What to expect when you are enrolled in the innovative curriculum

Topic areas

In the fall semester, we start from the microscopic model of matter and Newtonian mechanics, and build towards an understanding of large molecules integral to the functioning of living organisms. We move on to reveal hidden patterns of organization and energy flow that underpin life processes. In the spring, we open with the central dogma of molecular biology at the heart of all life phenomena. From there, the content of the course grows in complexity and elegance until we arrive in the world of quantum chemistry.

In ISC, you will use computers just like working scientists do today: efficiently handling massive amounts of data, finding patterns, doing difficult math on our behalf, and creating visuals to communicate results and stimulate discussion. We connect science topics with data-oriented thinking and equip you with essential programming skills in Python.

In laboratory modules, we guide you through hands-on experiments with the goal of testing hypotheses, analyzing data, and presenting your findings in written reports. For example, you will test out the possibility of deriving the Avogadro constant from measuring Brownian motion.

A week in ISC

ISC weekly schedule

Course structure

The yearlong sequence consists of two double-credit courses, ISC 231/232 in the fall and ISC 233/234 in the spring. The weekly schedule includes five lectures, one three-hour precept, and one three-hour laboratory session. In addition to informal Q&A and office hours, we also hold a regular evening session for guided problem-solving and daily tutoring hours staffed by former ISC students.

Every week, you will complete an assignment that includes collaborative projects and individual questions. You will also complete five lab reports each semester, including one for a self-designed project in the spring. Both midterm and final exams will be conducted in person. 

Academic support

ISC seeks to attract a wide range of motivated and talented students from diverse backgrounds and provide equitable support so that every enrolled student can succeed in the course. 

The sequence requires a basic math preparation involving algebra, trigonometry, and single-variable differentiation. To guide you through the program, we provide a detailed week-by-week outline of the math knowledge and skills required, coupled with a comprehensive package of self-study material for those who need it. Additionally, we offer individualized support to minimize the impact of differences in math and programming proficiency throughout the sequence.