New classes and labs rolling out this year will give UBC Science students the opportunity to tackle climate change with community partners, transition into first-year as part of a data science cohort program, explore non-animal testing methods, and more.
New lab tackles climate emergency
In 2019, UBC declared a climate emergency—but what does this mean for our students? In response to the declaration, faculty and staff from UBC Science and Arts went to work developing the now approved Certificate in Climate Studies and Action, and a series of Climate Action Labs (ENVR 201-402) that address pressing climate issues.
This fall, the certificate program and courses are open for registration to students in any degree.
“The students will go through a series of workshops in the beginning of the class to prepare them for the work that they’ll be doing,” says Dr. Tara Ivanochko, a professor with UBC Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences and academic director of UBC’s Sustainability Hub. “In the second half of the class, they’ll develop proposals to address the challenge that a community partner has given them. Some of the proposals will be selected to move on to the climate capstone course that follows.”
With the interdisciplinary nature of the courses—combining students from different degree backgrounds and years and community partners from outside the university—students will work together to put what they learn into action. That includes areas of climate science, decolonizing climate action, community engagement, and other topics that may be posed by capstone projects. In this way, students are learning how real-world climate action works by collaborating with people of different backgrounds to solve tangible problems.
A new way to help first-year students transition into university
First-Year Focus–Computation, a hybrid program offering online and in-person learning launched in 2021, is geared towards helping students transition into university. Students take courses together in a standard timetable, providing them with a community of classmates, mentors and instructors focused around a central theme: computation. The computation and data science theme was chosen because students in those fields typically report a lower sense of belonging and community.
The First-Year Focus Seminar (SCIE 100) is a new addition to the program. It provides students with a new way to meet in-person—it’s the only in-person class on the standard timetable—and spend time with upper year undergraduate students who mentor them through different academic, problem-solving, and information literacy skills.
The seminar course alternates between lectures and tutorials, so that there is ample time for students to interact with each other and with their peer mentors. The goal is that the course is interactive and engaging rather than having a professor standing in front of the class. As for the lectures, faculty are working on developing activities for students to work on in groups, so that they stay actively involved in the class.
UBC’s first undergraduate data visualization course
"Data visualization unites the strengths of computational processing with the powers of human perception, where visual representations of datasets are created in order to help people understand and act on them," says Dr. Tamara Munzner, professor in the Department of Computer Science. "Today's students have to analyze and interpret data all the time, for their studies and in the jobs they will take on after graduation."
To help students take advantage of growing industry demand for data visualization skills, UBC is now offering its first undergraduate option in the field—Introduction to Visualization (CPSC 447). The subject was previously only available in the Master of Data Science program.
Better alternatives to animal testing
With the advancement of health research and technology, scientists are now able to implement research methods that don’t require animal testing.
While there are many discussions on why scientists should move towards non-animal methods in research, UBC’s new Non-Animal Methods in Biomedical Science (ISCI 434) course shows students how to replace animals in biological science, and introduces them to experts in the field.