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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 2019


STS 200: Theories and Methods in Science and Technology Studies
Instructor: Colin Milburn
W 9:00am-11:50am, SSH 1246, CRN: 61175
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. 


CRI 200C: Ghosts of the Machine
Instructor: Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli
M 1:10-4:00, Art Annex 112

This course traces the relationship of technological inventions such as the camera, the gramophone, and the Turing machine to human perception. It explores how emerging media disrupt sense perceptions, creating doubles, forms of re-animation of the dead, memories, or historical events, and specters and ghosts in the machine. We will analyze the impact of the ghostly on the social imaginary and modes of communication. Course assignments require students to analyze audiovisual media and make critical arguments about them. Readings from Plato, Freud, Mettrie, Kittler, Derrida, Irani, Canales, and Chun.


ANT 210: Engineered Worlds 3: Terraformations
Instructor: Tim Choy
T 11:00am-2:00pm, SSH 1246, CRN: 63003
This course mobilizes, develops, and experiments with “terraformations” as a critical concept. Terraforming was first proposed as a speculative concept in science fiction that imagined the engineering of environments on other worlds. The term then moved into scientific discussions of the possibilities of planetary colonization, naming the process whereby a hostile environment could be altered in order to become suitable explicitly for human life. Today, in response to global warming, terraforming is increasingly invoked in common parlance to name a planetary-scaled engineering fix to the problem of massive environmental violence. In this course, we seek to re-form terraformations as a critical term, one which points beyond the geo- engineering imaginary to the always situated and always political processes of geosocial formation in any world- scaping. We will read and work together to consider how the most powerful terraforming enterprises in human history have been on planet earth rather than off-planet, enterprises tied to the cumulative force of capitalism and colonialism, linking resource extraction to nuclear nationalism to industrial agriculture to urbanization. How, we will ask together, have terraforming practices built, rather than ameliorated, hostile worlds?


Winter 2020


STS 205: Algorithmic Reading
Instructor: Emily Merchant
Th 9:00am-12:00pm, SSH 1246
This course will introduce students to computational textual analysis in the R statistical programming language. Using a text or corpus of your choice, we will go through all of the stages of a digital project, from data cleaning, through exploratory analysis (word frequencies, bigrams, word correlations, named entity recognition) and modeling (topic modeling, word embeddings, sentiment analysis), to online presentation. As we do so, we will read and discuss recent critical studies in the digital humanities and computational social sciences to help you situate your work in broader conversations. This course is appropriate for students at all levels, including those who are brand new to computational textual analysis, those who have previously completed “Texts, Maps, Networks, and Numbers,” and those who have other relevant experience.


WMS 201: Asking Different Questions: Feminist Approaches to Scientific Research and Design
Instructor: Kalindi Vora
Thursdays 2:10-5pm, Hart Hall 1208, CRN: 76861
This ten week course guides participants in 1) conceptualizing their research problem through feminist commitments to justice, 2) completing a research design incorporating feminist methods and approaches and 3) building support for potential challenges in future research practice following the course.
Each week, the curriculum offers tools and models, including case studies, of research applications in STEM for feminist approaches. Feminist approaches are defined as improving objective outcomes and community benefits through incorporating multiple perspectives into each stage of the research design process. These perspectives will be specific to each project, but include stakeholders in the research outcomes. Students will learn to design research projects that achieve results that will both make significant contributions to their research field while also being committed to social justice outcomes.
Course materials include research articles in feminist science and technology studies, a pocket reference guide for feminist technoscience research practice, and online participatory modules created for student-instructor interaction. This course may meet NSF public outreach or education requirements - contact instructor or graduate advisor for more information.



Spring 2020


CRI 200A:  Media and (New) Materialism
Instructor: Tim Lenoir
Th. 1:10pm-4:00pm, SSH 1246

The course will be a deep dive into contemporary media theories emphasizing computational and algorithmic media, media materiality, and the construction of the posthuman situation. Co-evolving with economic globalization and the financialization of more and more human activities, media in increasingly myriad forms saturate our lives. Digital media are becoming all-pervasive and indeed invasive. In numerous areas of our daily activities, we are witnessing a drive toward a fusion of digital and physical reality; a new playing field of ubiquitous computing in which wearable computers, independent computational agent-artifacts, and material objects are all part of the landscape. From social media to data-mining to new sensor technologies, twenty-first century media work largely outside the realm of perceptual consciousness, yet at the same time inflect our every sensation. We live in an environment where machines talk to machines before talking to us. The sensibilities inherent in such regimes of software cultures are indeed beyond the normal accounted for 5 senses that media theory has traditionally recognized; our new media call into play elements of sensibility that greatly affect human selfhood without in any way belonging to the human. We will examine the work of contemporary media theorists who draw on the speculative empiricism of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, process philosophy, and the new materialism in developing concepts for understanding and addressing the posthuman condition in new media culture. The course will be based on readings from Alfred North Whitehead, William James, Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Gilbert Simondon, Brian Massumi, Bruno Latour, Isabelle Stengers, Jussi Parikka, Mark Hansen, Steven Shaviro, Luciana Parisi, Rosi Braidotti, and Wendy Chun.


STS 205: Data Cultures
Instructor: Lindsay Poirier

W 2:10 - 5:00 PM, SSH 1246, CRN: 82509

This graduate seminar will examine the history and culture of data practices, sharing, and infrastructure in both research and civic domains. In studying ethnographies of various scientific and civic communities, we will investigate the epistemologies of data work and how the emergence data-based infrastructures has reshaped how expertise operates, how evidence is trusted, how collaboration is valued, and how communities cope with uncertainty in diverse domains. Institutions and policies seeking to advance cross-domain data sharing will also be studied, along with various forms of advocacy for and resistance to data standards.  Literature at the intersection of critical data studies, information infrastructure studies, and STS will be surveyed. The seminar will also introduce techniques in data management planning and stewardship in preparation for sharing data across diverse data cultures.