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Science, Technology & Environmental Studies
Science, Technology & Environmental Studies

Why Science, Technology & Environmental Studies

Why Study STES

What kind of people are most likely to enjoy and benefit from STES?

  • They enjoy science classes. They like learning a body of knowledge, doing hands-on investigation, knowing how things work, observing nature—human, plant, and animal.
  • They like humanities classes. They like discussing ideas with others; they enjoy the challenge of creative and critical thinking.
  • They enjoy examining topics in different disciplines and making connections among those disciplines.
  • They are considering health care or science careers.
  • They are considering public policy, law and government, communications, city planning, social work, environmental policy and development, science teaching careers, etc.
  • They want to be technical writers or journalists who report on science and health.

STES majors can design their curriculum to follow their interests.

STES is also designed to combine with other majors to deepen your chosen path with cross-disciplinary expertise.

Studying STES at Butler

Butler's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers both a major and minor in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) and Environmental Studies (ENV). The intent of these programs is to give you a balanced view of science and technology and environmental studies, both from within and without. Majors and minors in STS and ENV take both traditional courses in STES disciplines and special STS and ENV courses offered by departments throughout the University. In addition, you will take part in special STES activities outside the traditional classroom. For details of our programs, visit our STS and ENV pages.

Butler is an exciting place for STES study. Faculty from a number of disciplines specialize in the study of STES issues. Butler's teaching and research programs in science and technology and environmental studies also provide valuable resources for STES students. Many faculty in Butler's professional colleges also do teaching and research in STES issues, and their professional perspective provides another valuable dimension to the understanding of science and technology. In addition, Butler's Visiting Writers Series and the J. James Woods science lecture series provide students with unparalleled opportunities to meet and interact with prominent figures in science and technology and environmental studies. Finally, as the seat of state government and a growing center of science and technology based industries, Indianapolis provides students with many opportunities for internships and other learning experiences beyond Butler's campus.

Science, Technology, and Environmental Studies is highly interdisciplinary. Our Majors enjoy taking courses about science in several different departments.

How several disciplines examine the problem of global warming:

  • Natural Sciences need to gather evidence from climate data, core samples from ice sheets, observed changes in ecological systems, animal habitats and populations in order to ascertain whether warming is occurring and whether this is the result of natural or human factors.
  • Sociologists are eager to understand how biologists and climate scientists conduct their investigations, collaborate, come to agree that human caused global warming is a fact and how this agreement resulted not only from assembling evidence but also through a social process involving tacit rules of conduct. They may enter laboratories to follow scientists through their investigation, interview participants, and trace the development of key conclusions.
  • Anthropologists share with sociologists an interest in the social nature of science. They want to determine how the wider culture impacts science, how cultural norms, values, themes affect what problems scientist study and how they study them. Concerning climate change, anthropologists would be interested in how cultural themes such as economic progress, individualism, and survival of the fittest have hindered scientific investigation and public policy mitigating climate change.
  • Philosophers study the nature of scientific knowledge and scientific reasoning. They uncover the tacit assumptions and definitions scientists use when they develop theories, causal explanations, and employ methods. In examining climate science, philosophers would examine the nature of prediction and how scientists reason through known and unknown variables to determine a likely outcome.
  • Historians want to develop a narrative of scientific developments in an area over time. They identify the initial catalyst for investigation, the key figures involved, the factors influencing knowledge growth. Historians of climate science would identify the early efforts to understand global temperature, follow the work of the key investigators who discovered a warming trend, and reveal the gradual growth of interest in the finding over time.
  • Communications specialists, linguists, and rhetoricians are interested in how language (verbal, mathematical, and visual) is used by scientists to describe, explain, and argue claims about objects, events, and processes. They want to understand how science is communicated among scientists as well as to the wider community of non-scientists. These specialists would investigate, for example, climate scientists use of language to report confirmation of warming due to human factors. Their language, appropriate for their peers, dutifully captured the indeterminate nature of predicting all events, yet it opened the door for naysayers, such as politicians, to say that the science was not solid. Writing about science or translating scientific findings for different audiences is also important area of interest to communications specialists. Science journalists often come from STES programs.

Why Medical Schools Like to Accept STES Majors

Med Schools Seek More Nonscience Students

That's the goal as medical schools seek out and admit more nonscience students. English majors welcome.

By Sarah Kliff

Sept. 10, 2007 issue—One week into his premed classes at Washington University in St. Louis, Ryan Jacobson was rethinking his plan to become a doctor. His biology and chemistry classes were large, competitive and impersonal-not how he wanted to spend the next four years. "Sitting in a chemistry class, I knew it wasn't the right place for me," he says. Jacobson found the history department, with its focus on faculty interaction and discussion, a better fit. But he had no intention of leaving his medical aspirations behind. So Jacobson majored in history while also taking the science and math courses required for medical school. When he graduated last spring, he won the departmental prize for undergraduate thesis for his work on the history of race relations in Tulsa, Okla. He started medical school at the University of Illinois last month. "Historians are supposed to integrate information with the big picture," he says, "which will hopefully be useful as a physician."

Even as breakthroughs in science and advances in technology make the practice of medicine increasingly complex, medical educators are looking beyond biology and chemistry majors in the search for more well-rounded students who can be molded into caring and analytic doctors. "More humanities students have been applying in recent years, and medical schools like them," says Gwen Garrison, assistant vice president for medical-school services and studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges. "The schools are looking for a kind of compassion and potential doctoring ability. This makes many social-science and humanities students particularly well qualified."

The number of science majors applying to medical school has been steady for the past decade-about 65 percent of applicants major in biology or another physical science. What's changing is who gets in. When Gail Morrison, who runs admissions at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, sorts through the school's 6,500 yearly applicants, she is not looking for students who spent their undergrad years hunched over biology and physics textbooks. "It doesn't make you a better doctor to know how fast a mass falls from a tree," she says. Approximately 40 percent of the students that Penn accepts to its medical school now come from nonscience backgrounds. That number has been rising steadily over the past 20 years. "They've got to be happy and have a life outside of medicine," says Morrison, "otherwise they'll get overwhelmed. We need whole people."

In 1999, a national survey of first-year medical students found that 58 percent took a social-science class for personal interest. In last year's entering class, the number was more than 70 percent. Humanities students also fare better on the MCAT, the standardized test for medical-school admissions. Among the 2006 applicants to medical school, humanities majors outscored biology majors in all categories.

Michael Sciola, who's been advising premed students at Wesleyan University for the past 13 years, has seen liberal-arts majors become more attractive to medical schools. And he's not surprised that those who stray from science are finding success. "Medical schools have really been looking for that scholar-physician in the past few years," he says. "We're living in an increasingly complex world, and the liberal arts give you the skills to understand that better."

The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York has a program designed to attract nonscience majors. Each year, Mount Sinai accepts about 30 college sophomores from around the country through its humanities and medicine program. The students do not have to take the MCAT, but they are required to pursue a humanities major as undergrads before starting at Mount Sinai. "The students who come in with a humanities background see patients more as a whole patient," says Miki Rifkin, the program's director. She says that these students often outperform their peers, with higher rates of competitive residency placements.

Andrea Schwartz, a third-year medical student in the Mount Sinai program, attended Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary and has a dual degree in history and Bible studies. "Having such a varied experience has given me the opportunity to appreciate different angles," says Schwartz, who is interested in geriatrics. "The intense text study I did as an undergrad helps me when I'm taking patients' histories. It taught me to be a better listener." That sort of training may be just what the doctor ordered.

© 2007