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Honors Program Curriculum

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The Honors Program at Clarkson University offers a unique curriculum focused on creative problem-solving at the interface between science, technology and society. Honors Program courses are designed around unresolved real-world problems, not predetermined answers. You and your Honors Program classmates from all Clarkson majors will work together to create knowledge—a true journey of discovery.

Freshman Year: Introduction to Research

Social and Ethical Implications of Research I
You will explore the role of research in society, particularly the social consequences and ethical concerns involved in new knowledge and technical innovations that have resulted from modern science.

Social and Ethical Implications of Research II
This second-semester course emphasizes student projects that develop the ability to think critically about these issues, to write persuasively and speak eloquently in order to take a position and make an effective argument on the issues involved.

Sophomore Year: The Sophomore Problem
This two semester course focuses on a real-world problem requiring teams of students engaged in multi-disciplinary collaboration. Students work with faculty consultants to address issues of  global importance, like clean water provision in rural India, or local issues, like the feasibility of a residential hospice facility in Saint Lawrence County. 

In 2013-2014, the Sophomore Problem is to team up with the Village and town of Massena to examine the various possibilities regarding the breached weir and surrounding waterfront property that will provide a blueprint for downtown Massena redevelopment.

Junior Year: Ways of Knowing

Ways of Knowing
This seminar challenges honors students to reflect on the status of science, technology and medicine in modern society before they leave the confines of Clarkson University to become professional members of these institutions. Students will learn how to make sense of the processes of scientific knowledge, technical projects and medical strategies that underpin these modern enterprises. In this class, students will explore the nature of what constitutes 'dependable knowledge' - be it in industry, in their own work, or academia. Seminar classes will be structured around historical and recent case-studeis and critical reading of seminal texts on the sociology of scientific knowledge will be targeted towards a core small-group project: a critical exploration of the 'ways of knowing' in two of Clarkson's academic departments.

Honors Thesis Proposal
You will develop a proposal for your project and choose a faculty mentor who will guide you from problem definition through the completion of your thesis during your senior year.

Senior Year: Research and Modernity

Honors Thesis
You will continue to engage in in-depth exploration of an original problem. The class meets weekly to "check-in" on each student's progress.

Recent thesis topics include: “The Identification of Protein Serum Biomarkers for Autism Spectrum Disorder;” “Feasibility of a Regenerative Braking System for a School Bus” and “Improving Resolution for Nanoparticle Size Distribution Measurements.” Many projects lead to presentations at national conferences and even publication in professional journals.
 

Honros group

In the Clarkson Honors Program, problems become catalysts for adventures in learning.

We start out discussing questions like “
How do we tell the difference between good science and bad science?” and “ What responsibility do scientists hold for how their work is used?”  In the second semester we explore ways to develop rational, evidence-based approaches to some current social problems, addressing both positive and negative effects of scientific and technological innovations on peoples’ lives. In the second year, we spend two semesters working on a real-world problem for a local client: should a hospice service provider invest in a residential facility?  Should a town attempt to repair or decommission a breached dam?   
 
In class, there is usually one correct answer. In the real world, there is rarely a single or simple solution. Problems are multi-dimensional and complex, and compromise is essential.