Mosaic of Learning | The importance of being educated in both STEM and the arts

Mosaic of Learning is a biweekly blog that takes a look at research and education at the University.

By Khushi Rai, For The Pitt News

When I began college, I believed that I had to choose a route — humanities or STEM.

This was a severe predicament for me because I loved both. I believed the two realms could not be intertwined. Many different angles nurtured my belief. In high school, students either took a heavy course load in STEM because they wanted to show colleges they were dedicated and knowledgeable in the sciences, or a heavy course load in arts to begin building their portfolio.

In popular culture, there is the mad scientist archetype that is viewed as a nerdy know-it-all, immersed in trying to prove the Big Bang Theory. In contrast, there is the eccentric artistic archetype that lives an extremely unconventional life with unique ways of thinking. A blend of these characters is rare.

By luck, in my first semester of college, I enrolled in my first Philosophy class, Minds and Machines. This class explored the analogy between the mind-brain system and the computer-program system. I believe that this was the class that changed my perspective on the possible blend of the humanities and STEM. Discussing whether the mind-brain system was analogous to the computer-program system and writing argumentative papers about it became my favorite way to pass time. It introduced the idea that the humanities and STEM could complement, rather than offset, each other.

As I started to immerse myself in both realms, I noticed a lot of improvements in my schoolwork. My ability to articulate arguments has greatly improved due to the many philosophy papers that I have written. Memorizing various parts of the brain for my neuroscience classes has become easier as I draw and label out the parts.

I think it is important to immerse yourself in both the humanities and STEM in college, regardless of what your major is. If you are majoring in STEM, taking courses in the humanities will get your juices flowing. Taking a step back from the factual world and inserting yourself in the arts will open up a previously untapped creative realm inside you. If you are majoring in the humanities, taking courses in STEM will show you how to apply your knowledge of the creative world in a scientific setting. Courses like organic chemistry might actually be fun when you have to imagine 2D figures in a 3D setting in order to actually understand the mechanisms of a molecule.

If you are on the pre-medical path, taking philosophy courses in biomedical ethics can greatly benefit you. After all, everyone would like to have an ethical doctor who cares for their patients. To dive deeper into the science-art blended realm, Pitt also offers a major called the History and Philosophy of Science. In my opinion, if you want to take a life-changing course, enroll in Minds and Machines.