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Early Careerist Profile: Emily Redman September 21, 2015

Posted by emmiemiller in Uncategorized.

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Emily Redman, Chairing Session T8: “Science Pedagogy and Education,” Thursday, November 19, 2015, 1:30-3:30pm

How did you end up chairing a panel? What drew you to this particular panel?

Well, good fortune, really. I actually was browsing the conference program following a call for volunteers to chair panels and noticed one of the chair-less panels was Science Pedagogy and Education. I immediately volunteered, perhaps even with a level of enthusiasm that was a bit overboard! But it really did seem like a perfect fit and I was excited to potentially be a part of what looked like a really fantastic panel. My own work is on pedagogy and education, and while I focus on mathematics, I am very interested in how the history of science education and math education compare, converge, and diverge—these questions, which I encountered what working in the archives at the AAAS, were actually what led me to work on math education in the first place. I’m also on the Board of the History and Pedagogy of Mathematics-Americas Section, where I have the pleasure of getting acquainted with new research in the history of teaching and learning. On a more personal level, I began my own career in science education on both sides of the desk—I graduated college with a degree in physics, and went on to teach physics and general science at a boarding high school in Pennsylvania before making the switch to being a historian. Basically, you could say that I’ve been interested in science pedagogy and education since middle school, when I gave up my study hall periods to dissect things in the science lab!

How does this panel’s subject fit with your current work/research?

Two of the presenters will be discussing mathematics education specifically, which I am really excited to see. Anja Sattelmacher of the Max Planck Institute will be looking at mathematical cartoons, which is something I coincidentally also work on, though in a different time period. Samuel Hunecke of Stanford will also be presenting on Nazi-era math education, a topic I am quite interested in as it relates to the intersection of nationalism and pedagogy. I’m also quite interested to learn more about Shawn Bullock’s work on public education in physics, both because of my own background in the field as well as my interest in public history of STEMM more generally. And finally, I am looking forward to further broadening the geographic, theoretical, and temporal bounds of the subject with Melanie Keene’s (Cambridge) and Erica Torrens’ (National University of Mexico) talks on the teaching of evolution in Mexico and performance and pedagogy in 19th century object lessons.

What do you think the benefits of serving on a panel are/will be?

Limitless! Seriously, though, I have never been disappointed with my experience on panels at HSS. This particular panel intersects with my own research in truly interesting ways, so I expect my own work to be challenged and enriched in important ways through the experience of joining the panel. I am also really looking forward to my role of bringing together the wonderfully wide-ranging topics that the presenters are bringing to the table. I think folks in the audience are in for a real treat as we will explore science pedagogy and education through so many diverse lenses. Of course, I always enjoy simply learning more about the new research in the field, which I will get a chance to do in this panel as well as all of others I will attend at the conference—the real trick will be narrowing down the talks I am able to attend!

What was your experience presenting last year?

Surprising! Our panel, which focused exclusively on the history of mathematics, was scheduled in the early morning slot on Sunday, the last day of the conference. This might come as somewhat of a surprise, but over the years I heave heard from a lot of historians—and yes, even historians of science—that math is not their cup of tea. I didn’t have high hopes for competing with the mass exodus to the airport, the draw of last-minute Chicago sightseeing, or even a few more precious minutes in bed at the end of a long conference. Much to my surprise it was a full house, and I—along with the other presenters—were fortunate enough to receive many helpful questions from the audience, as well as a tremendously thoughtful commentary from Massimo Mazzotti (UC Berkeley). I was pleased to be on a panel with Christopher Phillips (NYU), whom I presented with years ago at the HSS meeting in Montreal, and whose work on the New Math is really exciting. This panel also offered me the opportunity to be introduced to Theodora Dryer, a PhD candidate at UCLA, who is working on a really excellent project on Cold War-era algorithms. Amir Alexander (UCLA) also presented a fascinating talk on how geometrical “certainty” was a powerful tool employed historically by rulers and bureaucrats. It was a really fun panel full of new ideas, various historical and theoretical approaches, and even a good number of laughs.

What are you most looking forward to at HSS in San Francisco? What have you found most beneficial about other HSS annual meetings that you have attended?

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of the draw is the chance to visit my old stomping grounds in California, see old friends, and get a chance to enjoy a little Bay Area sunshine and produce as winter is beginning in Western Massachusetts. But in terms of the conference itself, there is a lot I am looking forward to. For starters, I’m eager to hear Paula Findlen speak. Her work, though of course on a quite different subject than my own, has always been fascinating to me. More generally, I always look forward to the chance to explore new areas in the history of science. It’s great to learn about the new developments in the field, and I find that often I’m inspired to incorporate new material into my classes. I’m also looking forward to catching up with colleagues in the field who have become friends. I think this is one of the most beneficial things about attending HSS meetings, in fact. So often, graduate students are encouraged to “network,” which can seem intimidating. Networking at HSS, however, has always in my experience been easy, comfortable, and rewarding. The atmosphere is relaxed (even if Q&A sessions can sometimes get heated!) and I’ve developed personal and professional relationships with a number of colleagues as a direct result of HSS meetings, and am consistently pleased with the friendly mentoring offered by eminent scholars and the nearly tangible enthusiasm from new scholars to the field. Since most of us are in departments or institutions with few fellow historians of science, it’s pretty spectacular to have a chance to talk shop with the ever-increasing number of people who come together for the meetings.

Biography: Emily is an Assistant Professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She went east to UMass in 2013 after completing her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focus is on 20th century U.S. history of science, though she teaches more broadly in the history of science. She is currently working on a book manuscript, The Math Mafia, which explores the social and political history of K-12 mathematics education reform in the United States.


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