Professor of Biology Emily Wiley with student.

Impact Stories

CMC’s Scientific Method

Professor of Biology Emily Wiley shares CMC’s plan for teaching the integrated sciences

Emily Wiley, associate dean of the faculty and professor of biology, shares the latest on the evolution of CMC’s science plan.

As you continue to help the College develop and refine its approach to science, what is getting you the most excited?

The most compelling and important problems of today, from policy to business to technology, are deeply complex and best solved by highly collaborative, multidisciplinary teams. In that light, I am most excited by our vision to help science students develop a collaborative mindset and interdisciplinary abilities. They’ll acquire the flexible, adaptable thinking needed to bring deeper scientific knowledge to bear on a wide range of different problems, for instance, climate change, disease, and social innovations. They’ll more easily access different approaches, views, and skillsets, and better understand the potential impacts of their discoveries and innovations.

Data Science, CMC’s newest major, is also a big commitment. The capabilities that a grounding in computation and data science will bring to each of our majors from government, to economics, to the sciences—how it will enable them to leverage powerful new technologies and “big data” approaches—make it possible to answer previously inaccessible questions in entirely new ways. I am very excited about the potential for integrating science and data science with other fields of study that all students can access through interdisciplinary coursework or learning communities built around work on substantive issues.

What are some of the key components to science teaching, learning, and process that are integral to CMC and the liberal arts?

Most fundamentally, science is a way of questioning and learning about the natural, physical world. It’s a systematic, rigorous process for testing ideas—which is something we would like all of our students to have a sense of how to do.

In a society profoundly influenced by science and technology, understanding the rigorous process for how we make new discoveries about the natural world, and to innovate using this knowledge, is critical. Research experience will be a central pillar of the CMC science curriculum. Through science general education or major courses, all CMC students will learn how to break complex questions down to a set of good, smaller questions to be probed by well-designed experiments. They’ll also learn how to collect relevant information, analyze it, and perhaps most important, evaluate the strength of that information with an eye to identifying biases and confounding factors.

“I am most excited by our vision to help science students develop a collaborative mindset and interdisciplinary abilities.”