CSC 121: Computers and Scientific Thinking
Spring 2011

Section A: 1:30-2:45 MW
Section B: 9:30-10:45 TuTh
411 Old Gymnasium
Dr. David Reed
203D Hitchcock      x2583

Text: A Balanced Introduction to Computer Science, 3rd Edition, David Reed, Prentice Hall, 2011.

Course Description

This course introduces students to science and scientific reasoning from a perspective that integrates computer science and the natural sciences. Students will gain a basic understanding of computer technology (its organization, history, societal impact, etc.) and how computers are used in various scientific disciplines. In particular, the use of the scientific method and the importance of computer modeling in scientific inquiry will be studied. Students will learn to develop simple Web-based programs for analyzing data and modeling systems, and use those programs in conducting hands-on experiments. Applications in biology, chemistry, and physics will provide insights into how these disciplines approach problems and utilize computers and computer modeling as tools.

The specific goals of this course are:

Required Work

Class periods will consist of two types of activity. For discussion days, students will be assigned readings and must answer review questions via email before the discussion day. Attendance and participation in class discussions of the assigned material is expected of all students. Practical experience in developing Web-based programs and using them to conduct experiments will be obtained through chapter exercises. Students will be assigned exercises and will work on the computer with the assistance of the instructor.

Interspersed throughout the course will be 4-5 lab assignments, which involve using computers as tools to solve problems from the sciences. In addition to some programming, lab assignments generally involve the observation of natural systems or simulations, data collection and analysis, and a written summary of your findings.

In addition, there will be two 75-minute tests and a cumulative 100-minute final exam.

chapter exercises 20 %
lab assignments 15 %
review questions/discussions 10 %
two 75-minute tests 30 %
100-minute final exam 25 %

The final course grade will be based on the above weightings. At the minimum, the following cutoffs will apply: A (90-100%), B+ (86-89%), B (80-85%), C+ (76-79%), C (70-75%), D (60-70%), and F (0-59%). Some shifting of grades (in an upward direction only) may occur as final letter grades are assigned.

Regular attendance is expected of all students. If a student must miss class for a legitimate reason, it is their responsibility to make up missed work. Assignments and tests will not be rescheduled except in extreme circumstances. Unexcused absences will directly impact the student's grade on discussion days (resulting in a 0 for the missed day), and it is expected that excessive absences will leave the student unprepared for tests and assignments. If a class must be cancelled by the instructor for some reason, notification will be sent to students via email.

Policy on Collaboration

Creighton's policy on cheating and plagiarism is spelled out in the the Student Handbook, with college procedures available online at In addition, the following guidelines hold for this course.

Violations of the above collaboration will be dealt with severely, with possible outcomes including failure in the course.

Section A: Dynamic Schedule

Section B: Dynamic Schedule

In the event of disruption of normal classroom activities due to a flu outbreak or other emergency, the format for this course may be modified to enable completion of the course. In that event, you will be provided an addendum to this syllabus that will supersede this version.