Integrating Freshman STEM Education into a Big-History Course in Japan


Martin Robert


In this essay I summarize my motivation and attempt at developing a single semester freshman course for STEM students studying in English in Japan based on the Big History Project narrative. Starting from a mission to teach on the very general theme of "Life and Nature" and inspired by the Big History Project led me to develop of a single-instructor based course. I first describe the course conception and the main motivation for choosing a Big History orientation. Then I provide an overview of its content, some resources and outcome. Finally, I reflect on some common issues and how I handled or embraced some of the possible shortcomings of a Big History to integrate liberal arts disciplines into an undergraduate STEM course. Overall, it led to encouraging student engagement.


Author Biography

Martin Robert, Laboratory of Microbial Systems Biology, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

Martin Robert is Associate Professor at Kyoto University in Japan, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate students about life and systems biology, data analysis, and scientific writing and communication. He obtained his BSc and PhD in the field of biochemistry from McGill University in his home city of Montreal, Canada. This was followed by postdoctoral training at Chugai Pharmaceuticals, near Tsukuba (Japan), and work as a project manager at Euroscreen, a biotech company in Brussels (Belgium). In 2003, Martin joined the Institute for Advanced Biosciences, a pioneering institute of Keio University in Tokyo. A decade later, he joined the Institute for Excellence in Higher Education at Tohoku University in Sendai, where he developed and taught his first big-history course. He is pursuing research on bacterial biofilms as a developmental model, with an emphasis on metabolic function. His research interests include among others the systems-biology and sociobiology of E. coli. Martin may be contacted at <>.