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Science and Technology in Society Upcoming Graduate Courses List (NCR Campus)
STS 5106, Graduate Level, (3 Credit Hours)
Contemporary Issues in Science and Technology (Core course)

Instructor: Barbara Allen
Wednesdays 7:00–9:45pm, NVC Falls Church

This course is the second of two core courses that introduce students to the social studies of science and technology. While the first course focuses on the emergence and development of the social studies of science as a field, this course examines more contemporary theories and approaches to science and technology. Over the last few decades, scholars in Science and Technology Studies (STS) have developed new theoretical and methodological approaches to analyzing not only the transformative impacts of technoscience on society, but also how social arrangements fundamentally influence their development in the first place. Readings will include foundational texts relevant to contemporary issues in STS as well as more recent scholarship and topics. Students will come to understand from a variety of viewpoints how societies and technosciences interact. Instructor permission required. Prerequisites: STS 5105 or Intro to STS is strongly recommended

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    Barbara Allen
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    ballen@vt.edu
STS 5404, Graduate Level, (3 Credit Hours)
Modern American Science (elective)

Instructor: Janet Abbate
Tuesdays 7:00–9:45pm, NVC Falls Church

Is there something uniquely “American” about the development of science in the US? This course explores the history of science and scientific communities in America in the late-19th and 20th centuries, examining how the American political and cultural context has shaped—and been shaped by—scientific ideas and practices. Using case studies including genetics, nuclear physics, medicine, and global warming, we will examine the development of modern theories and techniques, the professionalization of science, how race and gender have influenced science, and the contested evolution of science policy in the United States. Course readings will exemplify a wide range of approaches to investigating and writing about history that students can use as models for their own work. Each student will conduct an original research project on a topic of their choice, and we will devote some class time to discussing how to choose research questions, how to identify and analyze historical sources, and how to make a convincing historical argument. No prior STS courses required./p>

STS/NSEG/SPIA 5284, Graduate Level, (3 Credit Hours)
Nuclear Nonproliferation, Safeguards, and Security (elective; anchor course for the Graduate Certificate in Nuclear Science, Technology, and Policy)

Instructors: Sonja Schmid and Mark Pierson
Thursdays 7:00–9:45pm, NVC Falls Church and Blacksburg (Videoconference)

Nuclear energy is at a crossroads: on the one hand, control regimes to contain the spread of nuclear weapons are being refined, while there are still countries seeking to acquire these weapons. On the other hand, we see a revival of nuclear energy as a low-carbon source of energy in some parts of the world, and simultaneously decisions to phase out nuclear energy as not worth the risk of beyond-design accidents. More than ever, then, effective communication is needed between the communities involved: nuclear scientists and engineers, energy strategists, regulators, policy-makers, the nonproliferation community, and the general public. This course offers the next generation of nuclear engineers and science and technology policy scholars a solid introduction to the main features of our global nuclear nonproliferation regime. The seminar combines an overview of technical questions, historical developments, and policy challenges relating to nuclear energy and proliferation, using current case studies. Topics include origins of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, technical basics of the nuclear fuel cycle, international safeguards, and the threat of nuclear terrorism. /p>

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    Sonja Schmid and Mark Pierson
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    sschmid@vt.edu
STS 5024, Graduate Level, (3 Credit Hours)
Introduction to Science and Technology Studies

This seminar introduces graduate students to the field of STS and some of its major ideas and texts. We will discuss how STS differs from other fields and the advantages and limits of our unique interdisciplinary approach. Drawing on anthropological, historical, philosophical, and sociological methods, we will explore topics such as the foundations of scientific knowledge; science as a source of social power and authority; understanding technological systems; race, gender, and postcolonial perspectives; and public engagement with science and technology. You will become familiar with some of the major questions and theories that have been debated by STS scholars and learn how the focus of the field has changed over time. Weekly exercises in critical reading, written commentary, and discussion leading will help you learn how to think and communicate like an STS scholar. Thursdays 7:00–9:45 pm, NVC Falls Church and Blacksburg (Video conference)

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    Janet Abbate and James Collier
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    abbate@vt.edu
STS 5105, Graduate Level, (3 Credit Hours)
Contemporary Issues in Science and Technology Studies (core course)

This course is the first of two courses that introduce students to the social studies of science and technology. This class primarily focuses on the emergence and development of the social studies of science from the early part of the century to 2000. In order to understand this important movement, it is necessary to spend a few weeks studying some formative sociologists from the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Several weeks will be spent reading and analyzing background social science texts. The course provides an understanding of the pertinent social theories of the early through mid-twentieth century through 2000. The readings and discussions will look at science through these various social lenses focusing on a series of debates that are formative in STS. Class discussion will be geared toward understanding the historical and theoretical underpinnings of the STS discipline toward facilitating current STS concepts and framings. Methodological and pedagogical goals for the course include learning how to read critically and analytically. Short essays and online discussions will be oriented toward this goal. Students will also learn how to “map” the development and emergence of the social study of science, and practice the ability to successfully complete PhD prelim exam questions by completing a prelim-style final exam. The course is open to both Blacksburg and NCR students. It will be taught in-person from Falls Church for the first 6 weeks and then go online for the remainder of the semester. Wednesdays 7:00–9:45 pm, NVC Falls Church (and Blacksburg by videoconference)

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    Barbara Allen
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    ballen@vt.edu
STS/SPIA 6564, Graduate Level, (3 Credit Hours)
Risk in Contemporary Culture (elective)

This seminar provides an introduction to the phenomenon of risk from a sociological, historical, and cultural perspective. We will ask questions such as: What constitutes a risk and for whom? Who gets to decide what risks are worth taking? What constitutes credible information and what role do experts play? We will explore how ideas of safety, reliability, and probability shape our understanding of risk, and address the assumptions underlying and influencing the practices of risk assessment and regulation. We will focus on the role of communication, trust, and legitimacy in risk management and regulation, and debate which democratic policy instruments might facilitate stable, consensual decisions in contemporary societies. In addition to theoretical essays, we will discuss a selection of cases. Assignments include short weekly responses to the readings, peer review of your colleagues’ drafts, and writing a research paper on a risk topic of your choice.
Mondays 7:00–9:45 pm, NVC Falls Church

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    Sonja Schmid
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    sschmid@vt.edu
STS 6244, Graduate Level, (3 Credit Hours)
History, Culture, and Politics of the Internet (elective)

The Internet pervades American life and increasingly structures the ways people work and socialize around the globe. As we adopt digital media and use them to create new forms of cultural expression, we also raise a host of new social and policy questions. This course uses STS frameworks to explore the history, social aspects, and policy issues surrounding the Internet. Weekly readings and discussion will highlight a variety of topics including the origins of the Internet, comparisons of Internet use in other cultures, debates over social media, and the Internet as a force for democracy in the Arab Spring and beyond. A portion of class time will be dedicated to student-driven team research projects for which students will choose their own topics, goals, and deliverables.
Tuesdays 7:00–9:45 pm, NVC Falls Church