End of Course Reflections from a Newly Enlightened Engineer
I must admit that I went into our course blithely. I was an engineer looking to fulfill his next to last humanities requirement, and as such I jumped at the title of the course. That is, the part of the course description that said Literature of Science and Technology, not the bit about genetics. I didn’t even learn that the course was to focus on biology and not technology until I heard Dr. Clayton announce the full title of the course on the first day. I looked around with a sinking feeling and realized that I was amongst English majors and Pre-Meds, not the Physics and Comp Sci majors I expected. It was a bit intimidating, given that I knew next to nothing about the ways of English in a university or anything pertaining to Biology. Thus it was with great trepidation that I decided to stay the course, thinking that at the least I would get to read a few books that would be more entertaining than Thermodynamics homework. Needless to say, my underwhelming expectations of the applicability of such a course were off base, and what have I learned from the course is much more useful to my future career than I imagined.
The art of literary analysis is a valuable one, as I have come to realize over the course of the semester. It can reveal a great many things about the way an author views the world, and it can be used to construct logical arguments in the defense of any matter that may be written about. In addition, ethics are a vital part of every decision that is made by an engineer. This course has gone over many of the considerations involved in making ethical decisions and policies with regard to research, which is invaluable to an engineer upon whom lives may depend. I first began to suspect that my perception of the course’s lack of utility in my future was unfounded when Dr. Clayton discussed why there should have been literary experts present on the congressional bioethics committee. I had never considered such a thing, and his elucidation of the topic made me realize the value of works that I had read merely for entertainment. For example, I read Brave New World almost ten years ago, before I had any idea that it could be anything other than a science fiction novel. I dissected books in my high school AP course, but never enjoyed it and never understood the import of reducing an otherwise enjoyable work of fiction into an extended allegory. Throughout the semester, the cautionary tales which our class has read, in addition to the scientific journals which we have reviewed in order to gain knowledge of our discussion material, have taught me that there is much more for an engineer in an English class than a simple degree requirement.