Science and Society | Macaulay Honors College

Science and Society

Instructor: Harold Varmus
Offered by Macaulay Honors College
Wednesdays, 5:00 – 7:40 PM
Belfer Research Building at Weill Cornell Medicine

Skepticism about science in the current Administration has focused attention on the role of the scientific enterprise in human society, especially at a time when science offers defenses against climate change, disease, famine and drought, environmental loss, and other threats.   In this seminar, I aim to engage students majoring in the sciences or the humanities in lively discussions about a wide range of pertinent issues: Why and how does society support science?  How does the scientific enterprise evaluate, disseminate, and apply its discoveries?   How is science portrayed in the arts? What constitutes misconduct and inequity in science?   How is science regulated, used in the courts, and commercialized?   We approach these issues through short readings about the history and practice of science, my own experiences working in federal science agencies, current events (in an election year!), novels, movies, journal articles, and other materials.   Individual mentoring and a short independent project are part of the fun.

Dr. Harold Varmus, M.D., is the Lewis Thomas University Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine and a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for studies of the genetic basis of cancer. He was the Director of the National Cancer Institute from 2010 to 2015, after ten years as President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and six years as Director of the National Institutes of Health. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and involved in several initiatives to promote science and health in developing countries. The author of about 400 scientific papers and five books, including a recent memoir entitled The Art and Politics of Science, he was a co-chair of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, was a co-founder of the Public Library of Science, and chaired the Scientific Board of the Gates Foundation Grand Challenges in Global Health.

The syllabus and materials from earlier years are available at the course website here

Special note about LOCATION:
The course will meet on Wednesdays from 5 to 7:40 PM in the Belfer Research Building at Weill Cornell Medicine, a short walk from Hunter College (which also has laboratories in the Belfer building) and from stops on the Q and 6 trains.

Course Codes:

MHC 360