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Job Summary

The LSA Honors Program invites applications to teach Honors Core 232: “Are We Alone?” beginning January 1, 2018.  Position is pending enrollment demand.

Effort for each section is 25%; GSIs who teach two sections receive a 50% appointment.  Attendance at lecture is also required.

As part of the Honors Core Curriculum, this course introduces Honors students to the fields, questions, meta-questions, and methodologies of the Natural Sciences. The course uses contemporary technology and time-honored methods to examine theoretical concepts, problems, and case studies; the course focuses on quantitative methods used in the Natural Sciences.

Course Description

“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” - Arthur C. Clarke

As part of the Honors Core Curriculum, this course introduces Honors students to a range of questions, ideas, and techniques to ask, ‘Are we alone?’ Do intelligent extraterrestrials (ETs) exist? If they exist, have they been here before? Can we – should we – try to communicate? Would we even recognize ETs if we met them?

The framework for the course is the ‘Fermi Paradox’, first posed by Enrico Fermi in 1950 – ‘Where are they?’ We will explore the argument that, given the age of the Galaxy, if intelligent and technologically advanced civilizations exist elsewhere it appears inevitable that extraterrestrials should already have visited, colonized or communicated with the Earth. Is it possible that the conditions for the origins of life are rare? We will explore the origin of the elements, stars and planets thought to be important for the development of life. Is it possible that the emergence of life and evolution of intelligence is well-nigh impossible? We will ponder what life is, and explore the story of the emergence and development of life on the Earth, along with how we know that story. Is it possible that interstellar travel is impossible, or that civilizations are doomed to annihilation? We will investigate the dangers to civilization posed by nature and ourselves, the challenges of communication and interstellar travel, and the possible benefits and dangers of contacting ET.


Course Requirements:

This course serves first and second year Honors students, with diverse interests and goals. Accordingly, our assessments combine flexibility with a core set of assessments that all students need to master. Students will all complete regular readings with weekly written and quantitative responses. In lecture, students explore the central themes using a variety of formats and techniques (including in-class assessment techniques). Outside of class, students will be given substantial flexibility in creating their own course of study, drawing from a range of small, medium and large assignments. Small assignments are similar in scope to biweekly homework sets; large assignments are of the scale of an ambitious term paper. At least one assignment will involve a presentation during discussion section. One or more of the assignments need to be quantitative in character. This allows students to deeply pursue the topics in which they’re the most interested, in ways they find engaging.


Intended Audience:  

This course is designed to be appropriate and exciting for all Honors first- and second-year students, whatever their primary areas of interest.  As an Honors Core course, this course is open only to first- and second-year Honors students. This course is a discussion section of a larger lecture course and will provide regular guidance from the lead instructor of the course, collaboration with him and other GSIs in the course.  GSIs in the Honors Core are expected to participate in occasional events for Core courses.

Required Qualifications*

Good standing in a graduate or professional program in a relevant department.

Desired Qualifications*

The ideal candidate will have a background in fields relevant to the topics covered by the course, e.g., biology, biochemistry, earth sciences, anthropology, linguistics, physics or astronomy. Furthermore, the ideal candidate will be strongly interested in helping students succeed, and willing to help develop and shape the content and progression of the course.

Contact Information

Inquiries may be made to Lisa Broome ( Associate Director, LSA Honors.

Decision Making Process

The deadline for application is December 18, 2017, but all positions may be filled by then.

Selection Process

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until positions are filled. 

GEO Contract Information

The University will not discriminate against any applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, marital status, familial status, parental status or pregnancy status, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, height, weight, disability, citizenship status, veteran status, HIV antibody status, political belief, membership in any social or political organization, participation in a grievance or complaint whether formal or informal, or any other factor where the item in question will not interfere with job performance and where the employee is otherwise qualified. The University of Michigan agrees to abide by the protections afforded employees with disabilities as outlined in the rules and regulations which implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Information for the Office of Institutional Equity may be found at and for the University Ombuds at

Unsuccessful applications will be retained for consideration in the event that there are last minute openings for available positions. In the event that an Employee does not receive his or her preferred assignment, he or she can request a written explanation or an in-person interview with the hiring agents(s) to be scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time.

This position, as posted, is subject to a collective bargaining agreement between the Regents of the University of Michigan and the Graduate Employees' Organization, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO 3550.

U-M EEO/AA Statement

The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.