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 2022 Seminars

Social Science Core Equivalent Seminars
  • Exploring Memory
    Instructor: Professor Sarah Farmer
    Enroll in: Humanities H80
    Why does it matter that we have a past? How do we remember? Questions about human memory are central to scholarly inquiry across the humanities, sciences and social sciences. This class explores questions historians, writers, psychologists, sociologists, legal experts, and neuroscientists ask in their efforts to understand the role of memory in defining our experience as humans. Students will learn about the range of approaches, sources, and methods developed by those who study memory. For example, we will consider ways we remember the past as individuals and as members of groups. Both writers of autobiography and scientists who study the biological bases of memory think of memory as the property of individuals. On the other hand, historians and sociologists often approach memory as a social phenomenon—something elaborated in groups (such as the family, the state, clubs, religious communities). You will write regular short assignments in preparation for in-class discussion of common readings as well as participate in devising a group presentation to the class. The focus of this class is lively in-person discussion. We will have occasional guest lectures from distinguished UCI faculty who study the workings of memory.
    Credit: GE Category IV, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core
  • 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.
  • Race Sport Media
    Instructor: Professor Victoria Johnson
    Enroll in: Film & Media Studies H80
    This course examines the intersection of race, sports, and media in everyday U.S. popular culture (film, TV, advertising, social media, gaming) and political culture. We will analyze historic and contemporary debates at this intersection, with particular focus on African American representation and U.S. ideology regarding race, gender and sexuality, nation, celebrity and capital in the “mass” and streaming media eras. Attention to current debates (e.g., the “politics” of sports celebrity and activism; the concept of “colorblindness” and the “post-racial” in sports; the semiotics of race in sports’ commodification and marketing; raced and gendered discourses in sports and “fitness activism”; and broader debates regarding race, gender, self-expression, sexuality, and violence in sports will be contextualized and studied through scholarly theories of race and media representation and analyses that encourage us to think about U.S. media as sites of struggle over what constitutes citizenship, local and national identity, and what it has meant to “be American” in post-World War II U.S. culture. That is, we will investigate the ways in which debates or controversies at the intersection of “race/sport/media” have most often been struggles over what it means to be a “representative” American citizen. Required coursework includes weekly readings, screenings and discussions with short assigned essays (applying concepts from the readings to screenings) and a longer research paper or research “playlist” option and final presentation.
    Credit: GE Category IV and VII, 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 2023 Seminars

  • Honors Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics
    Instructor: Professor Jeffrey Barrett
    Enroll in: Logic and Philosophy of Science H141
    Together with special relativity, quantum mechanics makes the most accurate empirical predictions we have had from a physical theory. In this seminar, we start by considering how the standard formulation of quantum mechanics explains the counterintuitive phenomena we find when we look closely at the physical world. This will involve gaining a careful understanding of basic notions like superposition and quantum entanglement. We will then consider the tension between relativity and quantum mechanics and the internal problems of quantum mechanics. In brief, on even the most charitable reading, the standard formulation of quantum mechanics is empirically incomplete, and on a strict uncharitable reading, it is logically inconsistent. This is known as the quantum measurement problem. The seminar is small in order to allow for informal discussion. There are typically two shorter midterm exams and a final. High school algebra is a sufficient math background.
    Credit: No GE credit, may substitute for one quarter of Science Core
  • 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 Time?
    Instructor: Professor Jim Weatherall
    Enroll in: LPS H125
    What is time? We will explore this question through engagement with a broad spectrum of fields, including physics, philosophy, fiction, and film. The course will be organized around two ways of parsing the question. The first is: how is time represented in our physical theories, from Newton to Einstein? The second is: what is our subjective experience of time and how does it relate to narrative and memory? To gain a satisfying understanding of time, one needs to reckon with both of these questions. But from the standpoint of contemporary physics, there is an important tension between them. It feels to us as though time flows, sometimes quickly and sometimes more slowly; we believe that we can affect the future but not the past, and conversely, that we can remember the past but not the future; and we have a conception of a common “now” shared among the people we interact with. Yet it is difficult to find a basis for any of these features of our experience in physics. Our goal will be to understand the relationship between these two ways of understanding the question and to try to reconcile them.
    Credit: GE Category III credit, may substitute for one quarter of Social 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 2023 Seminars

  • Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law
    Instructor: Professor Kyle Stanford
    Enroll in: LPS H95
    In this course we will investigate and evaluate both philosophical theories of jurisprudence and the U.S. Supreme Court’s actual record of important decisions on a range of controversial constitutional questions. We will first look at a number of influential accounts of what law is and how it differs from other social institutions, paying particular attention to the implications of such accounts for the question of how courts should actually apply laws in deciding controversial cases. We will then go on to look at some of the U. S. Supreme Court’s most influential recent decisions in a variety of contested areas of constitutional law, such as privacy, abortion, and the regulation of sexual conduct by the state, segregation, racist hate speech, and affirmative action. Throughout the course we will be asking whether our philosophical theories offer a convincing picture of actual law and legal decisionmaking and whether particular decisions by the Court can be defended in light of what we ultimately take the best available conception of law and legal decisionmaking to be.
    Credit: GE Category III, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core
  • The Properties of Property
    Instructor: Professor Lee Cabatingan
    Enroll in: CRM/LAW H80
    This course takes a deep dive into the concept of property with a goal to denaturalize and critique the private property regime that structures much of the world in which we live. It asks: how have we come to own what we think we own? What ideas undergird the legitimacy of this ownership? Whose ideas are these? In which institutions are these ideas supported? And are there alternatives to private property? To address these questions and more, the course draws from historical, legal, and anthropological sources, amongst others, and features several guest speakers to establish a sociohistorical understanding of how private property came to be, a legal understanding of the cases and laws that have helped to regiment these ideas of ownership, and a cultural understanding of different forms of ownership and alternative ways of relating to objects and land. Through these readings, as well as discussions and guest lectures, the class formulates arguments for and against private property and entertains the possibility that the world could be organized differently. As a case study, the course covers the ongoing, but beleaguered, presence of communally owned land in the Caribbean and elsewhere. As a class, we consider whether this is a viable, desirable, or advisable model within the hegemonic reign of private property.
    Credit: GE Category III, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core
  • 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
  • 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

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