Semester Course Descriptions

Natural and Environmental Sciences

  • Cell Biology

    This course is principally designed for undergraduate students studying Italian as a foreign language that have an interest in Cell Biology. A background in Biology is desirable although the syllabus targets individuals with little or no knowledge of the subject. The course is focused on basic aspects of Cell Biology ranging from a study of cell structure, function and molecular organization, while learning about the tradition of science and the school of medicine in Siena and its relevance in the social background of this ancient city.

    As part of the program will explore basic aspects of Plant Biology, during some of the lectures, on-site visits to the Dept of Plant Biology and the Botanic Garden will be organized; On-site visits will also be organized to the Museum of Natural History of the old Accademia dei Fisiocritici and to the famous Ospedale Santa Maria della Scala;

    The final objective of the course is to enable students to confidently and creatively express principal ideas and scientific concepts in the target language. Lessons are primarily held in Italian (target language). At the beginning of each new topic, a portion of the lesson will aim to build up the new vocabulary in order to facilitate lessons. However, more complex readings might be done in English and coupled with comprehension activities in the target language to balance the learning process that will be regularly monitored with specifically designed class activities.

  • City of Vaccines: The Pharmaceutical Traditions of Siena

    The objective of this course is to acquire an awareness of scientific skills and attitudes, while developing a critical interpretation of theoretical concepts on the field.This course will provide the students with general knowledge of pharmaceutical principles but the main aim is to apply them on the job with different types of simulations. We will accompany the student on a brief but complete voyage through the pharmaceutical world within the Siena city network. Particular focus will be on the influence of the historical background of Siena (Sclavo/Novartis pharmaceutical company), as well as Siena’s famous artistic and naturalistic patrimony. An important aim of the course is to present the typical scientific life experience, attempting to create a personal and critical view of the pharmaceutical world. In their personal journals, students will elaborate their judgment, developing ideas, doubts, and thoughts to be discussed in classroom at the beginning of each lesson for a dedicated time.

  • Flavors and Tastes: An Italian Chemical World

    This course combines passion and science. Tuscany is a land of flavors and tastes, rich in typical products coming from our traditions. But food is also our energy, composed by substances with different properties and characteristics. Day by day students will increase their awareness of food usage and its properties. Food will be analyzed starting from its composition and chemical structure to its usage in everyday life, not forgetting its application in special diets. Students will be involved in the creation of their own diet that reflects to their individual needs and imagination. Students will create numerous alternatives to their usual menus, respecting a healthy balance of chemical compounds. Starting from theory we shall involve students in practical exercises, visiting sites of food production and distribution. Practical sessions will involve the experience of working in a vegetable garden, visiting vineyards and chemical labs for analyses. The objective of this course is to acquire awareness of scientific skills and attitudes, developing a scientific interpretation of theoretical concepts on the field. This course will provide the students with general knowledge of chemical structure and power of food through the observation and analysis of its main compounds. We will accompany the student on a brief but complete journey through traditional cooking in Siena, exploring the influence of Siena’s rich gastronomic history. The final aim of the course is to integrate different culture types of alimentation combining healthy habits with scientific knowledge.

  • Introduction to Italian Prehistory

    The course aims to direct the students into the set of problems relevant to Italian archaeological research in order to obtain theoretical knowledge of the methodological and technical fundamentals of Archaeology. The contribution of the scientific disciplines to archaeological studies (geomorphology, sedimentology, paleobotanics, zooarchaeology and so on) and methods of collecting, quantification and documentation of the archaeological finds will be described. The course focuses on the studies carried out by the Research Unit of Prehistory and Anthropology of Siena. This institution has been involved for many years in the investigations of the earliest migration of Homo sapiens into southern Europe and of the replacement of the Neanderthal by the Anatomical Modern Human. To the students attending the course will be offered the possibility to visit the laboratories of the Department of Earth, Environmental and Physical Sciences of University of Siena.

  • Phytotherapy: a Hands-on Introduction to Herbal Medicine

    The World Health Organization has recently shown that about 80% of the world
    population uses plants as a main, if not exclusive, source of therapeutics. This course aims to guide students in the acquisition of the basic elements of phytotherapy.

    Phytotherapy is the branch of medicine that studies the use of medicinal plants capable of producing a pharmacological effect. With this regard, the city of Siena hosts innovative research institutes such as the seat of the National Society of Phytotherapy (S.I.Fit – Societa’ Italiana di Fitoterapia) as well as museums and academies of renowned traditions such as the Academy of Sciences (Accademia dei Fisiocritici) and the Botanical Gardens of the University of Siena. During the course students will learn about the main plant- based active ingredients, as well as the methods utilized for their extraction and their effects on the organism through theoretical lessons and simple lab activities carried out inside the research or museum sites. Special attention will be given to the description of the common uses of the plant extracts and to their examination from a scientific perspective.

  • Flora and Fauna of Italy

    Within the region of Tuscany one can find all of the three main climates and environments most common of the Italian peninsula: the typical Mediterranean coastline, grasslands and valleys of a more continental character and the Apennine peaks with a mountain climate. Numerous and diverse are the animal and plant species that are found in these areas. Within the city of Siena there are academic institutions and museums that represent a true “window” which opens onto the Tuscany territory. The frontal lessons of this class will serve to give the student a general picture of the common flora and fauna of Italy, which will then be further illustrated through practical activities included in the course.

    In these practical sessions the student will be introduced in the activities of a research center or a museum, actively participating in the consultation and even the preparation and management of the naturalistic collections.

  • A Green Renaissance: Sustainable Development in Siena and Tuscany

    This course will analyze the main issues related to Sustainable Development, based on the idea that no growth process can be considered authentically sustainable without considering the interactions between the evolution of the economic system and the evolution of the natural environment. Only after a careful analysis of traditional economic theory, of ethical issues and of the contributions of ecology and thermodynamics, will it be possible to define the importance of safeguarding the stock of natural capital and the need for a transition from the traditional approach linked to the concept of growth to the new approach oriented towards sustainable development. We will also briefly present the international debate, both in official institutions, such as the UN (with UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals) and the European Union, and in civil society. Everything will be seen in a positive light, thanks also to the presentation of the case studies of Siena and Tuscany, taken as a feasible and exportable example of a virtuous relationship between community and territory. In this analysis we will try to clearly highlight the three economic functions of the environment: that of a supplier of resources, that of a receiver of waste and that of a direct source of utility. An important sustainability indicator, the Ecological Footprint, will also be presented with the aim of measuring the sustainability of our economy on the basis of the study of the impacts it causes on the environment. The course will be completed by excursions, service-learning activities, visits and meetings with important local organizations that will present us with studies, projects and good practices present in our territory.