Undergraduate Seminars

ESG seminars are open to all MIT students and are intended to be hands-on and experiential in nature.

ESG sponsors a number of six-unit pass/fail seminars each year on a variety of innovative subjects not covered in the regular curriculum, including topics such as psychology, cooking, social networking, ethics, and language. These seminars are open to all MIT students and are intended to be hands-on and experiential in nature.

Spring 2018 Seminars at ESG

All seminars are six units P/F credit unless noted otherwise.

ES.010: Chemistry of Sports

Instructors:  Dr. Patti Christie, Steve Lyons
Time and location: Tuesdays 3-5 pm in 24-619

This seminar is designed to look at the science of a triathlon/sports from a molecular/chemical/biological point of view. We will be able to use our own bodies to see how exercise affects the system, through observations written in a training journal. We will also improve the overall fitness of the class through maintaining a physical fitness program over the course of the term. The end of the term will have us all participate in a mini-triathlon.

Dr. Patti Christie is Department Head of Chemistry and Biology at ESG. She has been teaching at ESG since 1995 and is the designer of the long-running seminar Kitchen Chemistry. Patti is the course coordinator for both 5.111 and 5.112 and is very familiar with the Chemistry GIRs. She also helps run the MIT Masters swimming program at the Z center pool. Patti graduated from the MIT chemistry department with a Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry in 1996. She worked in a cardiovascular laboratory in the Biology Department from 1996 to 2005, where she helped develop and study a mouse with a predisposition for heart attacks.

Steve Lyons has been involved in the sport of triathlon for 18 years. He is a former member of the US National Team and a veteran of 13 Ironman races including the world championships in Kona, Hawaii. After helping out with the seminar last spring, he placed second in his age division in the Olympic Distance Los Angles triathlon, September, 2007. He is a successful lawyer in civil and criminal litigation and a partner in the Boston firm of KSL & G Assigned Readings.


ES.S10:  Many Interesting Things (MIT)

Instructors: Christian Cardozo
Time and Location: Fridays 3-5 pm in 24-619

Get “sneak peek” of some of the really interesting classes at MIT as a freshman and without the pressure of actually being in those classes. Each class will be on a different topic, ranging from machine learning to strobe photography to computer vision to relativity—and lots in between. Essentially, it will be a sampling of interesting classes at MIT (at least ones the instructor has taken and enjoyed!). No prerequisites: an early peek with no pressure.

Christian Cardozo is a master’s student who completed his undergraduate degree at MIT in 2017. His main interests are at the intersection of the visual and scientific, and to this end he has enjoyed and helped teach classes in educational video and photography. While his field of study is EECS (and formerly physics!), he has dedicated a great focus to media, communication, and one of his greatest passions: teaching. He currently TAs 6.163: Strobe Project Laboratory and teaches 18.02 in ESG.


ES.S41: Poetry Beyond the Page

Instructor: Isabel Seguin, Dave Custer
Time and Location: Tuesdays 7-9pm in 24-619

In Poetry Beyond the Page, students will read and listen to performances of a range of poetry from different eras. Readings may include works by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Eliot, Dylan, Fanny Howe, and Ginsberg. Using these performances as a starting point, students will begin to form their own style of poetry performance and will continue to develop it through informal class performances of poetry of the students’ choice as well as works that students will write with the intention of being read out loud and/or performed. The course will be directed by student interests in the latter half of the semester, and will culminate in a public performance of original student work written during the seminar.

Isabel Séguin is a sophomore from Boston. She has pursued the arts in many forms. In addition to having played the viola for fifteen years and participated in three Boston-area youth orchestras, she has sung in several choruses, pursued the visual arts, and is now interested in writing poetry and fiction. She is also interested in environmental science and environmental policy. She has worked as a Teaching Assistant in the Experimental Study Group, won the 2017 History Undergraduate Writing Prize for her paper “Honey Bees are Harmed by Horticulture” and won a Davidson Fellowship for her paper “The Cycle of Uighur Discontent.”


ES.S70: Programmable Physics: E&M with Python

Instructors:  Lotta Blumberg
Time and location: Tuesdays 3-5 pm in 24-619

his seminar is designed for freshmen who are taking or who have just taken a class in Electricity and Magnetism (8.02, 8.022, or equivalent). The participants will reinforce their understanding of E&M by writing code in Python and VPython to model and visualize physical systems. In the process the students will learn how to program in Python and use computational techniques to solve problems. The seminar is aimed at students with little or no programming experience.

Limited to 10 participants.

Lotta Blumberg is a senior at MIT studying Electrical Engineering and Physics. She has been working as teaching assistant since her sophomore year.


ES.S71: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Instructors:  Henry Lieberman, Christopher Fry
Time and location: Tuesdays 3-5 pm in 24-619

Indeed, why can’t we all just get along? Why do people fight with each other in situations where it makes absolutely no sense? Why do we still have war, poverty, and other social ills, despite the fact that no one wants these things? Are they inevitable? It is just human nature? Why do these problems remain so difficult, despite all the other advances society is making?

This “big think” course will ask fundamental questions about the nature of science, psychology, economics and politics, through the lens of understanding the tradeoff between competition and cooperation. We will study mathematical models of this tradeoff, like the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and connect with evolutionary theory. We will examine the psychology of motivation, and optimism vs. pessimism about the “human nature” debate.

The thesis is that technological change increases the value of cooperation and decreases the value of competition. This gives us an unprecedented opportunity to redesign our institutions so that they cooperate rather than compete with their constituents. The key advances of artificial intelligence and personal manufacturing (3D printers) will soon make it possible to end the material scarcity that prevents us from developing the culture of empathy, cooperation, and rationality that we need for the future. We will examine alternative designs (and welcome yours!) for the economy, government, education and justice systems.  Come save the world with us!

For more information, see http://www.whycantwe.org/

Henry Lieberman is a Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science
and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.  His interests are in the
intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Human-Computer
Interaction, to make computers smarter and more helpful to people.
Prior to that, he directed the Media Lab’s Software Agents group as
Principal Research Scientist.

Christopher Fry moved to Boston in 1973 to attend Berklee College of Music (the MIT of Jazz). Realizing his musical skills needed augmentation, he moved across the river to MIT (The Berklee of Computers). He’s worked at BBN, IBM, MIT’s Experimental Music Studio, Sloan (business) School & Media Lab and a host of start-ups. He’s written languages for music composition (Computer Improvisation and Flavors Band), general purpose computing (Macintosh Common Lisp and Water) and decision support via reasoning (Justify). His latest language and development environment is to help makers describe processes for robots to make anything.