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Sonja D. Schmid

Sonja D. Schmid, Associate Professor

Sonja D. Schmid, Associate Professor
Sonja D. Schmid, Associate Professor

Department of Science, Technology and Society
7054 Haycock Road
Falls Church, VA 22043
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(703) 538-8482 |

Sonja Schmid teaches courses in social studies of technology, science and technology policy, socio-cultural studies of risk, energy policy, and nuclear nonproliferation. For her first book, she studied the history and organization of the emerging Soviet nuclear industry, and has traced the results of Soviet nuclear technology transfer to Central and East European nations that have since joined the European Union. She is particularly interested in examining the interface of national energy policies, technological choices, and nonproliferation concerns. For her current NSF-supported research project on the challenges of globalizing nuclear emergency response, she has worked with postdoctoral scholars Davide Orsini (2015-16, Ph.D. University of Michigan, now a tenure track faculty member in the History Department at Mississippi State) and Başak Saraç Lesavre (2017-18, Ph.D. École des Mines, Paris), and hosts a monthly speaker series (SIREN) that is supported by the Office of the Vice President for the National Capital Region. 

She is the co-director of the STS Graduate Program in Northern Virginia, and serves on the stakeholder committee for the university’s Strategic Growth Area “Policy.” A core member of Virginia Tech’s Nuclear Science and Engineering Laboratory (NSEL) in Arlington, VA (part of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science), she regularly collaborates in research and teaching with faculty members in the Nuclear Engineering Program, as well as in the School of Public and International Affairs. Before joining Virginia Tech, Sonja spent time as a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford, where she also taught in the STS Program, and at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, CA.

  • Nuclear history and policy
  • Social studies of technology
  • Qualitative studies of risk
  • Energy policy
  • Politics of nuclear emergency response 
  • PhD, Cornell University
  • MA, Cornell University
  • Mag phil, University of Vienna, Austria
  • Co-Director, STS Graduate Program in the National Capital Region
  • Society for the History of Technology
  • Society for Social Studies of Science
  • Virginia Tech Steering Committe, Strategic Growth Area "Policy" 
  • National Science Foundation Career Award (2014-2019), SES 1351575.
  • 2014 Austrian Scientists and Scholars in Northern America Award, category Young Principal Investigator. Awarded by the network of Austrian Scientists and Scholars in Northern America (ASciNA) and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Science, Research, and Economics. €10.000.
  • 2006 Brooke Hindle Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History of Technology, awarded by the Society for the History of Technology. $10,000.


Producing Power: The History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015)

Journal Articles

Schmid, Sonja D. 2016. “What if there’s a next time? Preparedness after Chernobyl and Fukushima.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Global Forum, published online 14 June 2016.

Schmid, Sonja D. 2011. “When Safe Enough is not Good Enough: Organizing Safety at Chernobyl.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists March/April, Special Issue on Chernobyl, 67 (2): 19-29.

Schmid, Sonja D. 2008. “Organizational Cultures and Professional Identities in the Soviet Nuclear Power Industry.” Osiris 23: 82-111.

Schmid, Sonja D. 2006. “Celebrating Tomorrow Today: The Peaceful Atom on Display in the Soviet Union.” Social Studies of Science 36 (3): 331-365. Also included in the online reader Locating Technoscience: The Geographies of Science and Technology, edited by Gail Davis et al.

Book Chapters

Schmid, Sonja D., 2014. “Defining (Scientific) Direction: Soviet Nuclear Physics and Reactor Engineering in the Cold War.” In Science and Technology in the Global Cold War, edited by Naomi Oreskes and John Krige. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 317-342.

Schmid, Sonja D., 2013. “Nuclear Emergency Response: Atomic Priests or an International SWAT Team?” In Nuclear Disaster at Fukushima-1: Social, Political and Environmental Issues, edited by Richard Hindmarsh. London & New York: Routledge, 194-213.

Schmid, Sonja D. 2012. “Shaping the Soviet Experience of the Atomic Age: Nuclear Topics in Ogonyok, 1945-1965.” In The Nuclear Age in Popular Media: A Transnational History, 1945-1965, edited by Dick van Lente. New York et al., Palgrave McMillan, 19-52.

Schmid, Sonja D. 2011. “Nuclear Colonization? Soviet Technopolitics in the Second World.” In Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War, edited by Gabrielle Hecht. Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 125-154.

  • National Science Foundation Career Award 2014, “Globalizing Nuclear Emergency Response: Challenges for Interdisciplinary Engagement and International Expertise.” $413,659.
  • Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment, Virginia Tech, Summer Scholars In-Residence Program award (one of three co-PIs). May-August 2014. $25,960.
  • Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Pilot-phase of an oral history project on the Chernobyl disaster mitigation workforce. March 2011. $10,000.

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