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PhD Designated Emphasis in STS

The Designated Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies offers graduate students in affiliated PhD programs the opportunity to specialize in the methods and theoretical approaches of STS.

Doctoral students in the STS Designated Emphasis (DE) examine the relationships among science, technology, and society, focusing on the ways that science and technology impact our lives and shape cultures around the world.

The curriculum of the STS DE is flexible, allowing for specialized training in both the humanities and social sciences. Students can choose classes that will widen their 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, a 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 from an affiliated program 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, and Study of Religion

Core and Affiliated Faculty

Admissions and Requirements

Admissions Criteria

PhD candidates in any affiliated department or program are eligible for admission. The candidate should apply to the Chair of the DE in STS, Prof. Colin Milburn (), by filling out the online "Intent to Declare" form for the DE in STS. 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 STS (e.g. STS 205, STS 210, STS 250, etc.) or courses in affiliated departments that include a substantive STS approach (with only one of these from the student’s PhD program).

Required Course:

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


Elective Courses:

  • Science and Technology Studies 205: "Contemporary Issues in Science and Technology Studies" (4)
  • Science and Technology Studies 210: "Digital Technologies: History and Theory" (4)
  • Science and Technology Studies 250: “History and Philosophy of Science” (4)
  • History 201S: "Sources and General Literature of History: History of Science and Medicine" (4)
  • Philosophy 208: “Philosophy of Biology” (4)
  • Philosophy 210: “Philosophy of Science” (4)
  • Philosophy 220: “Environmental Ethics” (4)


Some graduate courses offered in affiliated departments have topics that change each year, and these courses may also count for the DE elective if they include a substantive STS approach. These courses will be individually approved by the DE Committee.


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 2018


STS 200: Theories and Methods in Science and Technology Studies
Instructor: Tim Choy
M 11:00am-2:00pm, SSH 1246, CRN: 40913
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. 


STS 250: Queering Cure
Instructor: Jeanne Vaccaro
T 9:00am-11:50am, SSH 1246, CRN: 43060
Building on the insights of queer of color critique, crip theory, and transgender studies, this interdisciplinary seminar considers the interconnections of bodies and the sciences of dis/ability, race, sex, and gender. We will conceptualize “cure” alongside questions of toxicity, ecosexuality, neurodiversity, animacy, disaster capitalism, and what artist Carolyn Lazard calls “the age of autoimmunity.” Readings include: Britt Rusert, Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture; Kyla Schuller, The Biopolitics of Feeling; Riley Snorton, Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans; Heike Bauer, The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture; Rachel Lee, The Exquisite Corpse of Asian America: Biopolitics, Biosocioality, and Posthuman Ecologies; Mel Chen and Dana Luciano, Queer Inhumanisms.


CRI 200B: Critical University Studies: Brands, Metrics, Excellence, and Globalization
Instructor: Mario Biagioli
M 4:10pm-7:00pm, SSH 1246, CRN: 43126
We engage some of the theoretically sophisticated literature addressing the rise of the neoliberal or corporate university.  After a brief discussion of the rise of the model of the research university in the 19th century in Europe and the US, we analyze the current crisis of that model and the developments it has spawned.  A few foci will guide the discussion of this broad terrain:  the concern with university branding, the rise of the discourse of excellence, the adoption of metrics and quantitative indicators, and the globalization/franchising of elite western universities, and the growing concern with intellectual property.  Readings include William Clark, John Marx, Robert Meister, Sally Merry, Chris Newfield, Michael Power, Bill Readings, Shelia Slaughter, Marilyn Strathern, Sam Weber.


Winter 2019


STS 205: Texts, Maps, Networks, and Numbers: Computational Approaches in the Humanities and Interpretive Social Sciences
Instructor: Emily Merchant
This seminar will introduce graduate students to computational approaches in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. Using the R programming language, we will analyze and visualize textual, spatial, network, and numeric data. We will consider how these modes of analysis can help us pose and answer valuable research questions, and we will interrogate these approaches from a critical perspective grounded in science and technology studies. No prior experience necessary.


STS 205: Faciality
Instructor: Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli
With the invention of photography, cinema, and computational media the face has come to signify intensity and power (Deleuze), the bearing of the soul (Balasz), individuality (Lacan), truth, beauty, ideas (Barthes), and interiority as well as the most basic support of intersubjectivity (Levinas). Yet contemporary facial technologies allow us to inhabit other people’s faces and to modify our own. This course will examine the how the history of perception has been entangled with the image (eidolon) of the face, haptics (Descartes), and the neural processing of emotions, examining how the face came to be considered the interface between reception and expression. The course will consider how optical and visual technologies have transformed the way we think about and interact with the face. Readings from Plato, Kepler, Descartes, Darwin, Galton, Duchenne, Münsterberg, Balasz, Levinas, Flusser, Ekman, Deleuze and Guattari, Doane, Steimatzky, Gates, Galloway, Pearl, etc.).


Spring 2019


STS 250: Hacker Cultures
Instructor: Colin Milburn
W 9:00am-11:50pm, SSH 1246, CRN: 92765
This graduate seminar will examine the history of computer hacking and hacker practices, focusing on the cultural resources that have helped to shape hacker communities and their mythologies. Significant hacker events, documents, technologies, and exploits will be studied alongside a collection of science fiction narratives and video games that have been influential among hackers. The political dimensions of hacking—from hacktivism (Cult of the Dead Cow, Anonymous, LulzSec) to state-sponsored cyberwarfare—will be considered in relation to technical issues, addressing hacking as a form of technopolitics. The seminar will also introduce methods and techniques in digital ethnography, digital humanities, and critical code studies. 


STS 205: Bodies, Embodiments, Affects, Movements
Instructor: Joe Dumit
W 2:10pm-5:00pm, SSH 1246, CRN: 92999
What can bodies do? Whose bodies are we talking about? How can we study training? How can we remake learning? Practices and readings in STS, decolonial, feminist, black studies, queer, and performance studies theory.