Freshman seminar bridges scientific gaps with solutions

A student breakout group in the freshman seminar "The Smart Band-Aid." Photo by C. Todd Reichart, Department of Chemistry.

Seated around a long rectangular table on a recent fall afternoon, 15 Princeton first-year students intently watched a video presentation on the topic of regenerative medicine. Their assignment: Analyze the scientific argument and identify any "gaps" in the information. And, whenever possible, use their observations to come up with alternative experimental approaches. 

"The Smart Band-Aid," which is designated the Richard L. Smith '70 Freshman Seminar, is taught by Jeffrey Schwartz, a professor of chemistry. Schwartz is an expert in surface chemistry and studies the interface between synthetic materials and living tissue in biomedical implants. 

It's his second time teaching the seminar, in which students critically evaluate current presentations on research within the field of regenerative medicine — which focuses on healing damaged tissues and organs from within the body — then propose experiments that could make them more scientifically rigorous.

Scientists need to constantly question their own arguments, but also design well thought out experiments to put them to the test, Schwartz said. It's a way of thinking that he hopes to instill in his students. "We need solutions, not just problems," he said. 

The full story is available on the University website.