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  • Locations: London, England
  • Program Terms: Summer
  • Host Program Website: Click to visit
  • Budget Sheets: Summer
  • Applications for Summer/Fall open Dec 1
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Study Abroad Advisor: Ben Briggs Click here for a definition of this term Minimum GPA: 3.0
Class eligibility: Junior, Senior, Sophomore Open to Non-UNC students: Yes (with approval)
Program type: Faculty-Led Language prerequisite: No
Area of study: Biology, English, Global health & environment, Health policy & management, Medicine, literature, and culture, Urban studies, Western European studies Language of instruction: English
Program Description:
Location| Courses & Credits| Housing| Program Costs| Application Process | More Information|

UNC Burch Science in London

The Burch Science Seminar in London is a six-week interdisciplinary summer program designed to broaden students' views and understanding of scientific discovery in infectious disease in relation to the prevailing intellectual views of society as a whole and their reflection in the literature of the time.

We will consider three major advances in the prevention and control of infectious disease made in or near London: Jenner’s invention of inoculation against smallpox, Snow’s discovery that cholera can be transmitted by water, and Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. We will also consider the plague epidemic of 1665 to which there was no scientific response (we will ask why not?).

How do we know what the views of people living in another society and time were? One of the sources is contemporary literature. We will read novels, plays, and poetry from the same periods as these discoveries and visit theaters, museums, and London itself to try to obtain some understanding of the world in which these scientists lived. The communication of scientific discoveries to other scientists and to the public determines what use, if any, will be made of a particular discovery. We explore types of communication, their effectiveness, and public response both in the past and in the present day. This interdisciplinary program aims to broaden students' views and understanding of scientific discoveries in relation to the prevailing intellectual views of society as a whole.


Students attend classes at the UNC European Studies Centre (Winston House) on Bedford Square in Bloomsbury in close proximity to the British Museum and the University of London. UNC's Winston House will serve as your home-away-from-home in London. Students have access to wifi, a small library and study area, as well as printing facilities. You will also have access to a range of libraries, including the University College London Science Library, the British Library, the Science Museum Library and Archives, and the Wellcome Library.

London will become your classroom during a variety of excursions, including visits to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the Royal College of Physicians, Fleming’s laboratory at St. Mary’s Hospital, and walks through London. You will also attend plays and visit many of London's amazing museums such as the Museum of London, the Science Museum, the British Museum, and the Natural History Museum. Your weekly travel card for zones 1 and 2 of London's excellent public transport system will allow you to explore all the exciting places London has to offer.

London provides a perfect departure point, not only to points of interest in southern England, but also to other cities in the British Isles and the European continent.

Courses & Credits

While primarily designed for science majors, this program is open to any student who has taken Biology 202. In special cases, it may be possible to substitute independent work done prior to the course for Biology 202.

The program will be led by UNC Professor Ann Matthysse (Department of Biology). Students on this program will be enrolled in the following two interrelated courses for a total of six graded UNC honors credits:

BIOL 480H - Discoveries in Prevention and Cure of Infectious Disease in London
3 credits, taught by faculty director Professor Ann Matthysse (UNC Department of Biology)
Major credit: Biology (above 400-level) Pre-requisite: BIOL 202 (In special cases, it may be possible to substitute independent work done prior to the course for Biology 202.)

This course will examine three major discoveries concerning the prevention and cure of infectious diseases made in and around London during the eighteenth to twentieth centuries (vaccination, transmission of cholera by contaminated water, and penicillin). Particular attention will be paid to how the thought patterns and assumptions of the society and the scientific community determine what questions a scientist is likely to ask and the kind of answers he will obtain. The role and importance of communicating scientific discoveries to other scientists and the public will also be explored.

The course is divided in five sections. The first will provide general background in microbiology for students who have taken molecular biology. The remaining segments will deal with the plague of 1665, Jenner’s invention of vaccination, Snow’s discovery of the route of transmission of cholera, and Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. In each of these segments we will begin by looking briefly at what is known about the topic today, examine common knowledge just prior to the discovery, and read the original report of the discovery. Then we will examine how the discovery was communicated to society, how it was used and whether or not there were negative reactions to the discovery. We will end each segment by looking at similar problems today. London has an abundance of science museums and other relevant sites that will help us understand each of these topics.

HNRS 355 - London in Literature: Disease and Science 
3 credits, taught by London-based faculty, Neil Sreenan 
Approaches: Literary Arts (LA), Experiential Education (EE) 
Minor credit: Interdisciplinary honors minor in medicine, literature, and culture

In conjunction with Biology 490H, this course focuses on the role of imaginative literature in reflecting and shaping the assumptions of a changing urban society. Through reading of selected texts from Shakespeare’s time through the 20th century, we will observe major shifts in attitudes toward disease and medicine and toward life and death as well. Though 21st century London has in some ways changed beyond recognition from the city of Shakespeare, Defoe, Wordsworth, Dickens, or even Woolf, enough traces remain to make the reading of their works here an enlightening experience, so that walking will join reading, writing, and discussion as a core course activity.

The combination of these two courses will offer students an unusual opportunity to combine advanced work in Biology with studies of the influence of society on science and the importance of communicating scientific findings to others.

Courses in this program are UNC Graded Credit.
UNC Graded Credit Programs (often taught by UNC Faculty): No action required
  • These courses automatically show up on your Tar Heel Tracker and UNC Transcript.
  • You will receive a letter grade for those courses, and this does affect your GPA.
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Students share flats (apartments in British English) with other program participants. All flats are located in the Bloomsbury area of central London and have wifi, full-equipped kitchens, complimentary laundry facilities, as well as weekly cleaning and maintenance service. Flats are in walking distance to public transportation, and your travel card will take you anywhere you might want to go around London in Zones 1 and 2.
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Program Costs

Review the Budget Sheet posted above for detailed information on costs and fees. Costs vary per term and are subject to change.

Tuition and fees for the program are based on the cost of operating the program abroad and are subject to change due to exchange rate fluctuation. Tuition and fees will be charged to the participant’s UNC student account. Review the Budget Sheet for additional Cashier Billed Expenses and Out-of-Pocket Costs. The Study Abroad Office strongly encourages students to budget carefully for their time abroad.

Getting Started: Funding Study Abroad
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Application Process

Complete the required UNC application by clicking “Apply Now” at the top of the page. If you have not done so already, create a profile to start your application. Selected applicants may be required to interview with program faculty and staff. 

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More Information

For information on requesting ARS accommodations (academic, health, and mobility concerns) for a study abroad program, contact the Advisor for Access.
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Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2019 02/11/2019
02/18/2019 06/29/2019 08/10/2019

Indicates that deadline has passed

Applications for Summer/Fall open Dec 1