Vision for Life Sciences at Soka University

The Life Sciences Concentration at Soka University will offer a rigorous curriculum that provides a solid foundation in the sciences, including courses that embody the latest emerging discoveries in biology and chemistry, and a student-centered pedagogy that challenges students to apply what they have learned. The BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Life Sciences will feature inquiry-based learning through student-led experiments, giving valuable research experience on topics of interest in current scientific research. The Life Science curriculum will also be integrated with Soka University’s innovative Core and General Education curriculum and will prepare well-rounded students that are more than technically proficient and scientifically knowledgeable. The curriculum will enable students to help develop scientific breakthroughs in the Life Sciences that will enhance the sustainability of our planet and promote human health, and to encourage ethical uses of technology that incorporate Soka University’s core values of peace and global citizenship.

SUA Life Science Curriculum – Distinctive Features

Our Soka University faculty and staff are developing a new Life Science Concentration that is well aligned with the mission and academic curriculum of Soka University and which is distinctive in its design and implementation. The unique opportunity to develop the Life Science curriculum “from scratch” includes the chance to incorporate the latest developments in life science and biotechnology, and to build upon the advances in teaching and learning science that have created new perspectives on how people learn. The distinctiveness will be further enhanced by the integration of interdisciplinary perspectives from social sciences, arts and humanities from complementary courses within the GE Curriculum. As the requirements for medical school also have evolved, our Life Science program will incorporate the latest and most modern perspectives of medical training, to prepare students for careers in the new era of medicine – with its greater emphasis on leadership, interpersonal skills, and the incorporation of gene therapies, large databases and advanced technologies.

The Life Science Concentration at Soka University can be described concisely as follows:

The BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Life Sciences at Soka University of America will prepare students to engage in the dynamic fields of biology, biomedical research, biotechnology, as well as providing a pathway toward careers in medicine or public health. The concentration will feature an interdisciplinary curriculum that provides a solid foundation in the sciences with courses that embody the latest discoveries in biology and chemistry, and a pedagogy that challenges students to apply what they have learned to realistic scenarios. The Life Science Concentration will feature inquiry-based courses that train students in experiment design, data collection and analysis, and presentation of experimental results. The Life Science Concentration will feature a global outlook that considers the societal and cultural implications of new advances in the Life Sciences.

The new Life Science concentration will be housed in the Soka University Life Science Building, which is now under construction and will feature a state of the art 91,370 square foot facility that will include 8 teaching labs, 10 research labs, a lecture hall and a mix of office and interaction spaces. The new science building will be staffed with a mix of faculty that will include a set of 6 newly hired science faculty, along with additional professors from a variety of disciplines to make for an exciting and interdisciplinary intellectual environment.

The curriculum has been designed by Soka University faculty and staff in consultation with some of the world’s leading experts in biology research, education and medical education through a Science Advisory Board, who have met with the Soka University faculty and shared their insights with them as they develop key elements of the new Life Science Curriculum. Below is a description of the Science Advisory Board.

Advisory Board Members and Specialties

David Oxtoby, Chemist – Former President of Pomona College, and former President of Harvard’s Board of Overseers; now based at Harvard. David is an expert on undergraduate education and is also the author of one of the most widely used Chemistry textbooks.

Andrew Endy, Bioengineering, Stanford University – Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford,  Drew is the Founder of the BIOFAB and IGEM groups, and one of the world’s leading synthetic biologists.

Elizabeth Orwin, Biomechanics, Harvey Mudd College – Biomechanics expert, and Chair of Harvey Mudd Engineering, Liz is an expert on experiential learning and linkages between Life Science and Biotechnology.

Emily Wiley, Biology, Keck Science Department – Professor of Biology at Scripps/CMC/Pitzer Colleges Keck Science Department, Emily is one of the leaders of the Keck Science curriculum development effort that has produced accelerated introductory science sequences that merge the disciplines of Physics, Biology and Chemistry.

Bob Kamei, Medical Education/Learning Science, NUS – Associate Provost, National University of Singapore, and former Professor at the Duke-NUS Medical School, Bob is one of the founders of the educational program at Duke-NUS, and developed new forms of Team Based Learning and assessment within the Duke-NUS program that is being emulated worldwide.

Martha Cyert, Stanford University – Biology Professor at Stanford University, Martha is a leader in reshaping Stanford’s undergraduate Biology curriculum and a leader of BioX, one of the most innovative interdisciplinary biology programs at Stanford.

Brian Greene, Columbia University – Physics Professor at Columbia University. Brian is a well-known author and speaker, as well as a leading physicist in string theory. Brian’s skills as an interpreter of science and the intersections between science, philosophy, music and the arts will be very powerful in shaping our vision of the Soka University Life Science curriculum.

Timeline for Life Science Planning at Soka University 2017-18

Through a series of in-depth discussions with the Science Advisory board, which included public presentations for the Soka University community, key elements of the curriculum and a strategy for hiring new faculty emerged. Below is an outline of the key events in shaping the Soka University Life Science curriculum during 2017-18.

Life Science Symposium I: December 12, 2017: Liz Orwin, Emily Wiley, Martha Cyert.

Half of the Science Advisory Board attended our first event, and a public symposium enabled them to present their perspectives on biology education and curriculum.  The meetings featured discussions of leading biology programs at the Claremont Colleges and at Stanford University.

Life Science Symposium II: January 16, 2018: Drew Endy, David Oxtoby, Bob Kamei

During this event the other half of our Science Advisory Board attended Soka University, and also presented at a public symposium their perspectives on emerging frontiers of biology, medical education and science in liberal arts colleges.

Medical and Pre-Medical Education Symposium – April 18, 2018:  Bob Kamei, M.D., Linton Yee, M.D., and Dr. Richard Lewis

Medical education experts from leading medical schools has convened with the Task Force to discuss requirements for admissions into Medical School, and other aspects of Medical Education. These discussions included discussions with Bob Kamei, M.D., (NUS, formerly Duke-NUS Medical Center and UCSF Medical School), Linton Yee (Duke Medical School Professor and Admissions Chair), and Richard Lewis (Professor of Neuroscience and pre-medical advisor at Pomona College).

Brian Greene – Dialog on Science, Creativity and Reality – Public Event for AY 2018-19 (Feb 2019).

During the Dialog on Science, Creativity and Reality, we will feature Brian Greene and other thought leaders who will examine the deeper implications of science on our perspectives of reality engage Brian Greene in a dialog on these important topics. During the event we will discuss how best to integrate Life Science Concentration faculty and courses into our existing Soka GE and Core curriculum, and to discuss the relationships between the Life Science Concentration and other Concentrations, Programs and Areas at Soka University.