Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Evolution (pre-2017 version)

Note: This version of this particular course is no longer offered. In the Fall of 2017, Pratt’s general education curriculum shifted, requiring a “core” math or science course of all sophomore art and design students. This new “core” version of this course is called also called Evolution (but has a new course number, MSWI-260C), and basically will have the same content but include a research-based creative term project rather than a midterm exam.

Offered at: Pratt Logo

Course Description:

This course provides a background in the fundamental principles of evolution, including natural selection, adaptation, population genetics, coevolution, speciation, and macroevolution. Using historical texts as well as cutting-edge research papers, we will explore the ongoing development of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Through the readings, activities, and dialogue supported by the course, students will learn to apply evolutionary concepts to both the natural and human-mediated world around them.

Who Might Be Interested In This Course?

If you are interested in any evolutionary process, from the origin of life to the recent emergence of the human species, this course will provide you with a broad overview of evolutionary theory and its discoveries. Requiring weekly quizzes as well as midterm and final exams, this is a fairly traditional course, so you should be prepared to do some weekly study of major concepts. I also ask that students engage in regular discussions, sometimes in small groups, so you should be prepared to be actively involved during class sessions. We use the SimUText platform to complete a number of simulation-based labs in class, so you will get the chance to play around with the process of evolution, designing experiments like an evolutionary biologist. Evolution requires a fair amount of reading (see the syllabus below for details), so you should be prepared to allocate at least three hours a week to reading for this course. If you are concerned about making sure you fulfill your Math & Science requirement, one nice thing about this course is that it awards a lot of credit for work done within the class sessions themselves; if you regularly attend classes, it is difficult to fail this course.

What Background Should I Have Before I Take This Course?

This course requires no formal background in the biological sciences. It is nice if you have some memory of your high school biology class, but even that is not required.

Important Course Materials:

MSCI-260 (Evolution) Course Syllabus
MSCI-260 (Evolution) Course-at-a-Glance
MSCI-260 (Evolution) American Museum of Natural History Field Trip Assignment (extra credit)

I used to require a Term Paper in this course; guidelines for this Term Paper can be found below:

MSCI-260 (Evolution) Term Paper Guidelines

You can check out exemplary student projects on the Evolution student work page.


Blog posts related to this course can be found here.


This course maintains an Open Information Environment.