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ISR Course Sequence & Descriptions

Interdisciplinary Science I

Through a unique interdisciplinary curriculum, students explore the scientific connections between physical, chemical, and biological systems. Project-based themes weave together the study of energy, change over time, structure/function, sustainability, global health, and the nature of the universe. Students develop an understanding of the fundamental concepts essential to scientific inquiry. Each primary lesson incorporates classroom work, laboratory exercises, and associated enrichment activities. Throughout the course, students will connect the history of scientific discovery with current, ongoing research.

Interdisciplinary Science II

Students further their research skills taught in Interdisciplinary Science I for formulating scientific inquiry. In this accelerated, multidisciplinary course, students investigate research questions under four major themes during each nine-week period. Students learn the scientific concepts required for understanding of the research projects to be completed next in Research I. Sample course units include Water Quality, Infectious Diseases, and Forensic Science. Students learn how to ask testable questions to fuel their research in Research I. Individual research questions are explored through readings, discussions, and presentations by scientists. The team-taught curriculum consists of core lessons which explain current knowledge and theories applicable to their physical, chemical, and biological bases, advanced laboratories emphasizing team building, peer teaching of current events and virtual international student roundtable discussions. 

Research I

This introductory Research I course is based on Interdisciplinary Science II content with emphasis on hands-on use of research tools across disciplines. Students are introduced to all aspects of research with particular emphasis on experimental design, statistics, ethics, writing and communication. Methodologies for observation, data collection, and analysis are explored in greater depth with a focus on cross-discipline application. Students form teams to investigate a question of interest for each 9-week project, integrating learned research tools and techniques. Project questions are developed by the teams with faculty advisement. Teams present the results of their projects in a seminar format at the conclusion of each project unit.

Interdisciplinary Science III

In the third course in the interdisciplinary science sequence, students learn complex scientific concepts through the study of extended projects and research-based units. Possible units of study include cancer biology and environmental science. The course material is integrated with faculty discussions, group projects, site visits to laboratories, and field research.

Research II

Students extend the knowledge that began in IS-III, working through student-driven research projects. This research will contribute to the overall understanding of important scientific questions. Students work through all aspects of the scientific method to design, test and verify their results. They present their findings in a community forum through oral and poster presentations. The course builds on critical thinking and communication skills from IS-I-II and emphasizes real-world science applications.

Research III

This research course for highly motivated, rising 12th grade students begins with an intensive six-week summer internship with a Vanderbilt faculty mentor in which students complete individual research projects. During this internship, students work full-time in a laboratory to perform all aspects of research, maintain a research journal, and participate in breakout sessions led by a team of Vanderbilt faculty, post-doctoral researchers, and graduate students. The purpose of these breakout sessions is to complement the student's lab experience by developing skill sets for scientific communication and comprehension and to expose students to the scientific research community, scientific careers, and university studies. All students communicate their research findings in an end-of-summer poster session, and are also encouraged to compete in national science competitions and submit manuscripts for journal publication.

Interdisciplinary Science IV

In the last class in the pathway, students continue and complete their research projects and communicate outcomes. Students prepare and enter their projects in one or more national science competitions (Intel Science Talent, Siemens/Westinghouse, etc.). Many write manuscripts to submit to an in-house research journal and/or national publication. A focus in this course is refining oral and written communication skills, developing equal fluency with both audiences: the scientific community and the public. Students conclude the course by designing and carrying out service learning projects.