Early Careerist Profile: Bridget D. Collins

How did you become interested in history of science?

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Vermont I was fortunate enough to be assigned a work study job in the Special Collections department of the library. To a young student interested in history, this was a dream job and the archivists were wonderful. One semester they had me read their entire diary collection to create a searchable database for patrons. There were a lot of weather observations and social calls, but one diary stuck with me – the diary of Jane Flynn Wilson, who documented her experience of tuberculosis in the late nineteenth century. I ended up writing my undergraduate dissertation on the diaries and while I tried to become a “regular” American historian with my M.A. at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, I kept coming back to issues related to the history of science, medicine, and technology.

Bridget Collins, History of Science Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Bridget Collins, History of Science Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

How did you get involved in the GECC?

I had done volunteer work in my own department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for our mentorship program (we match an incoming student with a current student), although I had never participated in the GECC mentorship program. A friend dragged me along to the business meeting and when they announced they were looking for a mentorship coordinator I thought it would be a great way to get more involved, meet more people, and gain some valuable experience.

What has your experience been like during your term?

One of the less talked about aspects of academic life is service, which often means sitting on lots of committees and through a lot of meetings. Serving with GECC has given me such a positive experience of this part of our work that I may be spoiled! Our officers overlap positions, so you always have an expert available to ask advice from and we are constantly finding ways to work more efficiently, while also energizing the caucus. This year we have worked really hard to find out what our members find the most useful and using social media to reach out to them with that information. Our Twitter (@HSSGECC) is now updated almost daily with job, fellowship, and conference announcements, while our Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/hssgecc) has proven very useful at promoting events that we hold at the annual meeting. Finally, this blog offers the longer format to feature profiles of early careerists and serve as a clearinghouse of useful information for our members.

What is something you have learned about the HSS through being an officer that others members may not know about the society?

How few people are making it all possible! Last year I volunteered at the registration desk and saw how hard Jay and Greg both work to make the annual meeting seem effortless. So much of the meeting, from the prize committees to the caucuses, are based entirely on volunteer effort.

What is one of your current toughest professional challenges?

To finish my dissertation! The end is definitely the hardest and requires both hard work and a lot of pep talks. I’ve chosen to work remotely in order to live with my partner in Salt Lake City. It can be very isolating to work without the support of your department, so I have tried to attend talks on the University of Utah campus (the Tanner Humanities Center offers a diverse and invigorating series of brown bags and lectures) while participating in my dissertator group via Google Hangouts. The annual meeting is almost sensory overload after working this way for the past year!

What do you see in your professional horizon over the next five years?

As we all know, this job market is scary. Add into the mix a two body problem and it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed. We are not finishing our degrees with the same expectations and challenges that our advisors did, but the creative ways I see my colleagues approach this problem is inspiring. I see more postdoctoral positions opening up in the humanities, opportunities in the digital humanities, and even options in the private sector (I currently work part time with Ancestry.com, the largest genealogy website in the world). I think the less we see these career paths as “plan B” and the more we see them as opportunities to use our degrees in fun and challenging ways the more we can bring the history of science, medicine, and technology to a broader audience.

Bridget D. Collins is a PhD candidate in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her B.A. (History) from the University of Vermont in 1998, her M.A. (History) from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2000, and completed a second M.A. (History of Science) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006. She is currently working on her dissertation, “From the Cradle to the Grave: Infectious Disease in the Twentieth Century American Home,” under the direction of Professors Judith Walzer Leavitt and Susan E. Lederer. 

Find her online at http://bridgetdcollins.blogspot.com/twitter.com/brdgtc.


Two Faculty Positions in Science Studies at Michigan State University

Two Faculty Positions in Science Studies at Michigan State University

  Lyman Briggs College (LBC) at Michigan State University (MSU) invites applications for two Science Studies faculty positions in the Academic Specialist Appointment System to join the college’s History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science (HPS) Group in August, Candidates must be committed to undergraduate teaching and should have their Ph.D. in hand by August 15, 2015 with training in the history, philosophy, and/or sociology of science, technology, environment, or medicine or a closely related field. Expertise in non-western science, writing pedagogy, or diversity and inclusion in science would be especially welcomed. The successful candidate will have evidence of teaching experience.

  Founded in 1967, LBC is a vibrant residential college at MSU that focuses on the study of science and its impact on society. Bridging the two cultures, the LBC curriculum integrates natural sciences and mathematics courses with courses in science studies, and faculty work closely with students in small classes. Nearly all of the students in LBC major in the natural sciences, about 60% are women, nearly 20% are students of color, and 20% also belong to MSU’s Honors College. The college’s faculty, staff, and students promote inclusion through a range of initiatives and have won awards for diversity and inclusion in their instruction and research.

  Academic Specialists in LBC teach five small courses over the academic year, including two or three sections of the first-year introduction to the history, philosophy and sociology of science and two or three upper-level courses. They also will be expected to contribute professional service to the college, including membership on LBC committees. Each of these two science studies academic specialist positions will start with a three-year probationary appointment that has the potential, after successful reappointment, to become long-term positions (for details see the MSU Faculty Handbook http://www.hr.msu.edu/documents/facacadhandbooks/academicspecialist/ASH_AppendixA.htm.

  This position is listed on the MSU Applicant Page, Posting # 0036. Applications must be uploaded to MSU’s online job application site (https://jobs.msu.edu). A complete application will include a c.v., teaching portfolio, and a cover letter that outlines the candidate’s expertise as it pertains teaching in the college as well as the pedagogical approaches the candidate employs. For details on teaching portfolios see http://www.lymanbriggs.msu.edu/faculty/openPositions.cfm. In addition, three letters of recommendation addressing the candidate’s teaching experience and expertise must be sent electronically by the recommenders through the application system. The deadline to ensure full consideration of applications is October 15, 2014 and review of applications will continue until the positions are filled. Questions regarding these positions may be directed to Dr. Georgina M. Montgomery, at montg165@msu.edu or at Lyman Briggs College, 919 E. Shaw Lane Room E-35, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI 48825-1107.

MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer. MSU is committed to achieving excellence through a diverse workforce and inclusive culture that encourages all people to reach their full potential. The University actively encourages applications and/or nominations of women, persons of color, veterans and persons with disabilities. 

Early Careerist Profile: Rachel S. A. Pear

Early Careerist Profile: Rachel S. A. Pear

Rachel Pear, Haifa University

Rachel S. A. Pear, Bar-Ilan University

How did you first get interested in history of science?

As an undergraduate at Columbia College I majored in archeology with a focus on paleoanthropology, and especially enjoyed a summer field school at Zhoukoudian, China–otherwise known as the “Peking Man Site”. I continued on this academic path after moving to Israel where I completed an M.A. in Prehistoric Archeology at Hebrew University. I only took one course outside of the archeology department in my MA, which was entitled “Evolution and Human Nature: Questions for Education and Jewish Education”. This one course wound up convincing me that a study of the history of Jewish receptions of evolution was needed, and even that I might be someone who could contribute to this work! I was referred to the STS program at Bar Ilan University, although I had never before heard of STS or HPS, and as soon as I began my course work, taught predominantly by historians of science, I became hooked on the field and my career path shift was solidified. Although I knew I wanted to write my dissertation on Jewish engagement with Darwinism, it was only after I encountered the discipline of the history of science, through my brilliant advisers Noah Efron and Oren Harman, that I began to understand how such a topic could and should be tackled. I have to say even though my dissertation was accepted over a year ago and I have begun teaching, I still very much feel like I am learning more about the field all the time!

What was your experience like at your first HSS meeting?

Last year was my first experience at an HSS meeting, and I cannot wait to go back. I really enjoyed the mentoring program where I was paired with an amazing scholar of science and religion Mathew Stanley of NYU, and it was a tremendous thrill to meet heroes whose work I had only read from afar, such as Ron Numbers, who was incredibly kind and helpful. Of course it was also great meeting other GECC members! I was inspired to continue with my academic work and also encouraged by one of the conference themes last year to be open to opportunities “outside of the box” of the traditional academic trajectory. It turned out that this advice became very relevant in my life as I soon was awarded a grant to work on evolution education in the Israeli religious school system. This work has been very fulfilling so far and it was wonderful to feel the encouragement of the HSS as I dove into this new adventure.

What is currently your toughest professional challenge?

One of my current professional challenges relates to the tension inherent in the integration of the historical with the contemporary–specifically in terms of my work on the history of Jewish receptions of evolution and my work on current models of how to reduce animosity towards evolution with the religious Jewish community. As I said I certainly whole-heartedly agree with the HSS’s move to endorse work outside of the halls of the university, but I think as a profession we are only at the beginning of unraveling what this complicated package entails.

Rachel is currently a teaching fellow at Bar Ilan University and a postdoctoral researcher at Haifa University, as well as the co-founder of the Science and Religion Research Group housed at the Van Leer Institute. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and 4 children and would love to hear from you if you are passing through the Middle East. In any case feel free to write to her at RachelS.A.Pear@gmail.com.

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