Early Career Profile – Monique Dufour

In our newest Career Profile meet Monique Dufour, a recent PhD who will be presenting her paper “‘The Library as Laboratory’: Bibliotherapy and the Clinical Study of Literature as Medicine, 1940–1960,” at HSS 2014 on Saturday morning (9:00AM-11:45AM) as part of the panel “The Institution as Laboratory: Captive Bodies and the Production of Scientific Knowledge” (Michigan Ballroom I, Level 2).

What is your approach to the history of science?

I explore encounters between science, medicine, and the humanities, especially in the 20th- and 21st centuries. I am curious about how and why people have tried to connect these domains and how each may have been reconstituted and transformed in the process. For instance, my dissertation, Reading for Health: Bibliotherapy and the Medicalized Humanities in the US, 1930-1965, aims to recover and explore the midcentury processes by which therapeutic reading became at once natural, medical, and scientific. I tell the story of midcentury hospital librarians, psychologists, and language arts educators who believed that reading could and should promote health, and for whom science seemed to offer the most promising way to develop knowledge about the “embodied reader.” I’m driven by topics and questions that allow me to explore how science—as an epistemological project, a cultural resource, as an article of faith—circulated.

Monique Dufour

Monique Dufour, Virginia Tech

What was your experience like at your first HSS meeting?

I first presented at HSS in 2011, when I was just starting to think about my dissertation. I came to doctoral work in Science and Technology Studies from the fields of writing, literature, and book history. As I developed my project, my advisor Matthew Wisnioski encouraged me to focus on the questions about science raised by my historical actors. “This is a history of science project,” he often told me. Because I was still learning about the history of science, I was a bit nervous about conceiving of the project in that way. But the experience of submitting that paper, presenting it, and participating in the conference was tremendous. I appreciated the collegial and genuinely curious spirit among the panelists and attendees alike, and especially the constructive feedback I received at my panel. While I came to the conference certain that the history of science was relevant to my emerging research program, I came away equally sure that this was a community of which I wanted to be a part. Anyone who has the erroneous impression that the history of science is only a specialized field for focused experts should attend HSS to experience for themselves the astonishing scope of topics, and their essential connections to cultural and social issues.

What do you see on your professional horizon?
Having just completed my PhD, I will soon be, like many of us, “on the market.” (What a phrase!) To help me through this process, I try each day to remember powerful advice given to me by a Virginia Tech colleague, Brian Britt: “Take seriously the idea of making a contribution.”

If I can paint my own horizon, I see a post-doc in which I can participate in a community of scholars, think and write together, and continue to develop my projects and research program. I then see a tenure-track position where I may build a writing and teaching life among colleagues. We all know that these goals are elusive, but I remain committed to believing that they are possible.

But as Annie Dillard says, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” So I’m working toward these goals through how I spend my days teaching and writing. Currently, I’m finishing an article for the medical humanities community about how U.S. librarians and psychologists in the 1970s deliberated quite explicitly about how to define therapeutic reading either as science-based medicine or as a humanistic practice. I’m also writing an article for a history of science and medicine audience about how literacy educators in the midcentury U.S. came to believe that it was their job to promote health. I really enjoy thinking about how my research and writing can and should change for different audiences, such as students at a range of levels and scholars from different disciplinary contexts. It keeps my writing fresh and challenging, and helps me to feel connected to others even when I’m sitting at my desk among my books and ideas.

Monique Dufour is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech, where she is also directs the Medicine and Society minor. She holds a PhD and MS in STS, as well as an MA in English. Before her doctoral work, she directed the University Writing Program and was a faculty development consultant at VT’s Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Previously, she was a Writing Fellow at Duke University’s University Writing Program. Her paper at this year’s HSS meeting in Chicago is a part of the panel, “The Institution as Laboratory: Captive Bodies and the Production of Scientific Knowledge.”

Early Careerist Profile – Courtney Thompson

How did you become interested in history of science?
I originally intended to be a Psychology major in college, until I took an introductory lecture course on the History of Psychiatry. I realized that I was much more interested in the history of the field than being a practitioner. I switched my major, and the rest is (pun intended) history.
Courtney Thompson, Yale University

Courtney Thompson, Yale University

How did you get involved in the GECC?

While attending a few HSS meetings and getting to know the GECC members, I found the various GECC opportunities (especially the mentorship tea and the CV review) to be really useful. I didn’t just want to benefit from GECC, I wanted to help make them happen.
What has your experience been like during your term?
Bridget and I have a great working relationship, and she has been very helpful in setting me up. The GECC officers are wonderful collaborators, and we have been working together to make sure our graduate and early career colleagues have a great time in Chicago.
What is something you have learned about the HSS through being an officer that others members may not know about the society?
Conference planning is even more difficult than I would have expected! Wrangling a large group of people, finding spaces for events, and working out timing and budget are increasingly challenging as the size of a group increases. I have new appreciation for the organizers, especially as we enter the busiest time of the academic year.
What is one of your current toughest professional challenges?
My current challenge is to find a balance between my daily writing and research schedule and the challenges of the job market, along with my other commitments, like GECC.
Courtney Thompson is a Ph.D. candidate in the program in the History of Science and Medicine at Yale University. Her dissertation, “Criminal Minds: Law, Medicine, and the Phrenological Impulse in America, 1830-1890,” explores the development of medico-legal approaches to crime in nineteenth-century America with a particular focus on the influence of phrenology. She will be presenting a paper on her current research at the upcoming HSS meeting in Chicago. This paper, “‘Directly at War with the Gallows’: The Prison and Phrenological Criminal Science,” will be presented as a part of a panel she organized on “The Institution as Laboratory.” She currently serves as the Mentorship Officer for the Graduate and Early Career Caucus. 

Early Careerist Profile – Thomas Darragh

1. How did you become interested in history of science?

During my time as a master’s student, my focus was on US intellectual and transnational history. As I was studying at the University of Strathclyde, I became interested in the transnational exchange of scientific ideologies between the US and the rest of the world. When the time came for me to start my Ph.D. work, I decided to focus on the exchange of ideas between scientists and how these ideas enter into the public sphere. Currently, I am focusing on how scientists define the difference between humans and non-human animals and how these definitions affect racial ideas.

Thomas Darragh, Central Michigan University

Thomas Darragh, Central Michigan University

2. How did you get involved in the GECC?

I attended the CV review workshop during the 2013 HSS meeting in Boston. During the workshop, I meet Sandy Clark, who was the CV review coordinator. I share his passion for working with other graduate students, and he encouraged me to attend the GECC meeting. The opportunity to run this year’s CV workshop was open, and I decided that it would be a great opportunity to work with the HSS.

3. What has your experience been like during your term?

Working with the other members of the GECC is a wonderful experience. It is a great feeling to realize how much effort is going into making the 2014 HSS meeting a success. The commitment to helping graduate and young professionals have the best experience possible, during the meeting, is easy to underestimate. It is amazing how much the HSS and GECC boards care about helping graduate students and other young professionals.

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

It is easy for us to forget how many hours go into planning an event as big as the HSS. What is amazing is how many members are willing to make an effort to ensure that the newest members of HSS have a terrific experience. For example, the number of people willing to donate their time to the mentorship and CV review programs is amazing.

5. What is one of your current toughest professional challenges?

Currently, I am getting ready to defend my dissertation, and I am applying for jobs. Both are full time jobs. Keeping focused and not being discouraged is always a challenge at this stage of graduate life. It is too easy for young professionals to forget that they are not alone in having a feeling of not knowing what their future holds. Being a member of HSS has helped to remind me that the ups and downs of being Ph.D. candidate is a shared experience that we all must go through.

Thomas Darragh was born and raised in Michigan. He went to Michigan State University for his undergraduate, where he studied History, International Relations, and Political Theory. He holds a MA in History from Central Michigan University and a MSc in Historical Studies from the University of Strathclyde. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in History at Central Michigan University and an instructor for Central Michigan University’s Global Campus program.

His fields of study are America in the World, Transnational, and the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. His dissertation – Civilized Animals, Savage Peoples: The Human, the Animal, and the Formation of Transnational Consciousness – looks at how various theories about the difference between humans and non-human animals have changed the way Western society has defined itself in relation to other peoples.

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.

Early Careerist Profile: Joy Rankin

Joy Rankin

Joy Rankin, Yale University

How did you first get interested in history of science?

I double-majored in math and history in college. During my senior year, I looked for ways to bring those passions together.  In my senior math seminar on cryptography, I researched the Voynich Manuscript, a well-known mysterious and undeciphered manuscript from the 15th or 16th century. Then, my senior history seminar addressed “Science and Medicine in Nazi Germany,” with Rich Kremer, a great historian of science. This combination of courses and topics stimulated my interest.

What was your experience like at your first HSS meeting?

My first HSS meeting was exciting.  I actually presented a paper at that first meeting, in Phoenix in 2009.  Our panel addressed “Speaking of Darwin: The Meaning and Application of Evolution in the 20th Century,” and we had quite a large audience. My HSS colleague’s enthusiasm for my research, as well as their helpful questions and suggestions, made me feel welcomed and supported.

What is a piece of advice you could pass on to fellow GECC members that you think could be helpful to her/him?

It’s never too early to start thinking about professionalization, and what professionalization means to you.  As you’re doing original research, think about how you can turn those smaller projects into conference papers, articles, or digital humanities projects.  I think many of us feel that what we produce during our first year or two of graduate school isn’t ready for public consumption, but part of the process of sharing work and peer review is transforming something that may not be quite ready into a polished piece.

Also, when you start attending HSS meetings and other conferences, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to more senior scholars whose work engages you.  It may seem daunting to approach someone whose book (or books!) you admire, but most people are happy to talk about their work and their experiences, and to learn more about your work.

What is currently your toughest professional challenge?

The job market!

What is your favorite part about being a historian of science?

I really like my colleagues, and I feel privileged every time I get to read the work of a fellow historian (or anthropologist) of science and technology. One of my most rewarding endeavors over the past year has been leading a dissertation writing group, and our shared readings and meetings have been highlights for me.  I’m learning all about the history of vaccination and immunology in 20th century China, the history of sugar standardization in the 19th century, and recent biosecurity practices in Mexico.  I love reading and researching in this field, and I love sharing all of this with my students.

Joy Rankin studies the textures of digitization in daily life since World War II.  Her research addresses American history, the history of science and technology, and the history of gender. Rankin is a doctoral candidate in History at Yale University, and her dissertation, “Personal Computing before Personal Computers,” argues that students and educators using academic time-sharing systems during the 1960s and 1970s transformed computing from a military, business, and scientific endeavor into an intensely personal practice. Her dissertation earned recognition and support with the IEEE Life Members’ Fellowship in Electrical History (2012-13) and the Adelle and Erwin Tomash Fellowship in the History of Information Technology (2013-14). Rankin’s second project interrogates the history of democracy and technology by analyzing the relationships among activism, gender, identity, and technology during the movements of the long 1960s. Read more at www.joyrankin.com.