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Designated Emphasis in STS

The Designated Emphasis in Science & Technology Studies offers graduate students in PhD programs the opportunity to expand their studies with a specialization in the methods and theoretical approaches of STS.

Doctoral students in the STS DE engage in a sustained analysis of the relationships among science, technology, and society. They explore both how the making of science and technology is a fundamentally social phenomenon, and how science and technology shape lives and societies around the world.

The curriculum of the STS is flexible, and it welcomes coursework across the humanities and social sciences. Students can choose classes that will widen their range of academic knowledge and improve their research skills, giving them the tools to be successful interdisciplinary scholars. DE students also benefit from the thriving community of STS scholars on campus, regular STS speaker series, and a range of STS events including the annual Summer Retreat, which draws faculty and grad participants from across the ten UC campuses.

Any PhD student in good standing is eligible to apply to the designated emphasis and enroll in its courses. Those students whose topic of research includes a focus on the complex interactions among science, technology and society will greatly benefit from the program. Students who complete the DE requirements will receive a transcript notation, and upon graduation their diploma will indicate a PhD with Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies.

Affiliated Programs and Faculty

 Affiliated PhD Programs

Anthropology, Cultural Studies, English, Geography, History, Performance Studies, Philosophy, Sociology

Core and Affiliated Faculty

Admissions and Requirements

Admissions Criteria

PhD candidates in any department are eligible for admission. The candidate should apply to the Chair of the DE in STS, Prof. Colin Milburn (). Applications should include a letter stating how admission to the DE will enhance the applicant’s doctoral work. Applications will be reviewed and selections made by the DE executive committee.


Students are required to complete four courses relevant to the Designated Emphasis. These include 1) STS 200 “Science and Technology Studies,” 2) three other courses in affiliated departments that include a substantive STS approach (with only two of these from the student’s PhD program).

Required Courses:

  • Science and Technology Studies 200: “Topics in Science and Technology Studies” (4)

Elective Courses:

  • History 201S: "Sources and General Literature of History: History of Science and Medicine" (4)
  • Science and Technology Studies 250: “History and Philosophy of Science” (4)
  • Philosophy 208: “Philosophy of Biology” (4)
  • Philosophy 210: “Philosophy of Science” (4)

The following courses have topics that change each year and may also count for the DE. They will be individually approved by the DE Committee:

  • English 233: “Problems in American Literature” (4)
  • English 238: "Science and Science Fiction" (4)
  • Anthropology 210: “Aspects of Culture Structures” (4)
  • Philosophy 220: “Environmental Ethics” (4)
  • Cultural Studies 214 "Studies in Political and Cultural Representations" (4)
  • Critical Theory 200B "Problems in Critical Theory" (4)

Qualifying Examination Requirements:

It is expected that the qualifying exam will include subject matter related to the DE. The Dissertation committee will include at least one DE faculty member who will participate in the examination. Satisfactory performance on the Qualifying Examination for the Ph.D will be judged independently from the performance on the DE.

Dissertation Requirements:

It is expected that the student’s dissertation should contain original research on material connected with Science and Technology Studies. The Dissertation committee will include at least one DE faculty member.

Current Graduate Courses

The list below is currently being updated. For more information about current courses, please contact Prof. Colin Milburn ().

Fall 2017

STS 200:Theories and Methods in Science and Technology Studies
Instructor: Professor Colin Milburn
This graduate seminar focuses on theories and methods in science and technology studies (STS). Students will be introduced to major authors, works, and movements that have shaped the interdisciplinary field of STS, attending to intersections of the history and philosophy of science, the anthropology and sociology of science, and literary and cultural studies of science. Students will gain a strong foundation in a variety of STS approaches and concepts: constructivism; sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK); actor-network theory; gender studies of science; rhetoric and semiotics of scientific writing; scientific trading zones; experimental systems; and others. The seminar is designed for graduate students interested in adding STS methods to their scholarly toolkits. The seminar also fulfills the STS 200 requirement for the Designated Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies, but enrollment in the DE program is not required. 


Winter 2018

ENL 264: Queer Biospheres
Instructor: Kathleen Frederickson
This course will examine theory, literature, and history that tackles the interface between thinking about queer kinship, sex acts, and affect in relation to the biological theories of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The course will discuss how queer sexualities have been coproduced with changes to thinking, especially, in the overlapping fields of ecology and evolution, population-based political economy, epidemiology, and botany—biosciences that focus less on individual organisms and more on systems of interconnection and population-level thinking.