It is the mission of the Science Department of the Lawrenceville School to introduce students to both the beautiful simplicity and intriguing complexity of the world to foster a life-long curiosity about the world in which they live.
The Science Department will cultivate in students the understanding that scientific knowledge is characterized by empirical criteria, logical argument, and skeptical review. It will prepare all students to use an understanding of scientific concepts and processes for personal decision making, effective participation in civic affairs, and preparation for those who choose advanced study in science beyond Lawrenceville. In order to accomplish the above, students will develop an understanding of:
Important Concepts in Science: Students should understand fundamental theories and unifying concepts in the physical, life, and earth sciences which provide an explanation and view of the natural world around us.
Nature of Scientific Knowledge:Students should understandthat all scientific knowledge is provisional, subject to change and therefore often involves some degree of uncertainty. However, most core ideas in science have much experimental and observational confirmation.
Nature of Scientific Inquiry: Students should understand the procedures, techniques, and methods scientists use to pose questions, plan investigations, gather data, evaluate uncertainty, develop conclusions, and communicate results.
Argument in Science: Students should be able to analyze, evaluate and construct arguments based on scientific reasoning using criteria for what constitutes valid, sufficient, and relevant evidence in science.
Quantitative Reasoning in Science: Students should understand the mathematical and statistical methods scientists use to analyze, interpret, and evaluate data and draw conclusions.
Environmental Studies Program
Students use the campus—700 acres of fields, streams, marshes, forests, and ponds—as an outdoor laboratory for environmental studies. The program, founded in honor of the famous conservationist Aldo Leopold (Class of 1905), includes: outings—hikes and canoe trips led by two veteran experiential educators into the nearby Pinelands wilderness and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area surrounding the Appalachian Trail.
As important as asking "What do you know?" students in Inquiries in Biological and Environmental Science (IBES) at Lawrenceville ask "How do you know?" IBES explores `the complexities of the inquiry process scientists employ to generate knowledge in the fields of ecology, evolution, physiology, and genetics, with primary emphasis placed on the foundational understandings of biology. Inquiries in Biological and Environmental Sciences is a required three-term course that forms the first year of our core science program. There is no honors or advanced track. Grants: NCAA; Terms: All; Forms: All
Inquiries in Chemical and Physical Sciences (ICPS) is a laboratory science course in which students investigate the composition of matter and the physical and chemical changes it undergoes. It is the second year of our core science program and prepares students for all higher level science courses. Students study gravitational and electrostatic forces as well as the fundamental structure of atoms, the way atoms combine to form compounds, and the interactions between matter and energy. This course focuses on quantitative measurement, dimensional units, and experimental variability. Students are expected to expand their capabilities to use a range of tools for tabulation, graphical representation, visualization, and statistical analysis. Grants: NCAA; Terms: All; Forms: III Form and above; Prereqs: SC205
In nature, it's not enough to survive. A species must also reproduce to ensure passing some of its genetics to the next generation. This course uncovers the evolutionary influence on reproduction, both sexual and asexual, with emphasis on how natural selection has shaped human reproductive anatomy and physiology. Studies of comparative anatomy across species and the genetic basis of reproductive behaviors will illuminate the reproduction and survival of the human species. Grants: NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 or Department Approval
This case-based approach to learning human physiology and anatomy examines the evolutionary basis of genetic diseases and their interactions with contagious diseases. Students will develop critical thinking skills as they use differential diagnosis to collect and analyze information about simulated patients afflicted with a variety of health problems. Grants: NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 or Department Approval
This hands-on course will develop a deep understanding human anatomy and physiology. It introduces students to the structure and function of the nervous, circulatory, respiratory, reproductive, excretory, digestive, muscular and skeletal systems in the human body. Class discussions, medical research, and weekly dissection will combine to give students an understanding of the unification and coordination of the organ systems. Grants: NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 or Department Approval
This laboratory based course is designed to introduce the student to the scientific aspects of forensic investigation as well as ethical issues facing the forensic scientist. Topics include a broad range of forensic procedures such as the physical methods for analyzing fingerprints, impression investigations including casting footprints, dental impressions, tool marks and ballistics, fiber and hair comparison and analysis, blood spatter and more. Controversial cases such as JonBenet Ramsey and OJ Simpson are investigated and discussed. Students will also experience some of the analytical and instrumental methods used in investigating crimes. Grants NCAA; Term: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 or Department Approval
This course applies the principles learned in SC421. This course will also build upon the skills and introduce new forensic techniques such as chemical and DNA fingerprinting, drug ID and toxicology, crime scene reconstruction and psychological profiling. The course will culminate with the investigation of a crime scene and a final poster presentation based on a case of interest.
Grants NCAA; Term: T2; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC421 or Department Approval
The goal of this course is to provide the basic conceptual understanding of physics without requiring advanced levels of math. Topics to be covered include: basic science skills, Newton’s laws, linear motion, momentum, work, energy and waves (light and sound). Students will work to answer questions by developing models and arguments to support their conclusions. Students will learn physical principles through hands-on investigations, including dropping objects from various stories, performing collisions, using air tracks and more. Students may switch to Astronomy SC437 in the spring. Grants: NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 or Department Approval and MA301
This course will introduce students to the scope of the cosmos - stellar birth and death, galaxy formation and evolution, and the beginning, structure, and ultimate fate of the universe. Specific topics will include the big bang, stellar evolution, dark matter, cosmology, neutron stars and black holes. There may be some night classes in the observatory using the telescope. Students may take Astronomy in place of the spring term of SC533 Physics or SC431 Conceptual Physics. Grants: NCAA; Terms: T3; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC432 or SC532
This course is a comprehensive study of chemistry that will dive deeper into the introductory chemistry concepts covered in Inquiries in Chemical and Physical Sciences while also providing an opportunity to explore new and exciting topics in the world of chemistry. This course will serve as a chemistry option “instead of” the 500 level Honors Chemistry course not “in preparation for” that course. This option will provide students who have a genuine interest in chemistry a year-long experience with the subject matter while working towards successful completion of the SAT Chemistry Subject Test. A highly student driven course, the instructor will focus on both deep learning and skills as the class moves through the curriculum. Laboratory experiences will constitute an important part of this course both to reinforce laboratory skills and enhance students' understanding of the material. Topics include, but are not limited to: measurement, matter and its changes, atomic structure and bonding, the mole, stoichiometry, reactions in aqueous solutions, acids and bases, thermodynamics, equilibrium, and nuclear chemistry. Grants: NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 or Department Approval
This course is a comprehensive study of biology that will incorporate chemistry concepts covered in ICPS, further develop concepts from IBES, and provide an opportunity to explore connections and relationships in the living world. This course will serve as a biology option “instead of” the 500 level Honors Biology course, “not in preparation for” that course. Students with a genuine interest in biology can use this year-long experience with the subject to work toward successful completion of the SAT Biology Subject Test. Laboratory experiences will constitute an important part of this course, both to reinforce laboratory skills and to enhance students' understanding of the material.
Grants: NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 or Department Approval
This course is a two-term comprehensive study of environmental science that builds off the skills and concepts covered in our core science program. This course will serve as an environmental science option “instead of” the 500 level Honors Environmental Science course not “in preparation for” that course. The goal of the Environmental Science course is to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving or preventing them. Environmental science embraces a wide variety of topics from different areas of study. Yet there are several major unifying constructs, or themes, that cut across the many topics included in the study of environmental science. Laboratory experiences and fieldwork will be an important component of this course both to provide students with opportunities to test concepts and principles introduced in the classroom, explore specific problems with a depth not easily achieved otherwise, and gain an awareness of the importance of confounding variables that exist in the "real world". Topics include: how energy conversions underlie all ecological processes, why the Earth itself is one interconnected system, how humans alter natural systems, environmental problems that have a cultural and social context, and does human survival depend on developing practices that will achieve sustainable systems. Grants: NCAA Terms: T2 and T3; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 or Department Approval
What makes us human? We will explore this question from a biological perspective by tracing the appearance of our earliest ancestors to the emergence of our own species. Evolutionary theory, behavioral ecology, genetics, and functional morphology, in combination with hands-on examination of fossil replicas, are used to reconstruct how and why humans evolved. Emphasis is placed on developing a broader biological framework for the study of human adaptation and evolution, and evolved human traits that were once advantageous but have become maladaptive in modern environments. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
Human behavior is considered in a broad evolutionary context, exploring how behavior can be informed by evolutionary theory and comparative evidence. Behavior is traced from its evolutionary function as adaptation, through its physiological basis and associated psychological mechanisms, to its expression. Students will develop and conduct their own research projects on human behavior.
Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
Students will examine the structure and dynamics of local ecological systems, exploring how organisms interact with their environment. A large portion of class and lab time will be spent in campus forests, fields, farmland, and ponds, learning to identify and explain patterns in nature. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
Survey and introduction to the morphology, evolution, and classification of woody plants. We will use the native New Jersey flora as a basis for learning phylogenetic classification and clade-based characteristics.
The primary objective of this course is to gain experience in plant identification by studying phylogenetic systematics, plant taxonomy, and creating a plant collection. Major concepts include:
Recognize and understand the role of phylogenetics and evolution in the classification of plant diversity.
Use collections, literature, and taxonomic resources for documenting plant diversity.
Develop a working understanding of terminology of characters used for differentiating major plant lineages.
Appreciate New Jersey plant diversity by recognizing and identifying local flora.
Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
This second-year course in biology will grow and mature students' ability to think as a biologist. Over the yearlong course of study, students will develop an understanding of how particular themes in the study of life are expressed within different levels of structural complexity from the subcellular to the biosphere. Terms will be based on important biological themes, such as how biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, to reproduce and to maintain dynamic homeostasis. Understanding of these biological themes will be discussed and assessed in the context of authentic problems. Students will be able to apply and extend their understanding as a biologist, including the design and performance of experiments, when encountering both familiar and novel problems. If you are planning to take both Honors Chemistry and Honors Biology at Lawrenceville, we suggest that you take Honors Chemistry before Honors Biology, but it is not required. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V, and Department Approval
This is a two-term course in which students must enroll in both terms. In the first term of this course, students will learn to read and discuss primary literature in order to develop understanding of ecological principles and concepts and in order to gain exposure to some of the methodology used to conduct field research in ecology. Field and laboratory experiences will serve to teach students how to identify species, about site selection, sampling, collecting, and measurement methods. The winter term will culminate in a formal research proposal. In the second term, students will work collaboratively through the research process, including how to conduct a literature search to identify and refine a research question, develop testable hypotheses, conduct background research, and implement a rigorous field project. Grants: Honors; Terms: T2 and T3; Forms: IV or V, and Department Approval
This course is a comprehensive study of chemistry that begins with the Big Bang and nuclear chemistry and includes topics such as the structure of the atom, bonding, molecular structure, thermodynamics, oxidation-reduction reactions, electrochemistry, kinetics, equilibrium, and acid-base chemistry. Laboratory experiences will constitute an important part of this course both to reinforce laboratory skills and enhance students' understanding of the material. If you are planning to take both Honors Chemistry and Honors Biology at Lawrenceville, we suggest that you take Honors Chemistry before Honors Biology but it is not required. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
This is a two-term course where students must enroll in both the fall and winter terms. There are many ways to observe and apply the principles of chemistry, engineering, and medicine as an integrated science study. For example, hot peppers get their heat from a molecule called capsaicin and may have a use as a painkiller for those suffering from arthritis. Here at Lawrenceville, Research in Applied Chemistry students during the first term learn research methods and discuss primary literature papers and research topics. Students will break into small groups, decide on essential questions to research and will create a research proposal. The class will learn all of the applied chemistry, materials synthesis, and engineering techniques necessary to investigate their project. Topics such as nanomaterials, small molecule purification science, enzyme chemistry of chemical kinetics, and phytoremediation of toxins from the environment, will be learned. The direction of the research will determine the specific techniques taught, such as high-performance liquid and gas chromatography, materials science, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). During the second term, students will refine their research proposal and implement their experiments in the lab under the supervision of the teacher. This will culminate with a scientific paper and presentation. This course is open to Forms IV and V with departmental approval, but priority will be given to those who have already taken a 500 level course. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1 and T2; Forms: IV or V Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
What makes life possible on the cellular level? Topics covered will include macromolecule structure and function of proteins and nucleic acids. Gene structure, transcription, translation and epigenetics will be discussed. Protein structure will be explored as an example of the relationship between form and function including catalysis mechanisms in the eukaryotic cell. Cellular organization and communication will be studied through theories on evolution of the eukaryotic cell and multicellular organisms. Basic understanding of these topics will be applied toward student chosen research topics. Special emphasis will be given to problem solving and collaborative efforts.
Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
In this yearlong introductory course, students uncover the basic principles of physics through the study of motion (kinematics, dynamics, and momentum), energy, electrostatics, and waves (sound and light). Topics may also include aspects of modern physics, magnetism, circuits and optics. The development of quantitative analytical skills through mathematical problem-solving is emphasized. Students who have demonstrated strong algebra skills in Math 3 (MA301) or in Math 4 (MA404) may take Physics with permission. Students may elect to take SC437 Astronomy in place of Physics during the spring term.
Grants: NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: MA407 or as described, and Department Approval
This course is a yearlong introductory physics course for students who have previously taken calculus. This course covers largely the same topics as Honors Physics/Mechanics, SC557, but at a pace and level intermediate between Physics, SC531, and Honors Physics/Mechanics, SC557. The development of quantitative analytical skills through problem solving is emphasized; and calculus (MA504 or MA521) is a prerequisite.
Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: t1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: MA504 or MA521, and Department Approval
An intensive three-term introductory physics course covering classical mechanics (translational and rotational kinematics and dynamics, energy, statics, harmonic motion, and gravitation); relativity; elementary Lagrangian dynamics; aspects of quantum theory, modern physics, and cosmology; and possibly a limited selection of fluid dynamics, thermal physics, nuclear decay and dosimetry, optics, or other topics. The development of quantitative analytical skills through mathematical problem-solving is emphasized; proficiency with algebra, trigonometry, and calculus (MA504 or MA521) is a prerequisite. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: MA504 or MA521, and Department Approval
From the Internet to self-driving cars, engineering is revolutionizing every aspect of our lives. With many problems in modern society requiring solutions based on engineering, it is becoming increasingly important that responsible citizens understand its foundations. This course introduces students to the principles of engineering, with a focus on electrical engineering. Students will learn the basics of circuitry and coding, and then gain experience in embedded design by programming an Arduino microcontroller to solidify their learning. The Arduino will interface with sensors, simple circuits, and the real world through mini-projects, such as programming a car to follow a certain path. After completing this course, students have the option to further their studies in course SC563.
Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
This course applies the principles learned in SC562. Students will work in small groups to propose a term-long engineering project of their own design, and then spend the majority of the course working to accomplish their goals. The nature of this course focuses on group collaboration and requires self-motivation. Past projects include an EKG machine that vibrates when your pulse falls below a threshold value, an aeroponics system that adjusts its misting schedule based on the temperature in the air, a laser harp that plays different notes when a laser beam is blocked, and a tank that shoots a projectile whenever it sees a target of a certain color.
Grants: Honors NCAA; T3; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC562 and Department Approval
Students will engage in campus-based social justice research, under the mentorship of Lawrenceville faculty and faculty from the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives at University of Pennsylvania. Students will 1) identify areas of interest to students about the school community; 2) investigate those areas systematically – both quantitatively and qualitatively; 3) report research results to the wider school community and at a conference at University of Pennsylvania; and, 4) using the results of their research, develop strategies to improve student life at Lawrenceville. Grants: Honors Term: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
Sustainability seminar will use an integrated approach to explore concepts of sustainable development in association with campus-centered research / projects. Bridging the gap between readings and the complex reality of current issues, we aim to think creatively to solve real world problems that exist on the Lawrenceville campus. Students will work in teams to design, implement and manage various sustainability projects on campus. Grants: Honors; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
This course, run in conjunction with the Seung Kim Laboratory at the Stanford School of Medicine, will allow students to create transgenic lines of fruit flies. The students will then characterize their lines and use them to map enhancer spatiotemporal expression. It is a two-term course with an optional third term extension. The fall term will consist mainly of classroom work to understand advanced molecular genetic theory and lab technique, while the second term will consist mainly of lab work, in which students will work in small groups to develop their own strain of fruit fly that could potentially be used as a research tool by labs world wide. Both fall and winter terms will place a heavy emphasis on reading and presenting primary literature. The third term optional extension will allow students to continue their projects in the lab, focusing on larval dissection and fluorescent microscopy. Grants: Honors; Terms: T1 and T2; Forms: IV or V; Prerequisites: Departmental approval. Preference will go to rising fifth form students who have completed one year of a 500 level science course.
This course is the optional 3rd term extension of the Research in Molecular Genetics run in conjunction with the Seung Kim Laboratory at the Stanford University School of Medicine. It will allow students to continue their individual projects in a mainly lab-based setting. This includes fruit fly larval brain dissection and fluorescent microscopy to characterize the transgenic fly line created in SC574. To sign up of this course, the student must have taken the Research in Molecular Genetics course held in the fall and winter terms.
Grants: Honors; Terms: T3; Forms: IV or V; Prerequisites: SC574 and Departmental approval. Preference will go to rising fifth form students who have completed one year of a 500 level science course.
This course increases student knowledge of the scientific concepts and skills that can be applied to today's environmental challenges by connecting a variety of disciplines, including biology, geology, chemistry, meteorology, and physics. During the fall term, students focus on the study of the biosphere through units on population, community, and ecosystem dynamics and begin to consider how humans affect ecosystems. In the winter, students learn about Earth's physical systems, including the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and geosphere. In the spring, we connect this foundation in environmental science to the study of anthropogenic impacts on Earth's systems, culminating in an independent research project. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T1; Forms: IV or V Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
How do you learn? Why do you remember your favorite song lyrics but struggle to remember important details for your upcoming test? To help you answer these questions and more, this course will help you to develop fundamental understandings of memory, attention, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology. In the pursuit of these understandings, you will read primary literature and conduct psychological lab activities. Furthermore, you will learn to apply these ideas to personal academic life and important considerations beyond the classroom. Having discussed these topics as a class, you will then pursue an individual interest in the field of learning and memory through a significant independent research project. Grants: Honors NCAA; Terms: T2; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
Students interested in original laboratory research in science should submit a proposal and enlist the support of a science faculty member to apply for this course. Research can be completed on or off campus at a local university or in industry. Students will meet weekly with their faculty mentor and complete an advanced course load (10-12 hours/week). Final oral presentation and defense of the work to at least three science department faculty members is required. Grants: Honors; Terms: All; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC321 or SC325 and Department Approval
Pick up a newspaper. Flick on Fox or MSNBC. What do you see? Bioethical dilemmas… everywhere. Should the government quarantine health workers returning home from fighting Ebola? Should we treat infected people with experimental drugs? Should parents vaccinate their children against measles and pertussis? Is it a problem if they decide to opt-out? Then, there are those perennial favorites: Abortion. Death-with-Dignity. Human Enhancement. Even if you try to avoid the news, change your homepage to Facebook, and hide under a virtual rock… you won’t escape bioethics. All you have to do is go to Abbott for lunch. Should you eat that juicy hamburger? Or spare the cow and make a hummus sandwich, instead? What is Right? How do you know? And what should you do about it? This two-term course challenges students to blend science and ethics to develop thoughtful positions on complex issues. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary NCAA 2IN/1SC/1RP Cr.; Terms: T2 and T3; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC321 or SC325 and any 400 or 500 level Religion and Philosophy (RP) course.
Race is both a biological myth and a social reality. Human biological variation is not reducible to race, yet the idea of race continues to have a profound effect on the lives we live. This course explores race through biological, historical, psychological and social perspectives. We will examine the science of human biological variation, the construction of the idea of race, and the impact of that idea on Western society, particularly the United States. Grants: Honors; Interdisciplinary 1IN/1SC Cr.; Terms: T3; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC321 or SC325 and Department Approval
In Food Studies, we address the questions "What is the significance and value of food to humans?" and "How do we know that?" All animals need food; humans, however, have elevated this basic biological requirement to a symbol of cultural significance and value. We'll seek answers from history, biology, geography, anthropology, environmental studies, visual art, literature, technology, politics, economics, ethics, and will remain open to other fields of inquiry and discovery. Grants: Honors Interdisciplinary 1IN/1SC Cr.; Terms: T3; Forms: IV or V; Prereqs: SC325 and Department Approval
Chair of the Science Department
Colby College - B.A. University of Massachusetts - M.Ed.
Through House and Harkness, Lawrenceville challenges a diverse community of promising young people to lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose. Our mission is to inspire the best in each to seek the best for all.