Interdivisional Concentrations

Science, Technology, and Society

The interrelation of scientific and technological systems with social and political life has become perhaps the most pressing concern of modern society. Science, Technology, and Society (STS) provides a rigorous approach to this area in conjunction with a primary discipline in the social sciences, arts, literature, or the natural sciences. Developing from its foundation in the history and philosophy of science, STS acts as a bridge between the social studies disciplines and natural sciences. It also complements the focus of the Experimental Humanities (EH) concentration on media in literature and the arts. 

Students can use the resources of STS for the extradisciplinary exploration often demanded by contemporary issues in technology and science, while the primary academic or scientific field—for instance, anthropology, physics, or economics—provides a base of methodological skills and perspective. One benefit of this structure is that STS can provide the institutional grounding for interests—such as nonfiction science writing, the economy of software or social networking, toxicology, or the philosophy of scientific disciplines—that have no single “home” in a primary program.

The STS concentration hopes to foster a critical community engaged in understanding science and its relation to society, and to promote contact among students across different fields and divisions. Students in STS are encouraged, but not required, to have a practical “hands-on” technological, artistic, or policy component to their education, preferably in collective projects in their junior year. Models for such projects include constructing radio transmission equipment, developing biodiesel equipment for school vehicles, and studying construction and engineering techniques for work in developing countries. Students in STS are encouraged to take tutorials in fields pertaining to areas of interest for such projects, but should plan ahead so that they have taken any introductory courses in an area where they may later need to take a specific tutorial. A student interested in nautical design, for instance, could take basic physics or calculus before approaching faculty for a tutorial on designing a boat.

To moderate, students in STS must take two courses in the Division of Science, Mathematics, and Computing (not including Science History and Philosophy courses cross-listed with STS) and two core STS courses. The student’s plan for a sequence of courses at Moderation is of particular importance in such established fields of interest within STS as the “History and Philosophy of Science” and “Nonfiction Science Education and Documentation.” In these cases, students are required to complete particular key courses in the program  (see website for details). Reading competence in a foreign language or further science, mathematics, or computing course work is strongly recommended. 

To graduate, students must take one two-course sequence in a basic science (AP science courses may count toward this requirement); two additional courses in the Science, Mathematics, and Computing Division; two elective STS cross-listed courses, one outside the student’s home division; and a methodology course (usually in policy analysis or statistics). They must also complete a Senior Project informed by themes relating to the social role of science and technology. A Senior Project in biology and STS, for instance, might look at a particular biological problem of epidemiology along with the economic, political, or public health dimension of disease prevention surrounding that disease.
Core courses include: Art History 252, The History of the Experiment; History 161, The History of Technology and Economics in the Modern Period; Science History and Philosophy 222, The History of Science before Newton; and Science History and Philosophy 223, Physical Science after Newton.