Department of Engineering & Society
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY
STS FOR THE 21st Century Engineer
Understanding the ethical, social, and business dimensions of engineering.
In order to prepare engineers who can do analysis–problem-solving and design, as well as exercise judgment, the E&S Department includes the program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS).
As a field, STS is concerned with understanding how people create new knowledge and new devices and how these activities are shaped by political, economic, and social forces. To do so, STS experts look at technology and society together—without privileging one over the other—and they draw on concepts from across the humanities and social sciences, including history, philosophy, literature, psychology, and anthropology. Through their research and teaching, STS scholars view technology as being multifaceted and complicated, and as a highly significant element of the human experience.
At UVA, the mission of the STS program is to empower and motivate the next generation of engineering professionals so that they are capable of making creative, ethical, and inspired contributions to the design of our socio-technical future. The Program does so by combining instruction in STS concepts with the development of student skills in research, critical thinking, and communication (both written and oral). The Program prides itself on producing professionals who are articulate and reflective, and hence fully prepared to participate in transformative engineering work for the world.
COURSESSTS courses connect the humanities and social sciences to engineering knowledge and practice. The STS component of the UVA engineering degree ensures that students have seriously considered the moral and social aspects of their future life’s work.
The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at http://records.ureg.virginia.edu/index.php.
Be sure to check SIS for courses offered for a particular semester.
Prerequisite: STS 1500 or equivalent.
This course is designed to prepare undergraduates for internships in science and technology policy in Washington, DC, Richmond, and Paris. In the longer term, it aims to develop future leaders in science and technology, inside and outside of government, by equipping engineers and applied scientists with knowledge and skills in public policy. Enrollment is limited to participants in the Internship Program in Science and Technology Policy at SEAS. Pre-Requisites: Acceptance into the SEAS Science and Technology Policy Program. All interns in the program must take the course in the spring term before their internship.
Credits: 1 to 4
Prerequisites: Business Minor & Fourth year standing.
UNDERGRAD PROGRAMThe Science, Technology, and Society (STS) program advances understanding of the social and ethical dimensions of science and technology. STS provides instruction in subjects that are essential to the education of professional engineers. This instruction forms the core of a liberal education and lays the foundation for ongoing professional development. All STS courses emphasize the relationships among science, technology, and society; ethics; and oral and written communication.
Notably, the UVA STS program is the only STS program in the U.S. situated within an engineering school at a national, comprehensive university. STS programs at peer institutions like MIT, Cornell, and Stanford are housed in the colleges of humanities and social sciences. Faculty in the UVA Program are close to the point of the knowledge production that they study while at the same time they are partners in engineering education. As a result, the STS program at UVA is unique in the way that it integrates a deep understanding of technology with broad perspectives about society and culture.
STS 1500 provides first-year engineering students with an introduction to important concepts in the field of Science, Technology, and Society. This course is designed to strengthen writing and speaking skills with special attention to the challenges of professional communication in engineering and applied science. The course also familiarizes students with the engineering profession, engineering ethics, and the social issues of professional engineering practice.
STS courses at the 2000 and 3000 level examine the social and ethical issues of science and technology from humanities and social science perspectives. Each focuses on a topic area, such as Thomas Jefferson’s interests in science and technology. Although writing and speaking skills continue to be stressed in these courses, the focus shifts from skills to the course’s content and the broader objective of improving students’ grasp of the social and ethical issues of science and technology.
Students in the fourth year enroll in a two-semester sequence, STS 4500: STS and Engineering Practice and STS 4600: The Engineer, Ethics, and Professional Responsibility. This sequence combines focused study of the social, ethical, and professional issues of engineering and technology with the research and writing of the Undergraduate Thesis.
- STS 1500: Science, Technology, and Contemporary Issues – Great Inventions
- One 2000 or 3000 level STS class
- STS 450: STS and Engineering Practice
- STS 4600: The Engineer, Ethics, and Professional Responsibility
STS 1500 is taken in the first year, after which students can elect to take their 2000 or 3000 level STS class either their second or third year. The sequence of STS 4500 and STS 4600 is taken in the fourth year of study in order to guide students through their senior thesis.
In addition to the first- and fourth-year courses (STS 1500, and the STS 4500 / STS 4600 sequence) required of all engineering undergraduates, the department offers an array of 2000-level courses from which each student must choose at least one. Additional elective courses are offered at the 3000 level. Drawing on disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, these courses provide a variety of perspectives—social, historical, aesthetic, ethical, religious—on engineering, science, and technology.
In their senior year, all engineering undergraduates undertake a senior thesis project. Students work with a faculty member in their major and with an STS faculty member teaching STS 4500-4600; the thesis work includes integration of the technical subject matter with its ethical and social context.
History of Science and Technology Minor
In conjunction with the History Department, the Department of Science, Technology, and Society offers a minor in the history of technology and science. Open to all university undergraduates, this minor provides students with an opportunity to become familiar with humanistic perspectives of technology and science. For the engineering student, the minor offers an occasion for placing his or her professional education in a larger social and intellectual context; likewise, it provides the liberal arts student with a better understanding of science and technology as key components in human culture. Click here for more information.
Science and Technology Policy Minor
Students completing this minor will gain a deeper understanding of the interdependence of science, technology, engineering, and policy. They will also prepare themselves to lead organizations inside and outside of government, including those in industry, consulting, law, and medicine. Click here for more information.
W. Bernard Carlson, Department Chair and Professor
Catherine Baritaud, Science, Technology, & Society
Rosalyn W. Berne, Science, Technology, & Society
Joanne Cohoon, Science, Technology, & Society
Rider Foley, Science, Technology, & Society
Michael E. Gorman, Science, Technology, & Society
Deborah G. Johnson, Science, Technology, & Society
Lisa R. Messeri, Science, Technology, & Society
Kathryn A. Neeley, Science, Technology, & Society
Peter D. Norton, Science, Technology, & Society
Tolu Odumosu, Science, Technology, & Society
David L. Slutzky, Science, Technology, & Society
Caitlin Wylie, Science, Technology, & Society
COLLOQUIA & EVENTS
April 1, 2016 at 1 pm, Brooks Hall
co–sponsored with Anthropology (and many others)
Speaker: Kim Tallbear
Topic: “Disrupting Life/Not Life: A Feminist-Indigenous Reading of Cryopreservation, Interspecies Relations and the New Materialisms”
April 7, 2016 at 6:00 pm in Olsson 006
Speaker: Emma Frow
Topic: “Standards as Technology Policy”
April 8, 2016 at Noon
Speaker: David Gunkel
Topic: “How to Survive the Robot Apocalypse”
April 11, 2016 at 5:00 pm
Sponsor: E & S Colloquium
Speaker: Paul Scherz
Topic: “Science as a Vocation in the Entrepreneurial Age”
April 21, 2016 at 5:30 pm
Speaker: Walter Valdivia
Topic: “Responsible Innovation and Science Policy”
In the fourth or fifth year of study, undergraduate students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia undertake a research project called the undergraduate thesis. The undergraduate thesis project is designed to give students firsthand experience with the communication of technical information, the ideas and values that shape technology, the role of individuals and organizations in innovation, the role of technology in solving problems, the impact of technology on society, the ethical issues in engineering, the way personal values are expressed in professional choices and activities, and the management over time of a major project involving a variety of resources.
The projects are normally in a field of study appropriate to students’ career interests in engineering or applied science. Students receive guidance on how to organize their projects and in preparing written and oral reports on their research by taking a two-course sequence, STS 4500 and STS 4600 (formerly numbered as 401/402 and 4010/4020). Each thesis is reviewed and approved by a technical advisor from the students’ major department and by the students’ 4500 and 4600 professors.
Over the two courses, the undergraduate thesis project serves as a case study in a range of cultural and ethical issues. In STS 4500, students step back and consider the broader context of technology and science in Western civilization, and what constitutes scientific and technological progress, focusing especially on ethical and cultural dimensions. In STS 4600, students are encouraged to develop an understanding of the engineer’s role in society and the role of ethical issues and ideals in engineering. The engineering thesis is used as the particular focus for the issues raised in these classes.
Students may submit their completed thesis to compete in the annual Undergraduate Research and Design Symposium. For more information contact Kathryn Neeley, firstname.lastname@example.org.
OPPORTUNITIESThe STS program at UVA provides students with ample opportunities to expand their understanding of the relationship between science, technology, and society. Through exciting programs like the Washington Policy Internship, students are given unique insights to the role of STS in the world around them.
For more information on various opportunities within STS please visit our informational pages.
Ingrid Soudek Townsend Prize
Ingrid Soudek Townsend taught in the Department of Science, Technology and Society (and its predecessors) from 1973 until her retirement in 2008. In recognition of her dedication to excellence in undergraduate teaching, the STS Department established the Townsend Prize in her name in 2007.
The prize is awarded annually to the best paper by a first-year student in STS 1500, a course that uses the humanities and social sciences to introduce students to the roles of technology and engineering in society. This interdisciplinary approach typifies one of the key strengths of Professor Townsend’s teaching career.
Over the past several years, historians have produced exciting scholarship at the intersections of the History of Science, Technology, and the Environment. Although these sub-disciplines have developed separately – with distinct scholarly traditions, methodologies, and even their own journals and professional associations – scholars at the University of Virginia have led a drive to integrate these approaches in order to answer fundamental questions about how humans have come to understand “nature,” what technologies they have constructed to interact with the nonhuman world, and how these interactions have wrought significant changes to both nonhuman and human systems. Beginning in 1996, historians in the History Department and the Engineering School’s Department of Science, Technology, and Society organized the Committee for the History of Environment and Technology (“CHET”) to advance this integrated approach, eventually securing a National Science Foundation grant to fund graduate and post-graduate research demonstrating its utility. This mission to harness all the methodological tools of environmental, scientific, and technological studies continues today with UVA’s current Committee on the History of Environment, Science, and Technology (CHEST), which sponsors public talks and colloquia featuring innovative and insightful new works from graduate students and renowned scholars employing this integrated approach.
While UVA faculty and graduate students remain fundamentally grounded within the three disciplines of environmental, scientific, and technological studies, this intellectual community is also committed to demonstrating how insights gained through these perspectives reach across traditional disciplinary boundaries to inform the important work being done in political, economic, social, and cultural history. Recognizing the importance of this interdisciplinary pursuit, the Corcoran Department of History has recently created a Major Field of Study for graduate students interested in these issues. Mobilizing the ample intellectual resources of faculty in both the History Department and the Department of Science, Technology and Society, UVA offers a wide range of expertise in American and global environmental history, evolutionary history, energy history, public policy history, business and economic history, and the “contextual” approach to the history of technology. Faculty and graduate students working in these areas include:
Faculty Balogh, Brian, Professor of History, Department of History, University of Virginia Director and Chair, The Miller Center National Fellowship Program, Compton Professor 20th Century U.S. Political, American Political Development, Environmental History, History of Science and Technology
John K. Brown Associate Professor Technological and Industrial History W. Bernard Carlson Professor History of Technology; American Business History; Social and Cognitive Theories of Innovation; Entrepreneurship
Christian W. McMillen Assistant Professor Native American; U.S. West
Karen Parshall Professor of History and Mathematics History of Science
Robert Stolz Assistant Professor Japanese History, Social Theory
Graduate Students James Allison Environmental History, History of Technology, US West, American Indian History, Legal History
Bartow Elmore U.S. South, Global Environmental History, Business History
Thomas Finger Environmental History, History of Technology, 19th Century US
Philip Herrington U.S. South, Environmental, Architectural
Laura Kolar American Science and Technology, Agricultural History, Food Studies
Stephen Macekura History of U.S. Foreign Relations; International Development and Globalization; Global Environmental History; Civil Society
Andrew Meade McGee 20th Century U.S. Political and Cultural; American Political Development; Global Environmental and Technological History
Allen Miller U.S. Early Republic; Technology
Loren Moulds 20th Century U.S. Cultural, Environmental, Gender, Urban History
Jessica Otis Early Modern England, History of Science, Atlantic
The Washington Policy Internship Program of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences provides up to ten UVA engineering undergraduate students a year with the opportunity to combine intensive academic study and hands-on experience with top science and technology policy leaders in Washington through a 10-week summer internship program. Started in 2000, the Program has graduated more than 150 engineering students.
The mission of the program is to develop leaders of technology who can also become policy leaders. Despite the fundamental importance of science and technology in most of the public policy issues facing the nation and the world, too few leaders have the capability to bridge the gap between the worlds of policy and the technical communities. By developing skills in policy analysis and communication through coursework and real- world, hands-on experience with carefully selected mentors, students in the Program learn how to make the connections between policy and technology.
The program is unique in the country. No other school has a policy internship program intended uniquely for engineering undergraduates that combines an intensive dedicated semester seminar with hands-on summer internships and research. Unlike other summer internship programs, placements are highly personalized. At the end of the summer, interns present their summer projects at a public research symposium.
Jim Turner, a former Chief Counsel of the House Science Committee and SEAS Trustee, has volunteered his time over the last thirteen years to use his extensive contacts to match students’ interests with mentors who give our students substantive policy work. Our students work in the White House, in the Directors’ Office at the National Science Foundation, and with other highly-placed leaders in science and technology-related government and non-governmental organizations.
The Program pays for summer dormitory housing and also provides need-basis stipends to allow students to explore their potential interest in policy regardless of their economic circumstances. The Program is supported by contributions from SEAS alumni, interested individuals, foundations, and companies.