ASIC (Arts and Science Integrated Course) 200

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.

Dr. David Ng
Senior Instructor
Michael Smith Laboratories
Director, Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory
Office: MSL Rm. 305
Office Hours: T 1:30 – 2:30
Phone (Office): 822 6264

Dr. Allen Sens
Senior Instructor
Department of Political Science
Chair, International Relations Program
Office: Buchanan C430
Office Hours: M 1:30 – 2:30;
F 12:30 – 2:00
Phone (Office): 822 6127

Combined office hours: MSL Rm. 305 Th. 4:30 – 5:30
Course Website: link
Other Instructors: Dr. Joanne Fox
Teaching Assistants: Anne Dalziel (Zoology), David Semeniuk (Earth and Ocean Sciences)

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 may include some examination 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 a laboratory experience 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 public communication component will develop a variety of skills necessary for active involvement in local and global social issues.

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 for 3 hours.

Required Texts:

Required readings will be assigned as the class progresses.

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 Problem Based Learning (PBL) Report (due March 5th) 30%
b. Lab Commentaries (due Feb 12th|April 9th) 10%
c. Individual FAQ Project (due April 2nd) 30%
d. Final Examination (UBC scheduling) 30%

• The Group Project PBL report will be evaluated on the basis of interdisciplinary content, analysis of the issue under investigation, and the quality of proposed 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 FAQ project will be evaluated on the basis of attributes such as breadth of content, quality of writing, clarity, community research, 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.

Lecture Outline

Session 1: (Jan 8 ) Administration and Overview of Global Issues

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

Unit One: Climate Change

Initial Reading for Unit One:
(On going readings will be assigned as class progresses. Lecture notes will also be made available as pdfs – see

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.

Session 2: (Jan 15) Climate Change

• Climate Change and the Physical and Life Sciences

Session 3: (Jan. 22) Climate Change

• Climate Change and the Physical and Life Sciences (con’t)
• Climate Change and the Social Sciences and Humanities

Session 4: (Jan. 29) Climate Change

• Climate Change and the Social Sciences and Humanities (con’t)

Session 5: (Feb. 5) Social Science Lab

Session 6: (Feb. 12) PBL Group Project Discussion (I) (Lab Reflection Due)


Session 7: (Feb. 26) PBL Group Project Discussion (II)

Unit Two: GMOs

Initial Reading for Unit Two:
(On going readings will be assigned as class progresses. Lecture notes will also be made available as pdfs – see

“A Monk’s Flourishing Garden: The Basics of Molecular Biology Explained” The Science Creative Quarterly. (
“Breakfast of Champions does Replication” The Science Creative Quarterly. (

Session 8: (Mar. 5) GMOs (Group PBL Project Due)

• GMOs and the Physical and Life Sciences

Session 9: (Mar. 12) GMOs

• GMOs and the Physical and Life Sciences (con’t)
• GMOs and the Social Sciences and Humanities

Session 10: (Mar. 19) GMOs

• GMOs and the Social Sciences and Humanities (con’t)

Session 11: (Mar. 26) LAB

• Lab Group I (6:00 – 7:30)
• Lab Group II (7:30 – 9:00)

Session 12: (Apr. 2) LAB (Individual Research Project Due)

• Lab Group III (6:00 – 7:30)

Course Ends

(Apr 9) Lab Reflection Due via e-mail.

The Laboratory Sessions

The Climate Change unit laboratory exercise will be a social lab exercise. The entire class will run through a focus group session using specialized software developed for municipal urban planning (Envision Tools). These professional tools are used by various levels of government to future project their infrastructure choices and their resultant effect on sustainability issues. This session will encompass one entire 3 hour lecture.

The GMO laboratory exercise will last approximately 80 minutes. Each student will perform a standard DNA fingerprint assay (for a non-phenotypic Alu insertion at TPA-25 of Chromosome 8 – this procedure is commonly used for a variety of outreach programs in North America, and provides excellent context for discussions on the relationship between data generation and debate over policy). The lab will be conducted under a pre-implantation genetics type scenario, as bridged by a previous discussion of stem cell work.

The Student Group Project Assignment

In this course, all students will participate in a Group Problem Based Learning Project. This project will be focused around a specific problem or question that 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.

FAQ Project.

The FAQ project will provide students with an opportunity to compose a “Frequently Asked Questions” document on a global issue of their choice. This FAQ will describe the global issue under investigation; and where possible, analyze the local or regional impact of this issue, evaluate the implications for local or regional governments, institutions, and mention the appropriate civil society actors. Students will also be required to identify potential individuals or organizations in the community that would be relevant to their project. This assignment will predominantly focus around written content of approximately 10 double spaced pages in length, and is expected to be written for a layman readership, delivered in a manner where engagement is just as important as the content.

The FAQ must also include some form of audio or visual media in order to develop a link between the content of the FAQ and the graphic or creative arts aspects of public engagement, outreach, and visibility/awareness. Examples include web-based elements, creative writing, graphic art, podcasts, video, etc (anything amenable to online display).

It is hoped that outstanding FAQs produced will be published on the Terry website (

As the Terry Project website currently attracts a large readership, the objective of this assignment is to allow students an opportunity to produce a document with educational relevancy. Here, we hope that readers, via the FAQs, may become more informed about various global issues, the role of community engagement and activism in addressing social problems, and enable students to explore the relationship between global and local issues and the graphic and/or creative arts.

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