I think all great innovations are built on rejections.

-Louise Nevelson



Honors 115:


Art of

Scientific Discovery




Journeys of Discovery

Fall 2008


There is no harm in doubt and skepticism,

for it is through these that new

 discoveries are made.

–Richard Feynman

Instructor:   Dr. Elba Serrano

Ph. D.   Stanford University

Professor of Biology

Affiliate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering.


Research Interests:

Neuroscience, Biophysics, Nanoscience

Office                  Foster 459

Office hours:    Mon 11:00 am- 12:00 pm

   Tuesday 2:00-3:00 pm

   and by appointment

Telephone:         646-5217

Email:                  serrano AT nmsu DOT edu







IMPORTANT DATES  Portfolio due:   Oct 14   Dec 12

Course Description: art (ärt) n. Skill acquired by experience, study, or observation; the conscious use of skill and creative imagination. "The Art of Scientific Discovery" will explore how the creative process is manifested in science. We will draw on the lives and achievements of scientists to reveal scientific inquiry in action and to examine the roles of inspiration, tenacity, opportunity, adversity, and chance in scientific discovery.

Class sessions emphasize student discussion and use exploratory assignments as a format for promoting conversations that develop critical thinking ability.  Participation in this course will encourage the student to ask questions about the scientific process, to identify themes of personal interest in contemporary science, and to develop confidence in her/his oral communication skills.


Required TextbooksNone.  We will use publicly available internet educational material:




Earning your grade:


In class participation: (450 pts) Based on your completion of assignments for class and contribution to class discussion.


Portfolio assignment: (450 pts) Students will be asked to prepare a portfolio comprised of the class assignments and several short essays and class notes.  Details of the portfolio entries will be posted on the course web page..

              Portfolio due dates:  Oct 14 and  Dec 12


Final Exam (100 points). Take home assignment.

XEROX and/or BACKUP all assignments before submitting them to the instructor.

SAVE xeroxes of all graded assignments and exams from this course at least until you have received your final grade.

Grade Scale (1000 pts):

        A 90-100 %

        B 80-89 %

        C 70-79 %

        D 60-69 %

        F < 60 %

        S (Satisfactory) requires a B-

        Note: The grade scale may be curved at the end of the semester at the discretion of the instructor.

Late assignments. 10% of the total points will be deducted for each week the assignment is late. Assignments will not be accepted if handed in more than 2 weeks after the due date.

Attendance: Discussion and class preparation are essential components of this class, therefore, students are expected to attend all classes except for a documented university business, medical emergency etc.  Documentation must be submitted if you are absent and it is best to inform the instructor in advance if possible if you will need to miss class.    50 points will be deducted from your overall points for each unexcused absence.

S/U Option: Students must meet all requirements of the course.  A grade of B- is required to receive an S in an Honors course.

Withdrawals: It is your responsibility to withdraw from the course. The instructor will not automatically drop you from the course for failure to attend class or to complete exams or assignments.

Incompletes, academic misconduct and make-up work:  Incompletes will be given only if a student has passed the first half of the course (assignments through October 16) and is precluded from completing the course by a documented illness or family crisis.  Make-ups of assignments for excused absences must be discussed with the instructor within one week of the due date of the assignment. There are no provisions for extra credit work.  Academic misconduct, shall be subject to disciplinary action. 

Important dates:


    Oct 14            Portfolio  1                                            200 pts

    Dec 12           Portfolio  2                                            250 pts

    TBA               Final exam (Take home)                        100 pts




EMAIL: Official communication to you will often come through your NMSU e-mail box.  Please access it regularly, or forward it to your current use address, as your success in college may ride on your ability to respond quickly.


GUIDELINES FOR CLASS DISCUSSION: During the semester, many opinions will be voiced in the class. You may strongly disagree with some of these, or you may find them amusing. Outbursts can be misinterpreted or counterproductive to meaningful and thoughtful debate. Therefore, it is important that you exercise self-discipline and self-control, and treat all members of the class with the courtesy that you are entitled to receive in turn. The key words are: respect and courtesy. Please turn off cell phones and beepers while in class.       Thank you!


SYLLABUS MODIFICATION: The instructor reserves the right to modify this syllabus during the semester as considered necessary to enhance the quality of the instruction, to meet the needs of students in the class and to achieve course objectives. Any changes to the syllabus [or to the course schedule] will be announced in class and you are responsible for being aware of them.


STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES:   Additional information is available at

  • If you have or believe you have a disability and would benefit from any accommodations, you may wish to self-identify by contacting the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Office located at Corbett Center (phone: 646-6840).
  • If you have already registered, please make sure that your instructor receives a copy of the accommodation memorandum from SSD within the first two weeks of classes.  It is your responsibility to inform either your instructor or SSD representative in a timely manner if services/accommodations provided are not meeting your needs.
  • If you have a condition which may affect your ability to exit safely from the premises in an emergency or which may cause an emergency during class, you are encouraged to discuss any concerns with the instructor and/or the SSD Coordinator.

EQUITY:  Feel free to call Jerry Nevarez, Director of Institutional Equity, at 505-646-3635 with any questions you may have about NMSU's Non-Discrimination Policy and complaints of discrimination, including sexual harassment.

ADA:    Feel free to call Michael Armendariz, Coordinator of  Services for Students with Disabilities, at 505-646-6840 with any questions you may have on student issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  All medical information will be treated confidentially.

HONORS COMPUTER CLUSTER is available for your use

HONORS DIRECTOR:  The Honors Director is Dr. William Eamon.  His office is in the Honors building.

PLAGIARISM:  Students found guilty of plagiarism have engaged in academic misconduct and shall be subject to disciplinary action. Academic misconduct, shall be subject to disciplinary action. The penalty for plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct (as defined in the Student Code of Conduct) is failure of the course: no exceptions. The current University definition of plagiarism can be found at     It reads as follows:


Plagiarism is using another person’s work without acknowledgment, making it appear to be one’s own.  Any ideas, words, pictures, or other intellectual content taken from another source must be acknowledged in a citation that gives credit to the source. This is irrespective of the origin of the material, including the Internet, other students’ work, unpublished materials, or oral sources.  Intentional and unintentional instances of plagiarism are considered instances of academic misconduct. It is the responsibility of the student submitting the work in question to know, understand, and comply with this policy.If no citation is given, then borrowing any of the following * would be an example of plagiarism.:

    • An idea or opinion, even when put into one’s own words (paraphrase)
    • A few well-said words, if these are a unique insight
    • Many words, even if one changes most of them
    • Materials assembled by others, for instance quotes or a bibliography
    • An argument
    • A pattern or idea
    • Graphs, pictures, or other illustrations
    • Facts
    • All or part of an existing paper or other resource

* This list is not meant to include all possible examples of plagiarism.


Even with a citation, failure to put quotation marks around direct quotations also constitutes plagiarism, because it implies that the writing is your own.   Material should either be paraphrased or clearly designated as a quotation.   Note that replacing words with synonyms, changing verb tense or other minor alterations do not qualify as paraphrasing.









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