Ethics in Professions (EGR 350S)

Daniel Vallero
Duke University


Ethics studied through the analysis and interpretation of case studies from the scientific and engineering professions. Topics include: moral development; concepts of truth and fairness; responsible conduct of research; the person and virtues; confidentiality; risk and safety; social responsibility; etiology and consequences of fraud and malpractice; legal aspects of professionalism, and allocation of resources.

Course URL:
Course Size:

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

Separate majors/non-majors introductory courses:

If students take a non-majors course, and then decide to become a major, do they have to go back and take an additional introductory course?

This course introduces practical and research ethics, with no prequisites, by focusing on issues likely to confront students seeking degrees leading to scientific and technical professions. The make-up varies considerably, with a mix of engineering, physical science and social science majors. Engineering students have never comprised the majority. When offered, always fills beyond capacity.

Course Content:

Uses case studies and topical presentations developed by student teams. The content includes current problems and challenges, including examples of ethical issues that are rich in technical content (e.g. thermodynamics, motion, and other factors that may have led to failure, along with the human factors engineering associated with the failure).

Course Features:

Students select an ethical topic, e.g. categorical imperative, veil of ignorance, harm principle, etc., and apply it to actual cases. This team-based analysis results in a class presentation to demonstrate the team's understanding and application of this concept.

Course Philosophy:

This course was originally the capstone for the certificate in science, technology and human values. This program was designed to help non-science majors to increase their appreciation for engineering and physical science, and science and engineering majors to incresase their appreciaiton of social sciences and humanities. The program no longer exists, but the course remains as a part of the Pratt School of Engineering "Ethics across the Curriculum." This is intended to introduce ethics at numerous points during the student's Duke career, but is the only stand-alone ethics course offered in the engineering school.


Periodic quizzes, a final exam, and the final paper/presentation.


Final Exam (Microsoft Word 62kB May28 14)

Teaching Materials:

Abusing Land Use Planning Case (Microsoft Word 30kB May28 14)

Guidance on how to analyze cases (Microsoft Word 121kB May28 14)

References and Notes:

Biomedical ethics for engineers. D.A. Vallero

Case studies, youtube videos, NAE and other website resources.

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