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SDU students huddle during kickball tournament

Science, Discovery and the Universe

The uses and abuses of science in society

NOTE: College Park Scholars will not be recruiting a first-year cohort of Science, Discovery and the Universe for fall 2022.


The effects of politics, culture and economics on the field of astronomy show that psychology can be just as powerful as reasoning when humans build scientific knowledge. So how can we know what scientific information is accurate?

Science, Discovery and the Universe (SDU) offers students the chance to put their learning in context, challenging them to explore the processes behind science, particularly astronomy. Through interactive investigations, thoughtful discussions, debates, persuasive and analytical writing assignments, and reflections, students examine:

  • How and when we can trust scientific information;
  • How politics, psychology and culture affect interpretations of scientific findings; and
  • What roles students can take in supporting how science is conducted in modern society.

In this program, students will be introduced to the philosophy behind the research techniques used by astronomers, geologists, physicists, engineers and others involved in the study of the cosmos on large and small scales. They will also have the opportunity to use the tools of scientific inquiry and critical analysis to examine recent discoveries and claims made in other disciplines. Many of the skills they develop in SDU classes and extracurricular activities are directly transferable to other classwork and most careers.

SDU welcomes students from all majors who want to think critically about the intersection of science, exploration, communication and progress.

Colloquium and Lecture Topics

  • Parapsychology
  • The origins of “scientific” racism
  • The “global warming is a myth” myth
  • The U.S. national space policy
  • Astronomy and religion: The science of Easter
  • Science writing and journalism: similarities and disparities

Other Learning Opportunities

Experiential learning excursions inspire students to observe and analyze scientific developments. Students in SDU:

  • Visit the University of Maryland (UMD) Observatory and the Howard B. Owens Science Center Planetarium, as well as the many science museums in our area, from the Baltimore Aquarium to the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum;
  • Have the opportunity to take an overnight trip to the incomparable Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia, where they learn how to use a 40-ft. radio telescope to analyze 21 cm hydrogen emission from clouds in the Milky Way; and
  • Conduct numerous service activities for our connected communities, such as helping Howard B. Owens Science Center prepare for K–12 school openings in the fall, tutoring in the Math Success Center on campus and participating in “Get Out the Vote” initiatives during election years.

In addition to field trips, students have the opportunity to pursue research or internships as part of their practicum requirements. Recently, SDU students have:

  • Worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center;
  • Experimented with ferroelectric memory research on campus;
  • Participated in innovative public health research on campus; and
  • Even tracked meteors and exoplanets at the UMD observatory.

Curriculum Overview

Over the two-year program experience (four semesters), students will complete two supporting courses that will count toward their SDU Scholars citation. In most cases, these courses will also fulfill General Education requirements. Note that your Scholars courses—colloquium, practicum and supporting course(s)—will generally be in addition to any courses you take to satisfy major requirements.

The following table represents a typical two-year curriculum, but individual schedules may vary. Details about courses and requirements can be found on the SDU Citation Checklist.

Freshman Fall Scholars Colloquium 1 credit
4–5 courses toward degree and major requirements (including possible supporting course) 12–15 credits
Freshman Spring Scholars Colloquium 1 credit
Academic Writing 3 credits
3–4 courses toward degree and major requirements (including possible supporting course) 9–12 credits
Sophomore Fall Scholars Colloquium 1 credit
4–5 courses toward degree and major requirements (including possible supporting course) 12–15 credits
Sophomore Spring Scholars Practicum 1–3 credits
4–5 courses toward degree and major requirements (including possible supporting course if not already completed) 12–15 credits

Residence Hall

Centreville Hall

Office Address

1217 Centreville Hall

Office Phone



Portrait of Erin Thomson

Erin Thomson

Acting Director, Science, Discovery and the Universe
Portrait of Elizabeth Warner

Elizabeth Warner

Program Associate, Science, Discovery and the Universe

Social Media Etc.

Science, Discovery and the Universe News

Showing 1 - 6 of 7
  • SDU Director, Who Emphasized Interdisciplinary Thinking, Departing UMD

    Dr. Alan Peel, who has been a director of Science, Discovery and the Universe (SDU) Scholars program since 2007, is stepping down from his position. He is pictured here at a Scholars Convocation as his colleagues enjoy an SDU student call and response.Dr.

  • 3 Scholars Alumni Named Merrill Presidential Scholars

    Three College Park Scholars alumni were among the 19 Philip Merrill Presidential Scholars named by the University of Maryland (UMD) this past week: Sam Varga, Science, Discovery and the Universe Scholars Rina Torchinsky, Science, Technology and Society Scholars Selena Cen, Global Public Health Scholars Merrill Scholars, which are selected by the academic college and schools with undergraduate major programs, annually honors the university’s most successful seniors and their designated university faculty and K–12 teachers for their mentorship.

  • Despite Being Virtual, Scholars Showcases Promote Personal Interaction

    For most University of Maryland (UMD) students, the end of the spring semester heralds the start of finals. But for sophomores in College Park Scholars, for the past 24 years, this time of year has signified Academic Showcase. The event, one of the largest exhibitions of undergraduate student learning on campus each year, typically involves more than 600 Scholars sophomores presenting on their capstone projects to fellow students, faculty, parents and other members of the UMD community.

  • From Softball to Swab Kits: SDU Supports Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for 5th Year

    More than 20 years ago, a University of Maryland sophomore created a Scholars-wide charity softball tournament for his Scholars practicum project. His project has since grown and evolved into the Scholars Cup, a year-round fundraising competition for charity. Every fall, each Scholars program selects a charity based on individual program theme or student interest. It then fundraises for that organization for the remainder of the year. Students can earn points through service projects and community events, which builds community and incentivizes involvement throughout the year. These efforts culminate with the spring charity softball—now kickball—tournament.

  • Education Major Embraces Science in SDU

    This blog post is the first in the "Choosing Scholars" series, which examines various aspects of College Park Scholars. When Erin McCormick was invited to College Park Scholars last year, she knew that she wanted to pick a program that would expand her world view and teach her something different. “I wanted to expose myself to subjects I wasn’t confident in in high school,” McCormick says. After reviewing the curricula for the 12 Scholars programs, she was drawn to the Science, Discovery and the Universe (SDU) program because she hadn’t yet had the opportunity to learn about astronomy.

  • Science, Discovery and the Universe Alum to Earn PhD from Heidelberg

    Science, Discovery and the Universe alumna Steffi Yen is pursuing her doctorate degree at Heidelberg University after graduating from the University of Maryland in 2013 with her B.S. in astronomy. Yen credits SDU Scholars with furthering her passion for astronomy through academic excursions and hands-on scientific experiences. "My favourite SDU excursion was to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, home of the world's largest steerable radio telescope," Yen said. "We got a little taste of what it's like to be an astronomer. We were able to operate a small radio telescope and analyzed the spectral emission from clouds in the Milky Way."

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