Honors Seminars

Campuswide Honors offers specially designed seminars on a variety of topics each quarter taught by top UCI faculty.  These courses are open to all rising sophomores, juniors, seniors, and Honors to Honors transfer students in Campuswide Honors on a first come, first served basis. The seminars are worth 4 units each.  Campuswide Honors students may take as many of these seminars as they wish, and can even use one of them to substitute for one quarter of an honors core course as designated by Campuswide Honors.
Only one substitution total permitted per student.
Sustainable Societies Track is not eligible for honors seminar substitutions.

More course information:

Fall 2023 Seminars

Social Science Core Equivalent Seminar
  • Ethics, Technology and Design
    Instructor: Professor Katie Salen Tekinbas
    Enroll in: Informatics H81
    This course explores social and cultural issues arising from the design of digital technology. Today a handful of people and a handful of technology companies shape how a billion people think, feel, work, and play everyday with the choices they make about the design and engineering of their products. What does an ethics of humane, ethical, and inclusive design look like in the connected age? What principles of human-centered design can ensure that technology works for society, including vulnerable populations and those most in need? This seminar seeks to provide students with a critical framework for understanding how and why biases of many kinds are built into the digital tools we use daily and what we can do about it. No previous knowledge of ethics or design is required. This seminar is primarily student-led and organized around a set of thematic modules including biased geographies, big data and privacy, predictive policing, the algorithmic rights of children, and foundations in ethics, technology and design.
    Credit: GE Category III, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core.
Science Core Equivalent Seminars
  • What is Space
    Instructor: Professor JB Manchak
    Enroll in: Logic & Philosophy of Science H81
    What is Space? In this course, we explore this question from a variety of angles: historical, philosophical, scientific, and personal. We begin with the logical paradoxes of Zeno and the queer properties of infinity. We consider a philosophical debate between Newton and Leibniz concerning the question of whether space is “absolute” or “relational” is nature. We then look at Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the senses in which concepts such as “space” and “time” do not exist. We learn about a new four-dimensional object called “spacetime” and some bizarre possibilities associated with it such as “time travel” and “singularities” of various types. We then explore what we can and cannot know concerning the shape of space (the universe). We close with a section on the Zen Budhhist conception of “inner space” and work to cultivate it by meditating together during each class period.
    Credit: GE Category II, may substitute for one quarter of Science Core
  • Drugs and Society
    Instructor: Professor Sam Schriner
    Enroll in: Pharmaceutical Sciences H80
    The majority of individuals in modern society will use drugs at some point. Most drugs have legitimate medical uses, while some are used recreationally, and drugs from both groups can be abused. This course will introduce some basic physiology, including the brain reward circuit, needed to appreciate drug action. However, it will mostly focus on recreational drugs and where they come from, how they work, how and why people abuse them, the costs of drug abuse on society, which drugs are commonly abused, and how drug abuse can be prevented or treated. Overall, the course will consider the importance of recreational drugs in relation to medicine, public health, science, law, politics, humanities, philosophy, religious beliefs, economics, sports, and innovation. While this course is intended for non-science majors, it would be helpful that students have had biology and chemistry in high school. Grading in the course is composed of three midterms and one final. These may be multiple choice, short answer, and/or essay format. In addition, each student will give two oral presentations on drug-related topics of their choice. Finally, the class will work together to create, administer, and analyze a drug use survey given to the UCI community.
    Credit: GE Category II, may substitute for one quarter of Science Core

Tentative Winter 2024 Seminars

Social Science Core OR Science Core Equivalent Seminar
  • The Philosophy and Biology of Sex
    Instructor: Professor Cailin O’Connor
    Enroll in: LPS H91
    This seminar discusses how cultural beliefs about gender, especially, but also about race and sexual orientation, impact the biological sciences related to sex. We begin by discussing philosophical and sociological work on gender, race, and sexuality. This work reveals how these concepts are typically culturally developed, and specific to different cultures. We then delve into the biological sciences including work on the origins of biological sex, anisogamy, dynamics of sexual selection, the evolution of sexual behavior in humans, sex differences, sexual orientation in humans and more. In doing so, we explore how our cultural notions have shaped research in these areas. We find that cultural beliefs impact a range of study choices from which subjects to include, to what topics to investigate, to how to interpret evidence. Along the way we develop a much deeper and more sophisticated picture of how science works. Course assignments include weekly reflections, a short midterm paper analyzing how gender works in popular media, and a final paper looking at a recent scientific work to understand how culturally specific beliefs have shaped it.
    Credit: GE Category II or III, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core OR Science Core
  • What is Disease?
    Instructor: Professor Lauren Ross
    Enroll in: LPS H123
    This course explores philosophical issues regarding human health and disease. It examines theories of how to identify, classify, and explain disease, with a focus on examples from physical medicine and psychiatry. A brief examination of different theories of disease is provided, from the Hippocratic corpus, to 18th and 19th century medicine, and modern times. After this review, the course focuses on various questions related to modern medicine. These include: What is disease and how is it understood and explained in modern medicine? How should we understand appeals to causal concepts such as “mechanism” and “pathway” in contemporary disease explanations? How should disease diagnosis, classification, explanation, and discovery be understood? What challenges face these practices in modern medicine? Are diseases socially constructed concepts or objective things in the world?The goal of this class is to provide students with a critical understanding of these theoretical issues. Previous knowledge of biology, neuroscience, and/or medicine is not needed. Key notions and concepts in these fields will be introduced and explored throughout the course.
    Credit: GE Category II, may substitute for one quarter of Science Core

Tentative Spring 2024 Seminars

Social Science Core Equivalent Seminar
  • Improvisation and Modes of Research and Creative Expression
    Instructor: Professor Alan Terricciano
    Enroll in: Arts H81
    The goal of this course is to recognize, build and apply a set of cognitive skills collectively categorized under the umbrella of “improvisation.” Improvisation utilizes a complex of powerful, formal cognitive tools applicable toward many fields. The course begins by examining improvisatory practices within the arts and extrapolates a set of tools embedded in artistic improvisation – temporal awareness and engagement in time; real-time design; pattern recognition and pattern repetition; and the ability to identify, explore, and illuminate connections between disparate phenomena. Through readings, guest lectures by UCI faculty and visiting artists (when possible), in-class student-centered learning, and project design/presentation, this course sets out to demonstrate how the “tool set” applies across the disciplines, from creative writing to the analysis of large-scale data sets to the application of the scientific method.
    Credit: GE Category IV credit, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core
Science Core Equivalent Seminars
  • It Wasn’t Just Bombs: Science and Technology of World War II
    Instructor: Professor Virginia Trimble
    Enroll in: Physics H80
    Some professional historians have suggested that essentially all advances in technology, engineering, and science came more or less directly out of warfare, from better spears then used for hunting dinner, through better compounds for explosives that morphed into fertilizers and pesticides, to better rockets re-aimed from dropping bombs to enable trips to the Moon and beyond. The Second World War certainly yielded its share in medicine (bulk use of penicillin), astronomy (seeing the universe at wavelengths to which our eyes are blind), nuclear energy sources (from bombs to reactors), meteorology (from “will it rain on D-Day?” to “will it rain on my birthday?”), computational technologies (from ENIAC to your pocket gizmos and laptops), radar (from “is that a small submarine or a large whale we just fired at?” to mapping of earthquake faults), and many other examples. The intention is that participants in the seminar will get quick looks at many of these things (some from books; some from the professor) and then, individually or in small groups, learn more about one or two, write up their findings, and present them to the whole seminar, with a final write-up due at the time of the scheduled final exam. But there will be no such final, or mid-term.
    Credit: GE Category II credit, may substitute for one quarter of Science Core

2022-2023 Honors Seminar Archive
2021-2022 Honors Seminar Archive
2020-2021 Honors Seminar Archive
2019-2020 Honors Seminar Archive
2018-2019 Honors Seminar Archive
2017-2018 Honors Seminar Archive
2016-2017 Honors Seminar Archive
2015-2016 Honors Seminar Archive