Featured Summer 2020 Courses

Columbia Summer is bringing the University to you.

This summer, Columbia University is bringing the best of the University to you – from special classes with senior faculty to unique co-curricular activities.

Leveraging our expertise in remote instruction, the online summer program aims to inspire during this challenging time.  While the current public health crisis requires remote instruction, Columbia is committed to ensuring you have access to leading faculty in a dynamic online environment that enhances their educational and social experience. 

Being part of our community is not simply attending classes; it's about being able to exchange ideas, connecting with colleagues, and engaging with each other in co-curricular activities.

Join in this summer with special online-only offerings from faculty who typically do not teach in the summer, but are doing so this year in order to connect with you where you are.

Among the special courses offered this summer:

Columbia Engineering High School Coding Academy

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science

Students will explore the field of computer programming and cover a range of fundamental front end web development technologies through skills-based learning. Students will receive hands-on experience completing projects ranging from HTML and CSS code samples to simple JavaScript applications. Students will build and improve upon skills essential in the professional world, including logic and critical thinking, problem-solving, and working in a team setting. Students receive personalized support from instructional staff and benefit from in-class collaboration, working both individually and in teams on sample portfolio projects.

More information on the SEAS website.

Origins and Meaning

Brian Greene

Theoretical physicist, mathematician, and string theorist

This course is a one-semester journey across cosmological history, from the beginning of time to something akin to its end. We will explore the origin of inanimate physical structures (the cosmos as a whole, as well as that of galaxies, stars, planets, particles, atoms and complex molecules), the origin of life (replicating molecules, the first cells, as well as more complex life forms), the origin of mind (self-reflective conscious awareness) and the origin of culture (language, myth, religion, art, and science). 

We will then consider what science in particular tells us about the very far future, where we will encounter the likely demise of all complex matter, all life and all consciousness. In the face of such disintegration we will examine the nature of value and purpose. We will recognize that the deepest understanding of reality emerges from blending all of the accounts we discuss—from the reductionist to the humanist to the cosmological—and only through such amalgamation can we fully grasp the long-standing human search for meaning.


Course Information on the Directory of Courses.

More options in Mathematics & Physics

Philosophical Reflections on Love, Loss, and Human Nature

Christia Mercer

Philosophy Professor

This course explores major works of ancient philosophy and literature with an eye to addressing some of the most difficult questions we face in our current world. What are the sources of our greatest pleasures in life? Do social categories (e.g., gender) limit what we are supposed to love? How do our goals and pleasures relate to those of our family and community? Are loss and suffering requisites for finding what we really love?

We'll begin by contrasting the views of philosophers like Plato and Plotinus with those of the poet, Sappho. That philosophical analysis will frame our discussion of ancient literary works like The Epic of Gilgamesh, Aeschylus' Oresteia, and Virgil's Aeneid. Lectures will be interspersed with theatrical and art historical explorations. The goal of the course is to expose the close relations among love, loss, suffering, and living well in ancient thought and in our lives as we're living them now.


Course information on the Directory of Courses. 

More options in Philosophy Courses

Religion and the History of Hip Hop

Josef Sorett

Associate Professor of Religion and African-American Studies

This is an undergraduate lecture course introducing students to the study of religion through an engagement with the history of Hip Hop music. More specifically, this course is organized chronologically to narrate the entangled histories of religion and race in the United States (circa 1970 to the present day) by mapping the ways that a variety of religious ideas and practices have animated rap music’s evolution and expansion during this time period. 

The course is primarily situated, geographically, in the United States. However, in its focus on Hip Hop music as an iteration of black diasporic musical practices, the course looks at the Caribbean and Africa as geographic contexts wherein key figures and musical practices were developed that helped give rise (through physical migration and cultural exchange) to the music and culture of Hip Hop. Moreover, the course also follows the expansion of Hip Hop (from origin stories typically associated with New York City and Lost) around the global, with special attention to the spread and span of the music to parts of the world identified as the Black Atlantic (i.e. Africa, the Caribbean and South America). While there are no required prerequisites for the course, prior coursework in religious studies, African American studies, and/or popular music is helpful.


Course Information on the Directory of Courses.

More options in Religion Courses

Leveraging Structure and Metabolism to Design Therapeutics for Cancer, Neurodegeneration, and COVID-19

Brent Stockwell

Biochemistry Professor

How does life work on a molecular level? Why do we succumb to disease, and how can we create new cures? This course will explore the biochemistry of life and how this knowledge can be harnessed to create new medicines. You will learn how cells convert environmental resources into energy through metabolism, how cellular molecules function, and how to use this biochemical knowledge for drug discovery related to neurodegeneration, cancer, and the current SARS-CoV-2 COVID19 pandemic. At the conclusion of the course, you will be able to diagram the major metabolic pathways and compare how these pathways are dysregulated in normal tissues in and disease states, and to design your own drug discovery program to create therapeutic for diseases such as COVID-19.


Course information on the Directory of Courses.

More options in Biological Sciences

Pandemics: A Global History

Kavita Sivaramakrishnan

Sociomedical Sciences Professor

With an interdisciplinary perspective, this course seeks to expand the understanding of past pandemic crises and recent, lived pandemics such as COVID-19. COVID-19 has brought up urgent questions about how we can understand and historicize pandemics, and trace the changing relationship between disease, humans and their environments. This course seeks to understand and analyze pandemics as representing complex, disruptive and devastating crises that effect profound transformations in ideas, social and economic relations and challenge interdependent networks and cultures. Pandemics are balanced in a global-local flux between dramaturgic, proliferating, contagious outbreaks; and endemic, chronic infections that have prolonged periods of latency before again reemerging through new transmissions.


Course Information on the Directory of Courses.

More options in History

Understanding Society

Shamus Khan

Sociology Chair

This course provides you with the tools to understand the social world you live in. We will discuss the major institutions of society and explore how they influence our lives and how our own actions help make those institutions. Topics include class, race, education, religion, the family, gender, sexuality, culture, politics, spatial dynamics, health, social networks, and much more. The aim of this course is to provide you with a broad empirical understanding of our social world, and to introduce you to a wide range of theories used to make sense of it. The approach prioritizes breadth over depth. The aim is to change how you look at and understand the world around you. 


Course information on the Directory of Courses.

More options in Sociology Courses

Experimental Research: Exploring Political Phenomena

Donald Green

Political Science Professor

Survey, lab, and field experiments have become increasingly prominent ways of studying politics and political behavior.  In this course, we will discuss the logic of experimentation, its strengths and weaknesses compared to other methodologies, and the ways in which experimentation has been -- and could be -- used to investigate political phenomena.  We will discuss a wide array of applications; examples include ethnic discrimination, gender-based violence, voter turnout, uncivil discourse, media effects, and money-driven access to legislators.  Students will learn how to interpret and design experiments.


Course information on the Directory of Courses.

More options in Political Science Courses


Vincent Racaniello

Microbiology and Immunology Professor

The basic thesis of the course is that all viruses adopt a common strategy. The strategy is simple:

1. Viral genomes are contained in metastable particles.

2. Genomes encode gene products that promote an infectious cycle (mechanisms for genomes to enter cells, replicate, and exit in particles).

3. Infection patterns range from benign to lethal; infections can overcome or co-exist with host defenses.

Despite the apparent simplicity, the tactics evolved by particular virus families to survive and prosper are remarkable. This rich set of solutions to common problems in host/parasite interactions provides significant insight and powerful research tools. Virology has enabled a more detailed understanding of the structure and function of molecules, cells and organisms and has provided fundamental understanding of disease and virus evolution.


Course information on the Directory of Courses.

More options in Biological Sciences

Introduction to African American Studies

Josef Sorett

Associate Professor of Religion and African-American Studies

From the arrival of enslaved Africans to the recent election of President Barack Obama, black people have been central to the story of the United States, and the Americas, more broadly. African Americans have been both contributors to, and victims of, this “New World” democratic experiment. To capture the complexities of this ongoing saga, this course offers an inter-disciplinary exploration of the development of African-American cultural and political life in the U.S. but also in relationship to the different African diasporic outposts of the Atlantic world.

The course will be organized both chronologically and thematically, moving from the “middle passage” to the present so-called “post-racial” moment—drawing on a range of classical texts, primary sources, and more recent secondary literature—to grapple with key questions, concerns, and problems (i.e. agency, resistance, culture, etc.) that have preoccupied scholars of African-American history, culture, and politics. Students will be introduced to a range of disciplinary methods and theoretical approaches (spanning the humanities and social sciences), while also attending to the critical tension between intellectual work and everyday life, which are central to the formation of African-American Studies as an academic field. This course will engage specific social formations (i.e. migration, urbanization, globalization, etc.), significant cultural/political developments (i.e. uplift ideologies, nationalism, feminism, Pan-Africanism, religion/spirituality, etc.), and hallmark moments/movements (i.e. Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights movement, etc.). By the end of the semester, students will be expected to possess a working knowledge of major themes/figures/traditions, alongside a range of cultural/political practices and institutional arrangements, in African-American Studies.


Course Information on the Directory of Courses.

More options in African-American Studies Courses. 

How to Register/Apply

Current Columbia Students

For students already enrolled at a Columbia University school, find registration information here

Visiting Students

For undergraduates or graduates at another institution, find application information here.

Adult & Professional Students

Individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher degree, find application information here