Course Descriptions


This SSP course will survey fundamental cell biological principles including the structure and function of biological molecules, information flow within cells (DNA transcription, mRNA processing, the genetic code, and translation), protein thermodynamics and kinetics, and cell metabolism and respiration. We will also have an opportunity to discuss cutting edge biological research techniques and therapeutics, including gene therapy, CRISPR-based DNA editing tools, and making transgenic organisms. Absolutely no prior experience in biology is necessary!This course is taught by Matt Carter, a physiologist who studies the neurobiology of hunger and sleep.

Investigative Chemistry

Using examples and case studies from Forensic Science, we will cover principles of molecular science including atomic theory, structure and bonding, and intermolecular forces, with an eye to illustrating how our knowledge of basic science informs our understanding of our everyday world. The course has an associated lab program that meets about 6 hours per week to introduce you to skills of experimental design and interpretation of data, to provide you with hands-on laboratory experience and to show you some of the cool instrumentation available to you at Williams to study molecules!  The chemistry lecture and lab course are co-taught by our interdisciplinary team of Amy Gehring (biochemist), and Sarah Goh (organic / polymer chemist).

“Tell About It”: Critical Reading and Writing Skills in an Interdisciplinary Context

The poet Mary Oliver offers these instructions for life: “Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” For the next four years, you will be asked to draw upon and deepen your foundation in critical reading and writing, regardless of your major. Building these skills and growing your confidence as a reader and writer are vital components of your overall academic experience. In this course, we’ll study poems, short stories and essays, learning how to pay attention (in our reading), how to express our curiosity and astonishment (in our seminar discussions), and how to translate our wonder to the page (in our writing and revising). Most of our readings will concern the fields of American Studies, Environmental Studies, and the natural sciences. This course is taught by Cassandra Cleghorn.


Students participating in SSP will be broken into several mathematics levels depending on their mathematical background and their performance on a diagnostic test given at the beginning of the program. Typically, the students divide into two groups: introductory calculus and intermediate calculus. Introductory calculus introduces SSP students to differentiation and simple integration, as well as reviewing some topics from pre-calculus. Intermediate calculus covers more advanced techniques and applications of single variable calculus, as well as a few topics in multivariable calculus. Once a week all the students will meet and work together on concrete applications of mathematics to questions in various sciences. This course is taught by our team of Lori Pedersen and Mihai Stoiciu.

Geosciences for Environmental Justice

Economically challenged communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by environmental contamination and disturbance. Although environmental racism caused by industrial pollution has been made clear in scholarship for some time, the integrated stresses of climate change and industrial contamination are now triggering new challenges to life in underprivileged communities. Resolving environmental injustice will require meaningful engagement from scholars across a range of disciplines. In this SSP course, you will learn about the history of the environmental justice movement while examining how science has been used to address cases of environmental contamination and mismanagement. This course is taught by José Antonio Constantine.”

More info about faculty and SSP Tutors

Check out our SSP Tutors and SSP Faculty and Staff pages.