Who among us has not though “Okaaay, but I’m never going to use this in the Real World” about some topic we’re learning in school? A new co-major at Tufts called Science, Technology, and Society (STS) is encouraging students to look at how science and technology are woven into the fabric of our daily lives and, conversely, how society’s structure affects how we approach STEM fields. This interdisciplinary program includes over 40 faculty members in 20 different departments.
Dr. Moon Duchin, the driving force for this endeavor was inspired by similar departments at other universities, including MIT’s STS program.. Dr. Duchin says she “wanted to bring together [Tufts’s] incredibly talented interdisciplinary faculty, who weren’t necessarily already in conversation with each other.” Indeed, she emphasizes how this program builds a community for both students and faculty members “where humanities, social sciences, and STEM” come together.”
In addition to the benefits of a new kind of intellectual community, Dr. Duchin believes that this program will enable some students to gain a longer-lasting understanding of the material they are covering in their science courses. By seeing how the more technical material fits into a societal context, students will be able to see the bigger picture. Dr. Duchin also envisions that this understanding will help students learn about career paths they may not have considered before or even knew existed.
Courses are drawn from Anthropology, Philosophy, and Biology, amongst others, and Fall 2016 classes include Medical Anthropology; Music, Technology, and Digital Culture; and the Mathematics of Poverty. Additionally, the STS department is introducing reading labs to be taken in conjunction with certain science and math classes. These labs count for half a credit, just like normal labs, and meet between one to one and a half hours per week. Similar to a seminar, students in the lab will have a reading each week and then discuss it. This reading will be tied to what they are learning in their technical class and will deal with its social implications. Next semester, the first reading lab will be offered for Mathematical Modeling. Students will be expected to incorporate what they have learned in their reading lab into their final project for the course.
A student can be enrolled in an STS degree program in two ways: a co-major and a minor. Requirements for the co-major and minor can be found on the program’s website. Students can follow one of three tracks of study. Bodies, Health, and Medicine includes questions of how the body is viewed in historical and modern times, the evolution of psychological practices, and the relationship between humans and animals. Science and the State deals with how policies are affected by research and technology, how laws impact the way in which science is conducted, and how mass media interprets and mediates scientific discovery for public consumption. And Mathematics and Modeling explores the history of mathematics, the ways we use computing to predict and address “real world” problems, and hidden biases and impacts of quantitative models.
As this is a new program, Dr. Duchin would love to hear any suggestions or questions you have – please feel free to comment below firstname.lastname@example.org!