Stockholm Study Abroad: Scientific Breakthroughs and Nobel Laureates

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Undergraduate study abroad experiences and immersive international programs serve as rich learning opportunities and substantive creative endeavors. This is particularly true for honors students. This paper describes an honors course that was developed around the idea of the scientific method, targeted at exploring scientific breakthroughs and Nobel laureates, and conducted at the site where the majority of Nobel Prizes are awarded: the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. For the "Stockholm Study Abroad" course at The Pennsylvania State University, honors students were asked to examine elements of the scientific method as the underlying framework of research studies, discuss traditional and nontraditional research techniques used in science, elaborate and/or clarify selected scientific breakthroughs, pinpoint where creativity exists within scientists' accomplishments of selected breakthroughs, develop questions for Karolinska Institute scientists who are searching for breakthroughs, and explore The Nobel Museum for details of previous Nobel Prize recipients' careers in science. In addition to the rich academic experiences in which the students participated, this article discusses some of the practical elements involved in the planning of this course, including assistance with arranging lecturers and lecture halls, field trips, lodging, and partial university funding for student expenses. Also discussed are selected logistical topics such as the importance of obtaining agreements from guest lecturers at least six to nine months in advance and facilitating student discussion with international peers and equivalent-level students.

STOCKHOLM STUDY ABROAD: SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGHS & NOBEL LAUREATES

What does it mean to be an undergraduate honors scholar? What is the nature of honors scholarship? Evidence for answering these questions can be readily found in undergraduates' international honors experiences and honors studies abroad.

The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) values diversity in all of its forms. International study represents an educational environment enriched by the diversity of individuals, groups, and cultures that come together in a spirit of learning. To build an appreciation of the importance of understanding, respecting, and expanding diversity, Penn State is committed to providing access to--and fostering students' participation in--international programs, including those designed specifically for honors students.

International study offers multiple opportunities for students to expand their thinking. In so doing, international study forces students to think differently and at a higher level of synthesis. International study inspires students to think above and beyond traditional course boundaries of learning. The nature of international honors experiences serves as a clear reflection of honors scholarship.

This paper describes the development of a course that focused on exploring scientific breakthroughs and Nobel laureates in Stockholm, Sweden. In conjunction with the notion of honors study, a conceptual model that incorporates the scientific method formed the foundation for this and the preceding semester- long course.

WHAT ACTUALLY IS MEANT BY HONORS STUDY?

At the undergraduate level, honors study consists of academic pursuits that are more penetrating and research-oriented than traditional undergraduate coursework. Pursuing honors study involves more than simply studying a subject in greater depth and/or breadth; it involves greater abstraction, a higher level of complexity and organization (Werner, 1957), and guidance by a mentor or series of mentors in the form of honors advisors or instructors.

Discovery, integration, application, and teaching are four functional areas included in the Boyer (1997) model of scholarship. All four areas interact dynamically and, in so doing, form an interdependent whole. …