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Shimer Great Books School

Shimer Great Books School, Natural Sciences

Through the bachelor of arts in natural sciences, you will examine both the historical development and the current practice of the sciences that explore all aspects of the universe.

Encounter the original sources that introduce and investigate the atomic theory of matter, the origins and evolution of life, the social lives of animals, the paradoxical nature of light and the role of electricity and magnetism in shaping our world and experience. Explore the fascinating theories of relativity and quantum mechanics and the astounding development of molecular biology, and begin to understand and appreciate scientific thought, its methods and its limitations.

At Shimer Great Books School, you will cultivate a spirit of discovery and a deep understanding of the natural sciences as a vital human endeavor.

About Shimer Great Books School

The Shimer Great Books School provides an education centered on discussion of enduring questions and issues. Here, you will immerse yourself in reading, writing and discussion alongside other voracious readers who use what they read to engage with the world and understand their roles in it.

Learning is a constant dialogue where every opinion and every position is questioned and analyzed. You’ll discuss your ideas in a class with people who will push you to think more deeply about fundamental questions than you ever have before. Simply put, the Shimer Great Books School challenges you to delve deeply into the diverse and endlessly fascinating areas of thought and creativity in the company of similarly inclined students and teachers.


“You are reading books that change the way you think about things and the way you see the world and you are doing that in conversation.”

- Leah, Shimer student

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Natural Sciences, B.A.

The Shimer School Natural Sciences Major revolves around a series of questions into fundamental aspects of the natural world and methods devised to investigate them. Classic and major contemporary works of cosmology, biology, chemistry and physics, as well as historical analyses of their development, form the core sequence in the Natural Sciences curriculum.  Students come to know and understand these texts and the direct inquiries they guide partly through individual reflection, but also through collaborative experimentation, small-class discussions and intensive writing, peer-editing and revision of essays and accounts of experiments. While each course focuses on a single theme of inquiry, the Natural Sciences sequence as a whole pushes students to grapple not only with the complexities within seemingly simple questions, but also to understand the larger social, cultural and historical contexts in which natural scientific knowledge is developed.

Breadth and depth of knowledge and skills characterize graduates of the Shimer School.  Through the core curriculum of the Shimer School they immerse themselves in major classic and contemporary works of human expression, social thought and scientific knowledge and practice.  Their broad familiarity with fundamental ideas and methods across the Liberal Arts provides the foundation on which they build increasingly refined understanding and skills in more specialized courses in chosen disciplines taught across North Central College.  Shimer School graduates thus find meaningful employment in an unusually broad array of fields, including teaching, social work, law, small business and entrepreneurial enterprise and non-profit administration among the most common.

For additional programs and courses in this school, see Shimer Great Books School.

Shimer School Natural Sciences Core Courses

Three of the following:

100-Level Electives

Two courses from the following:

200-Level Elective

One course from the following:

Additional Electives

Eight additional elective credit hours are required with a minimum of four credit hours needing to be at the 300-level or above (any Shimer prefix) and a minimum of four credit hours needing to be from the SGBN prefix.

Comprehensive Examination

  • Pass the Shimer Great Books Basic Studies Comprehensive Exam (following successful completion of at least four of the required courses at the 100-level).

Students must demonstrate elementary competence in a foreign language. For more information, see the B.A. Degree Requirements within the Academic Regulations section of this catalog.

The Shimer Great Books School at North Central College provides the tools, contexts, and habits of mind that make lifelong learning possible.  At the same time you will have immediate avenues to complement your studies with experiences that will prepare you for a host of professional opportunities designed to match your long-term interests, among them undergraduate research, co-curricular initiatives and internships.


North Central’s internship program helps you apply what you’ve learned in the classroom in a workplace setting. Our location provides you with access to both a world-class city and a booming local high-tech corridor. From Fortune 500 companies to dynamic start-ups on the cutting edge, there’s bound to be a workplace well suited to your graduate school interests and career goals.

A Shimer School of Great Books education teaches students the critical thinking necessary to handle extraordinary intellectual challenges. Shimer graduates have had successful careers in a wide range of professions, including:

  • Educators
  • Attorneys
  • Physicians
  • Wall Street analysts
  • Financial advisors
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Designers
  • Engineers
  • Artists
  • Writers
  • Marketers
  • And more.

Shimer also ranks among the top colleges and universities in the percentage of graduates who earn PhDs.

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