Philip R. Olson


Philip R. Olson

Associate Professor


333 Lane Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061


(540) 231-1119



  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Death Studies
  • Body Studies and Material Culture
  • Applied Ethics
  • Epistemology

Professional Activities

  • Board Member, Funeral Consumer’s Alliance (FCA)
  • Board Member, FCA Virginia Blue Ridge
  • Member, National Home Funeral Alliance


  • Ph. D. Emory University, Philosophy
  • M. A. Boston College, Philosophy
  • B. A. Moorhead State University, Philosophy

Research Interests

    Awards and Honors

    School for Advanced Research (SAR) Advanced Seminar participant, "Death Culture in the 21st Century" (2018)

    Excellence in Outreach and International Initiatives Award, Virginia Tech College for Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (2017)

    International Initiative Small Grant, Virginia Tech (2015)

    Selected Publications


    Olson, Philip R. and Christine Labuski. 2018. “’There’s Always a [White] Man in the Loop’: The Gendered and Racialized Politics of Civilian Drones.” Social Studies of Science 48/4 (August): 540-563.

    Olson, Philip R. 2016. “Domesticating Deathcare: The Women of the U.S. Natural Deathcare Movement,” Journal of Medical Humanities (December): 1–21.

    Olson, Philip R. 2015. “Knowing Necro-Waste.” Social Epistemology 30(3) (May): 326–345.

    Olson, Philip R. 2014. “Flush and Bone: Funeralizing Alkaline Hydrolysis in the US.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 39(5) (September): 666–693.

    Sponsored Research

    Niles Research Grant ($4K), College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech, 2018

    Airing Concerns: A data-driven approach to autonomous Vehicle Technology Ethics. Competitive grant awarded by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment, Virginia Tech

    International Travel Supplemental Grant, awarded by the Associate Vice President for Research Programs, and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech

    Additional Information

    I am a technology ethicist. My work engages with technology studies, bioethics and body studies, death studies, women’s and gender studies, and social epistemology. I am currently writing a book (under contract with MIT Press) about the women-led, U.S. home funeral movement. I am also working on the second phase of a project dealing with race and gender issues related to the integration of UAS (drone) technologies into US civilian airspace. I have worked with graduate students on a variety of topics, including cultural studies of diamonds, the development of space medicine, technology and religion, cultural and political theory, healthcare ethics, epistemology, and several other topics. 

    For further information, please visit Philip Olson's personal website.