Caltech Freshman Seminar Program
The goal of the Freshman Seminar is to increase the exposure of
incoming students to Caltech faculty in a non-lecture setting. Faculty
will explore an in-depth and exciting topic in the lab, around a table,
in the field, or anywhere else appropriate. The Freshman Seminar will
provide a means of immediately channeling studentsí excitement and
curiosity while also building a relationship with a faculty member and
acquiring an experience that is unique to Caltech.
Comments about the seminars from past participants:
This class was a pleasure to go to every week.
Very energetic and exciting professor who intrigues students with his
obvious enthusiasm in the course materials.
Excellent course, it has really opened my eyes to a field that I thought
I would never consider majoring in.
I can honestly say that this course made me excited about Caltech.
It's the class I rave about to my parents and to my friends at home when
I talk about how much I love it here.
For the academic year 2013-14 we are offering the following seminars:
FS/Ph 4. Freshman Seminar: Gravitational Waves. 6 units (2-0-4);
first term. This course is an introduction to the
physics of gravitational waves in General Relativity and
beyond, gravitational wave detectors, and astrophysical
sources of gravitational waves, including neutron stars,
black holes, and the Big Bang. Instructor:
FS/Ph 9. Freshman Seminar: The Science of Music.
6 units (2-0-4); first term. This course will focus
on the physics of sound,
how musical instruments make it, and how we hear, including readings, discussions, demonstrations, and
student observations using sound analysis software.
In parallel we will consider what differentiates music from
other sounds, and its role physically and culturally. Students will do a
final project of their choice and design, with
possibilities including a book review, analysis of
recordings of actual musical instruments, or instrument
construction and analysis.
Freshmen only; limited enrollment. Instructor: Politzer.
FS/Ph/Bi 13. Freshman Seminar: In Search of Memory.
6 units (2-0-4); first term. An exploration of brain
function based on weekly readings in an autobiographical
account by a Nobel Prize winning neurobiologist. No
lectures. Each week there will be reading from
chapters of the book plus relevant research papers,
discussing trail-blazing neuroscience experiments.
Pine. Instructor's webpage:
FS/Ph 14. Freshman Seminar: Albatrosses, Beetles and
Cetaceans. 6 units (2-0-4); first term. A
quantitative study of some examples of physics applied to
macrobiota, including flight (the range of the albatross),
surface tension and walking on water (the world of insects),
and acoustics (how whales communicate). In addition to
learning the art of physical estimation, scaling, and the
value of dimensionless numbers, this course offers the
opportunity to appreciate who to apply otherwise abstract
physics to everyday experience. In addition to problem sets,
each student will be expected to research a specific example
and present findings to the rest of the class. Freshmen
only; limited enrollment. Instructor:
Stevenson. Instructor's webpage:
FS/Ge 16. Freshman Seminar: Earthquakes.
6 units (2-0-4); first term. Earthquakes and
volcanic eruptions constitute some of the world's major
natural hazards. What is the science behind prediction
and/or rapid response to these events? We will review
the current understanding of the science, the efforts that
have been made in earthquake and volcano forecasting, and
real-time response to these events. We will learn
about advances in earthquake preparation in Southern
California, and volcanic eruption forecasting and hazard
mitigation elsewhere. There is a required field trip
to visit faults and volcanos somewhere in southern
California. Freshmen only;
limited enrollment. Instructor: Stock.
FS 2. Freshman Seminar: The Origins of Ideas. 6 units
(2-0-4); second term. Why do we have 60 minutes in an hour?
Why do we use a fork or chopsticks when we eat? Why do
we have music? Why do we have sports? The goal
of the class is to learn how to enjoy ignorance, be curious
and try and discover the origin and the evolutionary
processes that led to the ideas and artifacts that are a
part of our life. The class is collaborative and
interactive: You will teach as much as you will learn - you
will learn as much as you will teach. Most
importantly, you will realize the fun in discovery and the
joy of human interaction. Freshmen only;
limited enrollment. Instructor: Bruck.
FS/Ph 11abc. Freshman Seminar: Research Tutorial.
6 units (2-0-4); second and third terms of freshman year and
first term of sophomore year. A small number of students
will be offered the opportunity to enroll in this tutorial, the
purpose of which is to demonstrate how research ideas rise, and
are evaluated and tested, and how those ideas that survive are
developed. This is accomplished by doing individual,
original projects. There will be weekly group meetings and
individual tutorial meetings with the instructor. Support
for summer research at Caltech between the freshman and
sophomore years will be automatic for those students making
satisfactory progress. Graded pass/fail. Instructor:
FS 17. Freshman Seminar: The Theory and
Practice of Moneyball.
6 units (2-0-4); second term. Ken Lewis's Moneyball
(2003) attributes the remarkable success of the low-budget
Oakland A's in competing against teams with much larger
payrolls to their ability to exploit market failure.
The purpose of this course is to evaluate the central claims
of the Moneyball thesis. Students will read Moneyball,
many of the classic essays published by Bill James in the
Baseball Abstract, and some of the classic works in decision
theory. The course will necessarily focus on the way
baseball executives evaluate both highly quantitative and
highly subjective information. Freshmen only; limited
Kiewiet and Claire.
Freshman will indicate their interest in a Freshman
Seminar on their Selection Form and return it to the Registrarís Office.
Students will be sent their fall schedule of classes in July and
notified if they were placed in a seminar class.