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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 2020


STS 200: Theories and Methods in Science and Technology Studies
Instructor: Colin Milburn
Tuesday 9:00am-11:50am, Remote Instruction (Zoom), CRN: 51415
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. 



Winter 2021


STS 205: Technology as Property: Ownership, Power, Autonomy
Instructor: Finn Brunton
Thursday 9:00am-12:00pm, Remote Instruction (Zoom), CRN: 42839
This seminar will be devoted to thinking through technology as property: the many and various ways that technologies embed ownership, enfranchise or dispossess people, and distribute power. To do this, we will follow two themes. The first is “technologies of ownership”: how particular technologies authenticate people and things, manage access, and assert control. The second, building on the first, is “ownership of technologies”: how we understand technologies (legally and theoretically) in light of these questions of control, identity, access, and property. In this pursuit we will explore objects and institutions including tractors, Xboxes, intellectual property frameworks, industrial espionage, lead seals, anagrams, bricolage, software licensing in theory and practice, blockchains, automobile maintenance, patents, the right to repair and the fine art of reverse engineering.


WMS 201: Asking Different Questions: Feminist Approaches to Scientific Research and Design
Instructor: Kalindi Vora
Thursday 2:10-5pm, Remote Instruction (Zoom), CRN: 44279
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.


CST 204 / HIS 201X: Global Sexualities: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives
Instructor: Howard Chiang
Tue: 3:10-6:00PM, Remote Instruction, CRN: 45170 (CST)  / 44700 (HIS)
This graduate seminar provides a critical introduction to the theories and histories of sexuality in the modern world. It pays special attention to the production of knowledge, the operation of power, and how they relate to the construction of personhood and the body as sites of meaning-making, grounds for political struggle, loci of cultural identity and social conflict, objects of scientific study and legal regulation, and guarantors of human difference. A key agenda of this course is to develop the intellectual capacity to bring questions conventionally directed towards the private/intimate sphere to bear on historical narratives and analyses concerning macro-structural transformations. This involves the careful interrogation of the concepts, categories, and questions used by scholars in the past and present, always measured against various scales of empirical evidence. As such, a more general objective of this course is to cultivate the appropriate tools for rigorous critical historical thinking.
PHI 220: Environmental Ethics
Instructor: Roberta Millstein
Thurs: 3:10-6:00PM, Remote Instruction, CRN: 44807
This seminar covers key issues in environmental ethics, including biodiversity, sustainability, composition of the moral community, invasive species, endangered species, and applications of ethical theories to contemporary environmental issues.

Spring 2021


STS 201:  Minds, Machines, and Media
Instructor: Tim Lenoir
Scheduling Details: TBA

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.

ENL 238: Science and Science Fiction
Instructor: Colin Milburn

M 3:10-6:00, Voorhies Hall 120, CRN: 62147

This graduate seminar will focus on the functions of science fiction in the history of science. During the term, we will study the evolution of science fiction as a literary genre and a cultural discourse from the nineteenth century to the present. At the same time, we will investigate the roles of speculation and extrapolation in the practice of science, considering science fiction as a resource for experimental research. A series of case studies will illuminate the complex intersections of fact and fabulation: the history of Darwinism; rocket science and astronautics; particle physics; nuclear weapons; cybernetics and networked computing; nanotechnology; genetics and biotechnology. Major critical approaches to science fiction will be introduced alongside theories and methods from science and technology studies. The seminar will emphasize collaborative and multidisciplinary research practices.