Humanities and Social Sciences

Humanities courses are essential to the development of scientists who can communicate across academic disciplines and understand the cultural and political conditions that affect their work. The humanities at Caltech encompass elements of history, literature, philosophy, history of science and languages, while the social sciences take an interdisciplinary approach to the fields of anthropology, economics, finance, law, political science, psychology and neuroscience. Techers refine the communication and analytical skills that will compliment the knowledge they gain within the scientific curriculum.

For more information on options, faculty and research please visit the website of the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Humanities and Social Science core courses:


A Sample of Humanities and Social Science courses: 

Fixed Income and Credit-Risk Derivatives (Business Economics and Management): An introduction to the models of interest rates and credit/default risk.  The focus is on continuous time models used in Wall Street practice for pricing and hedging fixed income securities.  Two main models for credit risk are considered: structural and reduced form.

Game Theory (Political Science): This course is an introduction to non-cooperative game theory, with applications to political science and economics.  It covers the theories of normal-form games and extensive-form games, and introduces solutions concepts that are relevant for situations of complete and incomplete information.  The basic theory of repeated games is introduced.  Applications are to auction theory and asymmetric information in trading models, cheap talk and voting rules in congress, among many others.

Philosophy of Space and Time (History and Philosophy of Science): This course will focus on questions about the nature of space and time, particularly as they arise in connection with physical theory.  Topics may include the nature and existence of space, time and motion; the relationship between geometry and physical space (or space-time); entropy and the direction of time; the nature of simultaneity; and the possibility of time travel.

The Vikings (History): This course will take on the Scandinavian seafaring warriors of the 8th-11th centuries as a historical problem.  What were the Vikings, where did they come from, and how did they differ from the Scandinavian and north German pirates and raiders who preceded them?  Were they really the horned-helmeted, bloodthirsty barbarians depicted by modern popular media and my many medieval chronicles?  What effect did they have in their roughly two centuries of raiding and colonization on the civilizations of medieval and ultimately modern Europe? 

Writing for Science (English): Instruction and practice in writing about science and technology for general audiences.  The course considers how to convey complex technical information in clear, engaging prose that nonspecialists can understand and appreciate.  Readings in different genres (e.g. magazine and newspaper journalism, reflective essays, case studies, popularizations) raise issued for discussion and serve as models for preliminary writing assignments and for a more substantial final project on a topic of each student's choice.

Languages offered:

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, Caltech's neighbor and counterpart research institution in the humanities offers undergraduate students at Caltech an opportunity to do research and explore holdings in British and American literature, art history, and the history of science and medicine. The library's rare book and manuscripts constitute one of the world's largest and most extensive used collections in America outside of the Library of Congress. With the addition of the Burndy Library, in 2006, the Huntington is now among the world's most important repositories for the history of science and technology.