Integrated Science I

This laboratory course introduces physical and Earth science concepts through independent and collaborative work. During experiments and other activities, students learn to gather data, interpret results, apply mathematical and computational skills, construct arguments from evidence, and communicate findings. Students spend time learning about natural phenomena, solving problems, performing hands-on laboratory work, and participating in small- and large-group discussions. The course helps students develop scientific and critical thinking and provides a foundational skill set for further scientific study.

Integrated Science II

Building on the laboratory and problem-solving skills introduced in seventh grade, this course presents chemical and physical processes and how they apply to observable phenomena through laboratory investigation, class discussions, independent reading, and both individual and group projects. Students learn to organize and process laboratory data to synthesize a deeper understanding of the principles that guide the natural world they inhabit. The central theme of the course is energy. Topics include energy in chemical reactions, heat, power sources, energy transport through waves, and mechanical energy.


This course is a laboratory-based overview of the fundamentals of biology. Students learn about genetics, the structure and biochemical processes of the cell, ecology, evolutionary trends within and among the various kingdoms, and human- systems physiology. Students improve upon the laboratory skills acquired during Integrated Science I and II as they continue to collect and analyze data. Students gain proficiency with a microscope and are introduced to techniques of dissecting specimens and performing physiological experiments. The course helps students make informed decisions regarding the biological issues that society faces.

Biology Honors

This course covers similar skills and topics as those taught in Biology, but at a faster pace, in greater detail, and with an emphasis on the molecular approach to biology. The course is designed for, and limited to, those students who have an intense curiosity about the natural world and life as a process. Due to the advanced and accelerated nature of the course, independent student learning and initiative are required. Students are expected to invest the time and energy necessary to synthesize complex and detailed processes. Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.


Human Anatomy and Physiology

This is an advanced course in biology that emphasizes the physiology (function), rather than the anatomy (structure), of the human body. The major systems of the body are studied by viewing graphic films of human surgery, by performing several dissections, through readings from scientific journals and a college-level text, and through lectures and team research projects. Topics include cardiovascular diseases, joint repair and replacement, physical anthropology, nerve and brain function, imaging techniques, sense organs, and the history of medicine. Students study their own anatomy and physiology using noninvasive techniques such as electrocardiography. Laboratory exercises require students to work independently as well as cooperatively. Prerequisite: One year of chemistry and permission of current instructor.

Genetics and Biotechnology

This course introduces fundamental techniques of biotechnology; it examines how these techniques have revolutionized our understanding of genetics, medicine, and human evolution, and it considers selected ethical and societal issues stirred by this revolution in biology. During the first semester, students learn how scientists discovered that DNA controls heredity and address issues of scientific priority and competition. Students perform experiments utilizing some of the basic techniques of biotechnology (bacterial transformation, genetic recombination, the polymerase chain reaction, and protein purification) and examine how these techniques are used in connection with protein and DNA sequencing, microarrays, and bioinformatics. In the second semester, students learn how to identify genes and apply that knowledge to raw sequencing data. Students then focus on how disease‑related genes are discovered and investigate associated issues such as cloning and stem-cell research. They study how genomics has provided a new perspective on evolutionary processes and relationships within and among species. Prerequisite: One year of chemistry and permission of current instructor.

AP Biology

The subject areas covered by this course include cell and molecular biology, genetics and evolution, ecology, and some organismal biology. These topics are presented at a level similar to a first-year biology course for the college biology major. The quantity of information covered and the pace at which it must be assimilated present the primary challenges to students who enroll. Good reading comprehension is important because much of the homework involves reading in the text, and not all of this information can be presented in lecture. The chemical basis of biological structure and function is a major theme throughout the year. Through lectures, readings, and experimentation, students are expected to understand and apply many of the core nonmathematical concepts that compose the foundation of biology. In addition, students acquire an extensive knowledge of examples and descriptive information associated with each concept. Unit examinations test students’ general knowledge in the subject as well as their ability to apply biological concepts, evaluate and critique data from laboratory experiments, and solve selected problems from the unit. The laboratory component focuses on defining biological problems and having students design experiments that quantitatively test hypotheses generated from these problems. The laboratory write-ups and oral reports focus on documenting, processing, and analyzing data as they relate to biological concepts. Information is presented in class through lectures, discussions, and laboratory activities designed to reinforce both the conceptual and applied aspects of the science. All students must take the Advanced Placement Biology examination at the end of the year. Prerequisite: Chemistry Honors or B in Chemistry and permission of current instructor.


This course includes lecture, discussion, and integrated laboratory experiments designed to introduce students to the nature of matter. The major topics presented are nomenclature, chemical reactions, stoichiometry, atomic structure, periodicity, bonding, molecular geometry, phases of matter, equilibrium, thermodynamics, and acid–base chemistry. The course presents abstract concepts and emphasizes quantitative problem-solving skills. Analytical thinking, more than memorization, is the key to success in the course. The year-end final focuses on material presented after winter break, but requires application of cumulative skills and knowledge. Students who took Algebra I and earned less than a B- in Biology and those who took Algebra and earned less than a B in Biology will not be granted permission to take this course during sophomore year. Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.

Chemistry Honors

This course is a qualitative and quantitative introduction to the macroscopic chemical behavior of inorganic substances based on molecular structure. Extensive laboratory work introduces, reinforces, and extends theoretical topics covered via reading and lecture. The first semester is devoted to learning to recognize, explain, predict, and express chemical changes. Thermodynamic considerations in predicting chemical change are also covered, and the term concludes with a correlation of molecular structure to the chemical and physical behavior of pure substances. In the second semester, more attention is paid to the molecular level of reactions. Solution properties, reaction kinetics, equilibrium, and electrochemical processes are studied in detail. A short unit on nuclear reactions and related topics is also included. Chemistry Honors assumes a greater comfort level with applied algebra than Chemistry and requires a significant degree of independence. Students who have succeeded in previous science courses by spending significant time doing the maximum amount of work possible with frequent teacher intervention are likely to find the course very difficult and its time commitment excessive. Students will need to determine for themselves how many of the suggested homework problems (not collected) are necessary for them to gain facility with the concepts. Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor. Corequisite: Algebra II with Analysis or higher. Corequisite: Algebra II with Analysis or higher.

AP Chemistry

This course presents topics commonly encountered in the first year of college chemistry chiefly through challenging laboratory investigations. This laboratory work is used to expand concepts beyond their fundamentals and provide students with real chemical situations to study and interpret. Students are exposed to modern analytical techniques (both wet and instrumental) as well as to data analysis and reduction using spreadsheets. The course is designed for the highly motivated student with a strong interest in chemistry who enjoys working in the laboratory and is able to learn new material with guidance rather than via traditional lecture. The pace and depth of the course require a strong background in high school chemistry. Students who have succeeded in the prerequisite course by spending significant time doing the maximum amount of work possible are likely to find this course very difficult and its time commitment excessive. Students must work independently and budget their time wisely. The majority of class time is spent in the laboratory. The rest of the class time is divided between homework problem sessions, infrequent lectures, and examinations. Students take the Advanced Placement Chemistry examination at the conclusion of the course. Prerequisite: Chemistry Honors and permission of current instructor.


This course provides an introduction to major topics in physics. The first semester is devoted to the study of mechanics: motion, forces, and energy. The second semester is devoted to the study of electricity, sound, and light. The course covers many of the same topics as Advanced Placement Physics 1, but with less emphasis on mathematical problem solving and more on real-world application of physical principles. The course is for students who possess an interest in physics, basic algebra skills, and a willingness to think abstractly. Students may enroll in either Physics or Advanced Placement Physics 1, but not both. Prerequisite: Algebra II with Analysis or higher.

AP Physics 1

This course introduces the study of mechanics and basic circuits and emphasizes conceptual understanding and qualitative explanations. Students take part in extensive laboratory work and focus on experimental design and written analysis of results. Although not the main focus of the course, mathematical problem solving will be used throughout the year. This course covers fewer topics than Physics, but it provides more in-depth study and complex problem solving and serves as a good background for those who wish to continue in science or engineering. It offers a college-level, noncalculus mathematical treatment of physics. Students take the Advanced Placement Physics 1 examination in May. Students may enroll in either Physics or Advanced Placement Physics 1, but not both. Prerequisite: Chemistry Honors or B in Chemistry; B- in Mathematical Analysis Honors, B in Algebra II Honors or Algebra II with Analysis, or higher; and permission of current instructor. Corequisite: Precalculus or higher.

AP Physics 2

This algebra-based, introductory college-level physics course explores topics including fluid statics and dynamics; thermodynamics and kinetic theory; electrostatics; electrical circuits and capacitors; electromagnetism; physical and geometric optics; and quantum, atomic, and nuclear physics. Treatment of these topics requires laboratory work, sophisticated problem solving, and substantial conceptual understanding. Experimental design and qualitative explanations are also studied. This course provides a good background for those wishing to continue in science or engineering. Students take the Advanced Placement Physics 2 examination in May. Prerequisite: Advanced Placement Physics 1.

AP Physics C

This course offers the equivalent of a full year of calculus-based university physics for science and engineering students. It involves advanced problem solving and requires mathematical competence, including comfort with the application of calculus. Approximately half of the year is focused on the study of vectors, motion, dynamics, work and energy, momentum, rotational motion and dynamics, oscillations, and gravitation. The other half is focused on charge, electric field and potential, capacitance, resistance, inductance, circuits, and electromagnetism (including Maxwell’s equations). Students take both of the Advanced Placement Physics C examinations at the conclusion of the course. Students are strongly encouraged, but not required, to take Advanced Placement Physics 1 before enrolling in this course. Prerequisite: Advanced Placement Calculus BC 9 or 11 or concurrent enrollment in Advanced Placement Calculus BC 12.


This course introduces students to the fundamentals of astronomy. A wide range of topics is presented, including the history of astronomy, radiation from space, astronomical instruments, the solar system, stars, galaxies, cosmology, and space technology. Class time is allocated to presentations, laboratory exercises (including the use of telescopes for limited solar observations), class discussions, and instructional videos. Weather permitting, the class will include at least one optional field trip for astronomical observing. Although basic algebra is employed, no prior physics knowledge is required. The course is more descriptive than quantitative and is designed for anyone with a general interest in astronomy.

Sound and Acoustics

This course introduces the science of sound as a broad interdisciplinary field of physics, engineering, physiology, and music. Students learn about the physical properties of sound; its production and transmission through solids, liquids, gases, and plasmas; the scientific study of musical scales; and the characteristics of musical instruments, rooms, and concert halls. The format of the class allows students to pursue topics that interest them in greater depth. The course is not demanding mathematically; it is designed for students of all academic backgrounds.


This course is an introduction to the principles of electronics, which include the principles and applications of electricity, fundamental circuits, electromagnetic induction, alternating voltage and current, inductive and capacitive circuits, semiconductor devices, transistor amplifiers, integrated circuits, and a large variety of other electronic circuits. The course is based on laboratory work—from building simple electronic circuits to constructing a well-regulated power supply, a metronome, an electronic organ, an electronic alarm, a transistor radio, and more. The format of the class allows students to pursue topics that interest them in greater depth. In lieu of a final examination, a final project is required. This project may consist of building an electronic device such as an FM transmitter, IC electronic organ, or another electronic device agreed upon by the instructor and the student.

Studies in Scientific Research

This course introduces students to the process of conducting scientific research. Studies in Scientific Research (SSR) has the structure and expectations of a university research course. It provides an open-ended theoretical and experimental research environment in which students: 1) decide what makes a good problem to investigate; 2) decide whether the problem they have chosen lends itself to investigation within the constraints of the laboratory time and resources available to them; 3) analyze their data to formulate clear and logical conclusions; and 4) present their findings in a format that is acceptable to the scientific community. Students are encouraged to consider and plan for experimental uncertainties and, whenever possible, to design and fabricate their own apparatus. Most SSR research topics are in physics and engineering; however any scientific topic that can generate a variety of questions and be built upon from one year to the next is a viable candidate for investigation provided that the research can be conducted within Harvard-Westlake facilities. Early in the first semester, class time is devoted to determining what equipment, funds, library resources, software, computers, and teachers are available to SSR students. Class time also is used to test the methodologies and experimental procedures that others have already used in the area of interest. Once a suitable investigation has been defined and a higher degree of understanding of the topic has been achieved, students work systematically and consistently toward conducting and completing their research project. Students maintain in-class journals and must submit quarterly papers describing the progress of their research. At the end of the year, students produce a scientific paper on their research findings, which is published in the Harvard-Westlake Journal of Science. Enrollment is limited to thirty students. Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor. Corequisite: Concurrent enrollment inanother full-year Science course except Chemistry.

Principles of Engineering

This introductory survey exposes students to some of the major methods of thinking encountered in a postsecondary engineering course. It focuses on habits of mind and problem-solving techniques rather than on computations or analytical content. Students develop an understanding of concepts and hone interpersonal, creative, and problem-solving skills through collaborative completion of challenges. They are exposed to the practices of and specialized fields within several major branches of engineering, including chemical, mechanical, aerospace, and civil. The course is well suited for students considering engineering as a career as well as those curious about what it means to be an engineer or who are interested in learning how to better identify and solve real-world problems. No previous knowledge of engineering is required. Prerequisite: Chemistry or Chemistry Honors.


This course introduces the major topics of physical geology. It includes a study of rocks and minerals, water, wind and glacial erosion and deposition, structural geology, volcanism, earthquakes, and plate tectonics. Laboratory work is an important component. Students take a three-day field trip to Death Valley worth five percent of the class grade. The course is designed to appeal to students with a wide range of scientific backgrounds and interests. The workload tends to be light to moderate compared with other Harvard‑Westlake science classes. Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.

Geology Honors

This is a college-level laboratory course; students completing Geology Honors may obtain five credit units on a UCLA transcript for Introduction to Earth Science (EPS SCI 1) by paying a fee to UCLA. Students are assigned readings, projects, and laboratory topics that go beyond the scope of the UCLA curriculum. Topics include plate tectonics, rocks and minerals, structural geology, earthquakes, geologic time, geologic hazards, and geomorphology of rivers, glaciers, deserts, and coastlines. Five percent of the course grade is based on student participation while on a three‑ day field trip to Death Valley. This course is more rigorous than Geology. Students may enroll in either Geology or Geology Honors, but not both. Prerequisite: One year of chemistry and permission of current instructor.

AP Environmental Science

This is a college-level course that incorporates physical and biological sciences in the study of the environment. Topics include the interdependence of Earth’s systems, human population dynamics, renewable and nonrenewable resources, environmental quality, global changes and their consequences, environment and society, and choices for the future. The course includes a considerable reading requirement as well as a laboratory component. Students take the Advanced Placement Environmental Science examination in May. Prerequisite: One year of chemistry and permission of current instructor.

Oceanography and Marine Biology

This is a general course in ocean science. During the first semester, students learn about the physical, chemical, and geological features of the ocean environment (oceanography) and also about the history of ocean exploration and navigation. The second semester explores the organisms that live in the ocean and their ecological relationships (marine biology). Emphasis is placed on our local marine environment and organisms. The course is designed to appeal to students with a wide range of scientific backgrounds and interests. The workload tends to be light to moderate compared with other science classes at Harvard‑Westlake. Activities include lectures, laboratory experiments and observations, watching educational films, and field trips. The costs of the field trips vary depending on the specific activities and number of participants.

Directed Study: Molecular Gastronomy

This directed study discusses concepts from the physical sciences that underpin both everyday cooking and haute cuisine. Extending beyond an introduction into the culinary arts, the course is designed to explain the “why” behind food science and the anticipated outcomes of different cooking techniques. Lectures draw connections between various cooking techniques and the physical and chemical concepts students have learned in previous science courses. The course seeks explanations for food behavior at the molecular level and incorporates more advanced chemical theories as well as new topics that have not been covered in previous courses. Students study molecular gastronomy techniques such as spherification, gelification, emulsification, effervescence, and transformations in addition to the food additives involved in these processes. Students who enroll in this course are expected to possess a general knowledge of chemistry and biology upon which the curriculum of Molecular Gastronomy can build. Prerequisite: One year of chemistry.