Skip to content Skip to navigation

2021-22 Curriculum Development

Ethical Tech: Addressing Racism and Bias through Performance-Based Engagement

Course Lead: Aileen Robinson (Theater and Performance Studies) 

What role do science and technology play in the creation of a just society? How do we confront and redress the impact of race within the history, theory, and practice of these disciplines?  These important questions are essential for students to grapple with as they seek to become scholars, researchers, professionals, and more.  The proposed project is a creative engagement with the study of race in science, technology, and society that seeks to develop sophisticated and nuanced ethical participants in these disciplines.  Building from Paul Edwards’ year-long undergraduate course “Race in Science, Technology, and Medicine,” this project undertakes research into performance-based methods for addressing racism and exclusion in the STEM fields as the basis for a recurring undergraduate course, STS 51, beginning in 2021. 

The project will include working alongside BIPOC performers and STEM innovators as we develop workshops, curricula, and assignments that assist participants in developing strategies for identifying and addressing racism, bias, and exclusion.  Essential to this course would be an ethics of engagement that builds trust among all members of the class, especially those traditionally underserved BIPOC students.  Undergraduates, graduates, and affiliated faculty will be involved in the development of the course from the beginning.  

Nucleating Ethical Materials Research in All Facets of Academia, Industry, and Society

Course Lead: Andrew Mannix (Material Science and Engineering) 

Materials are the foundation for all technology, and the impact of materials production spans the communities which produce raw materials (e.g., mining or chemical synthesis), to those that house manufacturing plants, to the user, to the disposal of goods, and to subsequent recycling efforts. Often, industrial production and disposal exert a disproportionate negative impact upon disadvantaged communities. Understanding these impacts is critical for the next generation of scientists, engineers, and leaders in academia, government, and industry. These concepts dovetail with research ethics and responsibility taught in general Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) coursework.

With this seed grant, we will produce a RCR graduate-level course which incorporates DEI topics, as well as social and environmental justice. We intend to produce live lectures and online interactive exercises that convey the unique role that materials play in every facet of society, and the profound impact that materials production, refining, processing, utilization, and disposal have on communities. We will also discuss best practices for empowering underrepresented communities in the sciences, building on the core RCR mission. When complete, this course will become part of the core curriculum for MATSCI PhD and MS students.

Peering into Darkness

Course Leads: Janani Balasubramanian (Institute for Diversity in the Arts); Afra Ashraf (Astrophysics)

“We were peering into this darkness, crisscrossed with voices, when the change took place: the only real, great change I've ever happened to witness, and compared to it the rest is nothing."   -Italo Calvino

'Peering into Darkness' is an interdisciplinary art/curricular project that provokes new ways of seeing and researching across art, astrophysics, and social justice/critical theory. In summer 2020, we piloted our interdisciplinary curriculum through Stanford's STEM to SHTEM program, an interdisciplinary research experience for high schoolers across the country. We are currently incubating our work as an undergraduate seminar through the program in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. We will use seed grant support to develop a meaningful prototype of our work that can live adaptively across contemporary art, science, high school, and undergraduate education contexts.

Incorporating Quantitative Neuroethics from a Technology Perspective into "Materials Meet the Mind"

Course Lead: Guosong Hong (Materials Science & Engineering)

In this project, I aim to modify my current course “MATSCI 384: Materials Meet the Mind” by incorporating quantitative neuroethics from a technological perspective. Modern neurotechnologies are enabled by advances in materials science and engineering. The rapid development of neurotechnologies is placing an increasing ethical impact on society, due to their decreasing invasiveness, reduced size and weight, expanding throughput and bandwidth, and increasing accessibility and affordability. My proposed curricular innovation will provide a unique means to transform the learning experience at the intersection of ethics, science, technology, and society. 

Specifically, I plan to revise the course content by building quantitative models to evaluate the potential risks and benefits of each neurotechnology. In addition, I will invite world-leading neuroethicists and neurologists for guest lectures and schedule lab tours to observe advanced neurotechnologies in action. With the proposed curricular innovation, students will grasp the ethical implications of new neurotechnologies and critically consider the ethical and societal consequences of neurotechnological developments. Moreover, students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to proactively design technologies to prevent potential neuroethical issues.

Innovate for Planet Health: Purposeful Entrepreneurship to address global challenges in the health of society and planet

Course Lead: Narges Baniasadi (Bioengineering) 

The Bioengineering department is developing a series of new courses to inspire, educate, and equip the students to tackle global challenges in the health of society and planet through purposeful entrepreneurship. 

While Silicon Valley has made tremendous success in entrepreneurship in technology and biotechnology, the areas related to planet health, and societal health have not received the attention they deserve.  Moreover our systems, culture,  and processes of entrepreneurship such as ownership, governance, and capital need to evolve to serve the 21st century needs of equity, inclusion, and sustainability. We hope our new course series will be a step towards that change. 

In our course, we introduce topics such as purposeful entrepreneurship, system thinking, and challenges and opportunities to innovate for Planet and Societal Health. We discuss entrepreneurship as an impactful lever for change in tackling global challenges. We also have inspiring founders and impact investors, share their journeys and work in these areas.  

In our follow-on courses we will include real-word projects in collaboration with our industry and non-profit partners to provide experiential learning opportunities for students. We plan to be working closely with other groups on campus including STVP, BioDesign, and Center for Global Health to develop the coursework. 

Adding Ethical Material to Undergrad Introduction to Text processing, Web search, Chatbots, and Social networks

Course Lead: Dan Jurafsky (Computer Science and Linguistics)

This project is designed to add material on ethical and social implications to CS124 / LINGUIST180, "From Languages to Information", a course that introduces natural language processing, machine learning, dialogue, and social network methods to mainly sophomores and juniors.  Most of the material will be added to the "group discussion" days, when the students work together in small groups. We hope to add problems and discussion questions on bias in computer models of text ( especially the natural language processing models called "word embeddings"), dealing with biased or problematic search engine responses, introducing the Belmont principles of justice, beneficence, and respect for persons, adding material on recommendation engines (tools that recommend content on the web)  to discuss issues like how the algorithms lead to radicalization spirals, and work on detecting, modeling, and avoiding  toxicity or sexism in chatbots.

Ethical Considerations for nano@stanford Researchers

Course Lead: Michelle Rincon (nano@Stanford)

In modern nanofabrication and characterization shared laboratories, education is heavily weighted towards practical hands-on knowledge about the methods used to make myriads of devices. Education in regards to ethics, even though it is very important to how researchers interact with the world around them, is not common. We believe this to be due to the lack of  generally available, targeted ethics educational materials that specifically address the concerns of  nanotechnology researchers. To begin addressing this gap, we will establish an educational program to train and familiarize our nano community with the broader concepts of ethics as applied to nanotechnology. We hope this program can eventually be propagated to other nanotechnology sites including our counterparts in the NSF National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI).

In order to engage our lab members, we will include programming which will be mainly generated by their peers, including round-table discussions, instructional lectures, and online content. By starting at the grassroots level and focusing on scenarios and topics commonly encountered in our shared lab and research spaces, the content will be applicable to our lab members. 

Enhancing Ethical Thinking in Undergraduate Life Sciences Education

Project Lead: Melissa Ko (Bioengineering)

Ethical reasoning is a critical skill for future scientists and engineers. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has asserted that “new engineering graduates need substantial training in recognizing and solving ethical problems.” Students in the interdisciplinary field of bioengineering must navigate dilemmas that intersect life sciences and technology. However, training in ethical thinking is often limited and little class time is spent to develop empathetic decision-making.

Ethics training for STEM majors is isolated to singular "ethical reasoning" courses like BIOE 131: Ethics in Bioengineering, which most undergraduates take late in their degree program. A lack of practice in ethical reasoning across the major may underemphasize the importance of this skill and undermine application of this knowledge to relevant disciplinary issues. We will characterize whether bioengineering undergraduate students are meeting our learning goals in the area of ethical thinking. Through our courses, we aim to motivate students to perceive ethical reasoning to be skills of value and foster their ability to rigorously reason through complex dilemmas. Our project also aims to create course materials that will foster easy adoption by instructors in our department using our research to determine what educational interventions will be most effective.

Preparing Future Physicians to Navigate Social Justice Ethics: Assessing a Novel Critical Consciousness Curriculum

Project Leads: Lars Osterberg (Medicine), Candice Kim (Medicine) 

Physicians play a critical role in society not only as healthcare providers but also as arbiters of science and technological advancements, often playing the liaison role of bringing advancements to the public through the patient care they provide. This role of physician as arbiter is particularly evident during the ongoing pandemic in which doctors play a key role in rationing care, whether it be hospital beds or vaccine doses, in a time when resources are limited. These decisions hold moral and ethical implications that influence health outcomes for patients and necessitate that physicians commit to a lifelong process of self-examination and reflection to combat bias and prejudice, a process known as critical consciousness.

Our team has spent the last three years applying principles from critical pedagogy and intergroup communication to develop a novel curriculum to teach medical students critical consciousness. This curriculum is currently being implemented as part of the required coursework for all Stanford medical students. Through the proposed work, we will evaluate the impact of this curriculum on students’ learning and professional development. We plan to conduct both qualitative and quantitative research by conducting interviews and focus groups with students to better understand their experiences and implementing validated survey measures to objectively evaluate the curriculum.