Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Liberal Nano Education

Research push needs a liberal arts bedrock (Chris Toumey, The State -- South Carolina)

    Good research universities still offer a solid liberal arts education, but the liberal arts ethos never will recapture the prominence it once had. Those days are gone for good.

    Still, there are ways to make the best of this. Many scientists are shockingly unaware of the societal implications of their work. The laws that shape the Human Genome Project and the National Nanotechnology Initiative recognize this problem by requiring research on the ethical, legal and societal implications of genomics and nanotech.

    This is an invitation for the liberal arts faculty to turn their attention and their wonderful gifts to these problems. Indeed, Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine Studies, as this is called, is an exciting interdisciplinary liberal arts field with good faculty, important research questions and access to federal research funds. Some universities have taken advantage of this by institutionalizing such programs.

    I see this because I am on a USC team that uses liberal arts perspectives to study societal implications of nanotechnology. My home discipline is cultural anthropology, and my colleagues come from art, English, philosophy, history, communications and other liberal arts fields.

    Because of our work, USC is recognized as the leading school for research on societal implications of nanotech. We honor the liberal arts teaching ethos by including nine undergraduate Nano Scholars in our team, and this spring we will offer the Nano Semester, a package of six liberal arts courses on nanotech.

    Nanotechnology is exciting; the liberal arts are invaluable. Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine Studies projects, such as our work on nanotech, represent a way for the liberal arts to secure a future at the heart of a research university. When a university recognizes this, the tension between scientific research and the liberal arts is transformed from pain to creativity. More here

NanoBot Backgrounder
Welcome, Rice University students
Nano Carolina
Nanoscience writers as lab rats

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