Biological sciences major William Geoffroy is considering picking up a second major in philosophy. The first-year student from Colorado Springs, Colorado, has an interest in bioethics. He wants to understand the science behind certain biological advancements along with the broader implications of their use in society.
To that end, he has taken two courses in his first year that allow him to dip a toe into each major.
One is a course called Will Gene Editing Change the World? which explores CRISPR, a powerful gene editing technology that, among many applications, could be used in the treatment of diseases, from cancer to cataracts.
At the same time, Geoffroy took his first Notre Dame philosophy course, Honors Introduction to Philosophy, fulfilling a Core Curriculum requirement.
In the discussion-based class, taught by Professor Richard Cross, students read texts by various philosophers throughout history and discuss the ideas they present. Topics range from the proof of God’s existence according to Thomas Aquinas to existentialist theory and everything in between.
“It’s such a cool atmosphere to be in and a really intellectually stimulating opportunity to discuss those ideas with fellow peers,” says Geoffroy.
He clarifies that the philosophy course doesn’t have anything to do with bioethics in an obvious way, but he has still been able to draw parallels between the content of that course and his CRISPR course. The point, he says, is that his philosophy courses will complement his biology courses, giving him a broader, interdisciplinary education.
In fact, it is this unique combination of scientific inquiry and underlying values that drew Geoffroy to Notre Dame in the first place.
“I really wanted an education that would give me not only the scientific side, or the humanities side of things, but would also give me a strong foundation in ethics and good guiding principles,” he says.
Geoffroy has additional opportunities for inquiry through the Glynn Family Honors Program. Glynn scholars at Notre Dame take seminar-style honors classes, pursue original research, and have the chance to develop meaningful mentoring relationships with professors who are recognized experts in their field and who specialize in undergraduate education.
Outside of class, Geoffroy would like to pursue research on CRISPR, among other topics, and has already published a paper from his philosophy class in the Glynn program’s scholarly journal Arcadian Dialogues. An accomplished writer before coming to Notre Dame, Geoffroy published his first book, a fantasy titled Elven, as a high school student. He's eager to pursue both research and creative opportunities as a Notre Dame student.
Both give him the chance to work closely with Notre Dame faculty, which has also been a positive experience for Geoffroy. As a first-year student, he says he didn’t know what to expect as far as his professors’ level of involvement with students or availability if he needed help.
“One of the really good surprises that I had was that the teachers are really approachable and, whether it’s going to office hours or just in tutoring sessions, or asking them about their research, or expanding beyond the class content, they’re really open and they really want us to succeed,” he says.
This openness and approachability extends to the Notre Dame community in general, says Geoffroy. From his first semester at Notre Dame, he has been involved in several extracurricular activities, including singing in the Notre Dame Folk Choir and performing with the student-run musical theatre group PEMCo.
“The general community here is very, very welcoming,” says Geoffroy. “Outside of the classroom, there's this vibrant community of people who really want to learn and who really want to see each other succeed.”
That’s something unique to Notre Dame, he adds.
“I know that the people in my dorm [and] the people in my classes are really there for me. They’re interested in who I am, interested in the stuff we’re learning about, and, although it’s cliché, I really get the feeling that we’re all in this together.”
Watch the video above to hear more about William Geoffroy’s academic experience and check out other First-Year Journeys below.