Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Secondary Field in STS

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) at Harvard offers doctoral candidates the opportunity to broaden their education through a variety of Secondary Fields. The Secondary Field of Science, Technology and Society (STS) is aimed at students who wish to deepen their understanding of the workings of science and technology in relation to other social institutions and processes. STS is available to candidates for the PhD, DDes (Doctor of Design), and SJD degrees.


The STS Secondary Field serves a wide range of student interests and career plans. For example: A sociologist or political scientist wants to investigate the impact of emerging technologies on the distribution of power in society. An engineer or public policy analyst would like to explore why innovation occurs unevenly across nations and time periods and how to encourage innovation in high-risk domains. A law student wants to know how nonwestern societies deal with intellectual property or bioethics. An anthropologist wishes to investigate how DNA databases affect individual and group identities. A historian would like to trace the evolution of nuclear secrecy policies from the postwar to the present. Through a structured program of interdisciplinary study, STS aims to satisfy these and many similar lines of inquiry.


STS is an emerging field dedicated to studying the institutions and practices of scientists, engineers, physicians, architects, planners, and other technical professionals, as well as the complex relationships between science, technology and society. STS employs a variety of methods from the humanities and social sciences to examine how science and technology both influence and are influenced by their social, cultural, and material contexts. A major area of interest is the role of technologies and technological systems in shaping the purposes, possibilities, and meanings of human lives, from the creation of novel biological organisms to the design of urban infrastructures and the management of global risks to health, food, security, and the environment. (See also: What Is STS?)


Interested students should first consult with a member of the Executive Committee for the STS Secondary Field, who will serve as the student’s primary advisor. The student may then be referred to an appropriate Faculty Affiliate in their Department or School for further advice. Courses required for the Secondary Field should be selected in consultation with the student’s STS advisor. Further information is available through the Kennedy School STS Program.


We asked our students to share how the STS Secondary Field impacted their doctoral work and career trajectory. You can find their answers here.


For more information on the Secondary Field, you may contact the STS Program by e-mailing