Department Head: Abby Kinchy
Graduate Program Director: Nancy Campbell
Department Home Page: https://hass.rpi.edu/science-technology-studies
The Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) conducts interdisciplinary teaching and research on the human dimensions of science and technology. The department also provides undergraduate instruction in anthropology, history, public policy, and sociology. Department faculty members are drawn from these disciplines as well as interdisciplinary fields such as STS, design, and media studies. Wherever individuals work and live, they should understand the ways in which all aspects of society influence, and are influenced by, science and technology. Rather than holding a view that divides science and technology from human values and society, STS recognizes both the social aspects of science and technology and the scientific and technological dimensions of human existence.
Research and Innovation Initiatives
A matrix of disciplines, theoretical approaches, objects of study, and topical issues informs the scholarship of the department and creates an open, productive, and collaborative intellectual location from which to explore the multifaceted relationships among science, technology, and human existence. STS faculty members, students, and postdoctoral scholars conduct interdisciplinary research relating to the environment, health, information technology, media, engineering, and design. Research in the STS Department frequently. involves community engagement, policy-relevant investigations of public issues, and constructive interventions in scientific and engineering cultures.
Rensselaer’s STS Department was among the world’s first to initiate a Science and Technology Studies bachelor of science degree program in 1983. Today, Rensselaer is a leader among educational institutions that grant degrees in the field, and the department offers a range of interdisciplinary programs with intellectual foundations in Science and Technology Studies. Each of the programs below prepares students for life and work in our technoscientific society.
Science, Technology, and Society B.S.
Sustainability Studies B.S.
Design, Innovation, and Society B.S.
Many students choose a dual major, combining in one of these programs a with a degree program in engineering, business management, or the sciences. Some graduates go on to attend professional schools in law, medicine, policy analysis, or the management of science and technology. Others use the program to obtain broad exposure in the social sciences and humanities prior to committing to a single discipline for graduate studies. Those entering the job market directly following graduation find a growing need in non-profits, consulting firms, major corporations, and government agencies for their unique combination of technical competence and conceptual, writing, and speaking abilities. By building an educational foundation upon an understanding of the contemporary technoscientific world, STS students maintain a distinct advantage over traditional liberal arts graduates.
Outcomes of the Undergraduate Curriculum
Program outcomes can be found in the catalog entries for each of the undergraduate programs.
The STS Department offers a range of minors with foundations in STS:
Public Health Minor
Science, Technology, and Society Minor
Sustainability Studies Minor
The STS Department offers Science and Technology Studies graduate programs leading to the Master of Science and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The STS PhD program combines anthropology, cultural studies, history, and sociology to examine science, technology, media, and medicine from multiple perspectives. A five-year co-terminal B.S./M.S. program is available for Rensselaer undergraduates who wish to earn a master’s degree in STS.
Students who earn a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer translate new understandings of science and technology into improved scientific and technological practices and policies. Graduates of this program are known for their global reach, theoretical breadth, and critical ethical engagement. They pursue research into questions and problems that extend beyond the boundaries of any single discipline.
The curriculum offers a robust mix of core seminars, theory and methods, and topics courses in a 2-year rotation to survey critical analytical skills and fields. Graduate students are generally supported as Teaching Assistants during course work. After that there is a range of internal and external fellowships for which students become eligible.
The Graduate Portfolio Review is the first milestone for a PhD student. The portfolio is assembled during coursework to document breadth of knowledge across three self-determined domains of STS. Following a successful portfolio review, and in consultation with a Doctoral Committee, students write and defend a Dissertation Proposal and Literature Review and undertake independent research on a self-defined topic. Dissertation research and writing lead to doctoral defense within 2-3 years.
A majority of graduate students in recent years have pursued ethnographic fieldwork as an important component of their dissertations, but there is no formal or informal departmental restriction on acceptable methods and approaches. Many dissertations focus on issues outside the U.S.; the gun culture of Guatemala, the importation of hormone replacement therapy to Turkey, sanitation for the poorest urban dweller in Mumbai. Other graduate students focus on domestic topics, from military communications technologies to organizations opposing mountain top removal in Appalachia. Dissertations based in social movement theory, democratic theory, philosophy of technoscience, public policy, archival research, simulation, discourse analysis, and other methods are considered equally valid.
Courses for all STS curricula are described in the Course Descriptions section of this catalog under the department code STSO and occasionally IHSS. Students often take courses in other departments appropriate to their specific interests.
Campbell, N.—Ph.D. (University of California, Santa Cruz); drugs and pharmaceutical policy, gender and feminist theory, bioethics, neuroscience.
Kinchy, A.J.—Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison); sociology, social movements, environmental politics and policy, public participation in science.
Wolf-Meyer, M. - Ph.D. (University of Minnesota); anthropology; medicine, science, media and health
Atuk, T. - Ph.D. (University of Minnesota); gender, women, and sexuality studies; anthropology; HIV epidemic.
Biggs, A. - Ph.D. (Harvard University); American studies; history of medicine.
Malazita, J.—Ph.D. (Drexel University); critical design; games and techno-artistic media; body modification; literature and science.
Velho, R.—Ph.D. (University College London); assistive technologies, disability and society, infrastructure studies, social inclusion/exclusion, transport networks.
Professors of Practice
Tolle, B. - MFA (Yale University); design; sculpture; installation
Tozzi, C.—Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University); history of technology, open source software, ethics of computing, military history.
Cardinal, J.—Ph.D. (University of New Mexico); sustainability; anthropology; environmental justice.
Costelloe-Kuehn, B.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); anthropology of media, science, & the environment; context-centered design.
Schaffer, G.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); waste, labor, alternative technology, and feminist STS.
Caporael, L.R.—Ph.D. (University of California, Santa Barbara); human evolutionary theory; decision making, social psychology, interpersonal dimensions of computing.
Winner, L. - Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley); politics of technology; political theory
*Departmental faculty listings are accurate as of the date generated for inclusion in this catalog. For the most up-to-date listing of faculty positions, including end-of-year promotions, please refer to the Faculty Roster section of this catalog, which is current as of the May 2022 Board of Trustees meeting.