Science and Technology Studies Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Science and Technology Studies

Program Description

Science and Technology Studies is a growing academic field dedicated to historical and social analysis of science and engineering. STS builds on humanistic and social science traditions to examine systematically the social and cultural dimensions of science and technology (including health, medicine, and environmental science). Ph.D. students explore topics at the cutting edge of science and technology studies and learn how to conduct empirically-grounded research on science and technology in historical and/or contemporary contexts. The field thus contributes to our understanding of the place of science and technology in societies, with attention to historical, sociological, philosophical, and political issues.

The field has specific course requirements. All students are expected to take, prior to their Admission to Candidacy examination, four specifically introductory theoretical and methodological courses in three of four subject areas: history, philosophy, sociology, and politics of science and technology, as well as a one-semester seminar intended as an introduction to the field as a whole. At least four of the courses taken during the student's first year should be Science and Technology Studies courses.

Students are expected to achieve a level of competence in at least one foreign language sufficient for reading the literature in their research area. The Special Committee will decide how this competence is to be demonstrated; competence should be established prior to the Admission to Candidacy examination. Additional languages may be required at the discretion of the Special Committee.

All students are expected to take an active part in departmental life, engaging in such activities as a weekly discussion group, a colloquium series, and other special training events and workshops.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-6234

303 Morrill Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • history and philosophy of science and technology
  • social studies of science and technology


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Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec. 15; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

 Applicants should have some background in history, philosophy, sociology, or politics. Familiarity with science and technology studies is desirable. In addition to the Graduate School requirements, the field requires a writing sample (term paper or work of similar scope), and three letters of recommendation.

Learning Outcomes

Although faculty members advise students and assess their progress, the program is designed to enable students independently to develop ideas and plans for an original dissertation, rather than to take up problems assigned by a faculty supervisor. Specific proficiencies that are necessary for a career in S&TS (whether in a university department, government agency, or private research center) include the following:

  • Knowing the history of the S&TS field and its relation to other traditions such as the history and philosophy of science.
  • Becoming conversant with key problems, lines of debate, and avenues of inquiry in the current S&TS literature.
  • Developing an appreciation for different theoretical, philosophical, and ethical vantage points appropriate for participation in an interdisciplinary and international field.
  • Learning to discover gaps in the literature and to produce original research projects that address those gaps.
  • Conducting interviews, participant observation, ethnography, archival research, and other relevant research activities in an effective and ethically responsible manner.
  • Writing professional quality (publishable) articles, reports, and grant proposals that propose or present original contributions to the social science and historical literature on science, technology, and medicine.
  • Presenting research papers and work-in-progress at professional workshops and academic conferences such as the annual meetings of the Society for Social Studies of Science, the History of Science Society, and Society for History of Technology.
  • Acquiring professional skills for organizing, presenting and participating in formal colloquia and workshops, as well as informal communication skills for exchanging ideas with colleagues (including leading figures) in the field.
  • Developing teaching skills and gaining teaching experience.
  • Learning to contribute to S&TS graduate field meetings, workshops, colloquia, and the Graduate Student Association at Cornell.

In addition to these proficiencies, a student’s dissertation project may require competency in a foreign language, and a degree of familiarity with the technical language and practices of the scientific field the student has chosen to investigate.