Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard|
Amy Gilson, Chemical Physics ’17, California Council on Science and Technology Policy Fellow
“For any science student who wonders what their place in the world is and can be, the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) secondary field is a provocative companion. This was certainly the case for me. The secondary field gave me space to think reflexively about my research and new analytical tools to name the murky questions I had about this thing called science. How do scientific controversies arise and what are they really about? What responsibilities do scientists have for the knowledge we produce? How is, and how should, evidence and expertise be used in democratic governance? I have a longstanding interest in public service and wanted to be able to continue addressing these, and other, questions directly though experience. Therefore, after completing my PhD, I decided to work in science policy. I currently staff the California State Legislature as a California Council on Science and Technology Policy Fellow, and the STS secondary field credential is one important reason that I was selected as a fellow. Thus, my enlivening study with Professor Jasanoff, and the Kennedy School-based STS community, both clarified my post-graduation path and opened the door to it.
Shi-Lin Loh, History and East Asian Languages ’16, Assistant Professor, National University of Signapore
“Adding the STS Secondary Field changed the course of both my doctoral work at Harvard and my career opportunities thereafter. Having trained as a historian in an area studies department, the subjects and concerns of STS were initially unfamiliar to me. However, since my research covered issues of radiation and nuclear power, I saw the need to ask critical questions about my topic that went beyond historical narrative. The STS scholars I encountered in course readings taught me to see questions of power, authority and accountability in how technoscientific objects are produced and consumed, giving me a critical consciousness that reframed my dissertation research process in new and productive ways.
STS also expanded the range of academic positions I was eligible for after graduating and completing the Secondary Field. From fall 2018 I will teach classes that include seminars on the history of science and technology as an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore. I am now also part of the broader STS community in East Asia, which has brought me a delightful bevy of colleagues from a broad range of fields, and introduced me to interdisciplinary projects I would not have had the chance to work on otherwise. I remain grateful for the new horizons that STS has stimulated in my academic career, as well as for the strong mentorship that Prof. Jasanoff gifted her students with.”
Saptarishi Bandopadhyay, SJ.D Harvard Law School ’16, Assistant Professor, Osgoode School of Law, University of York (CA)
“The Secondary Field in STS transformed my understanding of the interface between legal regimes and the history and political economy of knowledge production. Learning to use STS tools and methods jump-started my doctoral work on disaster governance, and looking back, I can’t imagine writing my dissertation without the Field’s insights.
On an interpersonal level, the Secondary Field in STS allowed me to work with Prof. Sheila Jasanoff, her excellent staff, and an array of exceptional scholars hosted by the Fellowship program every year. Since leaving Harvard, I have continued to benefit from the friendships and mentorship initiated during my years in Cambridge, and increasingly rely on STS events and networks around the world to sharpen my expertise.
I have no doubt that my training in STS significantly contributed to my success in the academic job market. On the one hand, Prof. Jasanoff and her post-doctoral Fellows were a fount of information regarding the application process. At the interview stage, on the other hand, hiring committees seemed very aware of STS and it’s importance for humanities and policy-oriented scholarship.”
Margarita Boenig-Liptsin, History of Science ’16, Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley
“As a graduate student, doing the STS Secondary Field provided me with structured training in the discipline of STS and connected me with a community of faculty, graduate students, and postdocs doing work in STS. This training and network was foundational to my Harvard graduate experience, from articulating my dissertation question, to determining the right research method and conducting research, to drafting and revising dissertation chapters. The public presentation in the interdisciplinary space of the STS Circle, which I made as part of the Secondary Field requirement, was more important as a space of intellectual vetting of my ideas and opportunity to get useful feedback than the fora and dissertation defense within my department.
Since graduating, I can credit my current academic position as Lecturer in the UC Berkeley’s History Department and in the Division of Data Sciences directly to my involvement with the Harvard STS Program through the Secondary Field. Harvard STS is a powerful movement whose members are united in their vision that STS has a unique ability to address the most pressing challenges facing individuals and collectives in our technological societies today. By completing the secondary field I learned not only methods and frameworks of STS, but also took part in leading, alongside the Harvard STS community, the field of STS forward in the academy and in the world and it is this leadership experience and sense of the potential of the field of STS that is needed in my current job teaching critical thinking and how to think about ethics to the next generation of engineers.
The network of the Harvard STS program is directly responsible for introducing me to the UC Berkeley professor with whom I created the course. I can safely say that the training and connections that the secondary field provided me is the reason that I have my current academic position, the conviction that my graduate training is (increasingly) relevant to the world, and the self-confidence and motivation necessary to pursue innovative career paths at the intersection of political theory and technology that address society’s needs in the present.”
Wnda Liebermann, Doctor of Design ’13, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Florida Atlantic University
“As an architectural researcher, the STS Secondary Field introduced me to critical analysis and methods with which to explore the mutual constitution of material things (buildings), design and development practices, and social phenomena. The interdisciplinary nature of the field offered me the freedom to combine intellectual frameworks to suit my projects. It also brought me into conversation with many scholars with whom I shared ideas, and since graduating, with whom I continue to collaborate and brainstorm. I believe that both Harvard’s STS training and the legitimacy conferred by the Secondary Field has supported me in undertaking interdisciplinary and mixed methods projects and grants. I recently started a decidedly STS-inflected research project, which proposes to combine GIS mapping, ethnographic research, and ecological data analysis with formal investigation—something that I don’t think I could do had I not been part of Professor Jasanoff’s program. I’m delighted to say that my proposal for this research just won an important grant from an established architectural institution. I’m convinced that my success depended in part on convincing the committee that I was capable of doing the project, and I imagine the Harvard STS Secondary Field credential played a part in that”
Shuang Lu Frost, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology
“During my doctoral study at Harvard, the STS program was like a second home for me. I have benefited tremendously from the mentorship of program director Prof. Sheila Jasanoff and I also learned a lot from my peers – other secondary fielders and STS fellows from all over the world. Being immersed in STS program shaped my way of thinking and gave me different perspectives towards my own research project. STS secondary field definitely opened new career avenues for me. In this program I met many scholars who work outside of the ivory tower — in fields such as policy research, think tanks, start-ups, NGOs, etc. It made me realize that I could branch out and apply my expertise in different industries. Actually through contacts I made in the STS program, I started to participate in policy research in Artificial Intelligence, which is closely related to my dissertation research.”
Jonathan Moch, PhD Candidate in Earth and Planetary Sciences
“The STS secondary field has, by giving me the opportunity and guidance to take classes outside my primary field of research, provided me with a deeper understanding of how my work fits into a broader social context. By exposing me to various facets of how science and society influence each other, the secondary field has also allowed me to draw connections between my own research work and ideas in other disciplines. One of the things that initially drew me to climate and atmospheric science was its clear connection to our lives. The STS secondary field has given me a unique perspective among my peers on this connection and that perspective, for me, has infused climate and atmospheric science with a continuous sense of excitement and urgency.
My work with the STS secondary field has also helped me approach my own specific research questions with an eye towards understanding how we know what we know. With complex earth systems, there are often multiple unseen factors or assumptions that affect a particular phenomenon and how we as scientists try to examine said phenomenon. Most of the time, we are trained to evaluate these types of hidden factors and assumptions based on how reasonable they are given our knowledge of the surrounding scientific issues. However, I now also try to address these issues from an STS perspective and ask myself, even if the assumption seems reasonable, why did such an assumption gain traction in the scientific community? This approach has led to interesting questions that are often neglected and has also directly informed my research work.
One of my main projects has been examining the chemistry behind extreme air pollution in China, which is still not well understood from a scientific perspective. My work has identified that one of the important molecules in Chinese air pollution may be be confused for a different molecule in air pollution measurements, which has led to a focus on the wrong type of emissions reductions. In exploring how this could be the case, my training in STS helped me trace how and why a series of assumptions about the atmospheric chemistry, ones that seemed reasonable individually and at the time they were made, have been carried forward into different contexts and led to a situation that obscured rather than clarified our understanding of Chinese air pollution. Thinking about this issue from an STS perspective has helped me explain and support my conclusions. Using an STS perspective has also helped me to explain my work to non-scientific audiences, which I have already had a chance to do at the Environmental Protection Agency and at the State Department.
Johnny Kung, Biological and Biomedical Sciences ’14, Director of New Initiatives, Personal Genetics Education Project, Harvard Medical School
“As a former student in the STS secondary field, the program had significantly enriched my graduate studies and prepared me for my current work at the interface of science and society. Our organization, the Personal Genetics Education Project, works to raise awareness and spark conversation about the benefits and implications of new genetic technologies, aiming to engage all communities regardless of socioeconomic or educational background, cultural or religious affiliation, and ethnic or personal identity. Doing so requires me to have a cross-disciplinary understanding of not just the technical aspects of the science, but also the social: how the science impacts different people and communities differently, the diverse hopes and concerns that different communities have regarding the same technologies, what shapes how the technologies are developed, and who gets to make decisions about the science’s development and applications and who gets left out. The training that I received from the STS secondary field allows me to have a more critical and reflective understanding of genetics’ past and future and to incorporate this understanding into the educational materials that I create; to recognize and respect the diverse perspectives on issues surrounding genetics and genetic technology; and to strive towards bringing together all voices and communities to help shape the development of genetics.”