, background and contextual material will be provided in lectures and in readings. All students will participate in two laboratory experiences which will reinforce the connection between the scientific method and policy debates on global issues. Group exercises will be conducted in class, with the aim of developing analytical, critical, and policy proposal generation skills to address practical problems created by various global issues. A major research project with a community engagement component will develop the writing, fundraising, event planning, and final report writing skills necessary for active involvement in local and global social issues. Students may complete this project individually or in groups.

Attendance at all lectures, labs, and group project sessions is mandatory.


Enrolment is restricted to second year students. There are no course prerequisites. It is not necessary to have a background in the physical or life sciences or the social sciences and humanities to take this course.

Course Format:

The course will meet in class session once a week. Thursday evenings 6pm to 9pm (doors lock at 6:20pm).

Required Texts:

Required readings will be assigned as the class progresses.

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Course Assignments, Due Dates and Evaluation:

Students are responsible for material covered in lectures, group activities, labs, and class discussions as well as in the assigned readings listed below. Course grades will be determined on the basis of the following:

a. Group Project Reports 30%
b. Lab Commentary 10%
c. Major Research Project 30%
d. Final examination (UBC scheduling) 30%

– Group discussion reports will be evaluated on the basis of their interdisciplinary content, their analysis of the issue under investigation, and the quality of their possible solutions or policy recommendations.
– The lab commentaries will evaluate the student’s understanding of the relationship between data generation and social debate on scientific issues.
– The major research project will be evaluated on the basis of attributes such as project design, quality of writing, community research, policy recommendations, fund raising, event planning, and/or outreach potential.
– The final examination will focus on the application of analytical perspectives to the global challenges addressed in lectures, lab experiences, discussion groups and in course reading material. Students will be required to demonstrate their knowledge of both the physical and life sciences and social sciences and humanities dimensions of global issues.

All assignments are due in class on the specified due date. LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE PENALIZED AT A RATE OF 3% PER DAY AND 3% PER WEEKEND. Late assignments should be handed in to one of the instructors.

Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Refer to the University’s policies on cheating and plagiarism. Punishment will include a grade of zero for the assignment and possible expulsion from the course and suspension from the university (see the UBC Calendar). During your time in this course, if you encounter medical, emotional, or personal problems that affect your attendance or academic performance, please notify your Faculty Academic Advising Office.

Students with disabilities who have registered with the Disabilities Resource Center should notify the instructors at their convenience, at least two weeks before examination dates. Although we try to be as flexible as possible, students planning to be absent for varsity athletics or family obligations (or other similar commitments) cannot assume they will be accommodated, and should discuss their commitments with the instructors before the drop date.

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Lecture Outline

Session 1: (Jan 10) Administration and Overview of Global Issues

– “Global” as a scientific, social science, and humanities concept

Session 2: (Jan 17) Climate Change

– Climate change and GMOs in Context: an Overview of Global Issues

Unit One: Climate Change

Required Reading for Unit One:

1) Browse and familiarize yourself with the IPCC website located at: and read the AR4 “Summary for Policymakers” located at:

2) Go to the UNFCCC home page at: and browse the latest news. Then click on “Essential Background” and then “Feeling the Heat” and read the all the sections listed from the Introduction through to the Kyoto Protocol.

3) Browse the Suzuki Foundation website at: and check out the feature bars on the upper left (the ones beginning with the red “solving global warming” box). Read the entries under each feature category (from “Solving global warming” to “Building a sustainable economy”) over the next five weeks.

– Climate Change and the Physical and Life Sciences

Session 3: (Jan. 24) Climate Change

– Climate Change and the Physical and Life Sciences (con’t)

Session 4: (Jan. 31) Climate Change

– Climate Change and the Social Sciences and Humanities

Session 5: (Feb. 7) Climate Change

– Climate Change and the Social Sciences and Humanities (con’t)
– Group Project Discussion (I)

Session 6: (Feb. 14) Climate Change

– Group Project Discussion (II)
– Group Project Discussion (III)

Session 7: (Feb. 28) From Climate Change to Genetically Modified Organisms

– Group Project Discussion and Summary (IV)

Unit Two: GMOs

Required Reading:


– GMOs and the Physical and Life Sciences

Session 8: (Mar. 6) GMOs

– GMOs and the Physical and Life Sciences (con’t)

Session 9: (Mar. 13) GMOs

– GMOs and the Social Sciences and Humanities

Session 10: (Mar. 20) GMOs

– GMOs and the Social Sciences and Humanities (con’t)
– Group Project Discussion (I)

Session 11: (Mar 27) GMOs

– Group Project Discussion (II)
– Group Project Discussion and Summary (III)

Session 12 (Apr. 3) GMOs

– Group Project Discussion and Summary (IV)

Session 13 (Apr. 10) Conclusions, Exam Preparation, and Course Evaluations

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The Laboratory Session (Rotated with Group Discussion Project)

For each unit, for 4 lectures, the class will be split up into three smaller groups. Each subgroup of 30 students will have the opportunity to experience one laboratory exercise (the other three sessions will be devoted to the student group project).

The two laboratory exercises will last 80 minutes each. Each student will (1) run through a focus group session using specialized software developed for municipal urban planning (Envision Tools) and (2) perform a standard DNA fingerprint assay (for a non-phenotypic Alu insertion at TPA-25 of Chromosome 8). There will be small assignment aimed at allowing the student to provide commentary on the laboratory exercises.

The Student Group Project Assignment

In this course, all students will participate in two Student Group Project exercises. These exercises will be focused around a specific problem or question which will act as the starting point for student discussion and the production of a collaborative research project. As much as possible, each group will be composed of an equal mix of Science and Arts students. From this starting point, students will:

1) Discuss the problem presented to them. Students should deliberate on the nature of the problem, the various aspects of the problem, and identify the tools and physical and life science and social sciences and humanities knowledge needed to understand the problem and respond to it. Students will generate possible options for responding to the problem.
2) Design a practical project proposal designed to respond to the problem. The proposal should include a one page introduction to the problem, a two page description of the project and what contribution it will make to addressing the problem, a one page statement of project requirements, a proposed budget, and a fundraising plan identifying possible donors and community partners.

The Major Research Project

The major research project will provide students with the opportunity to compose a project that links a global issue with a local or regional manifestation of that issue. The project will describe the global issue under investigation, analyze the possible local or regional impact of this issue, evaluate the implications for local or regional governments, institutions, and civil society actors, and develop a program proposal to address or respond to this issue and its effects. This assignment is to be based largely around written content of approximately 10 double spaced pages in length. The project must also include some form of audio or visual media in order to develop a link between the content of the research project and the graphic or creative arts aspects of public engagement, outreach, and visibility/awareness. Examples include publicity or promotional materials such as posters or advertisements, web-based elements, creative writing, graphic art, sculpture, podcasts, video, etc. Students will also be required to develop a community engagement strategy in their projects and identify potential individuals or organizations in the community that would be relevant to their project. Students must develop their projects in consultation with the instructors. The objective of this assignment is to introduce students to the role of community engagement and activism in addressing social problems, provide an opportunity to explore the relationship between global issues and local issues, engage relevant actors in the local or regional community, and enable students to explore the relationship between global and local issues and the graphic and creative arts.

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