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.

HSS Boston – Call for Papers

The History of Science Society will hold its 2013 Annual Meeting in the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. The meeting will mark the 100th anniversary of the Society’s journal Isis, one of the premiere international journals in the history of science.

Submissions on all topics are encouraged. All proposals must be submitted on the HSS Web site (http://www.hssonline.org) or on the annual meeting proposal forms that are available from the HSS Executive Office: info@hssonline.org. Participants do not need to be members of the HSS, but all participants must register for the meeting. Applicants are encouraged to propose sessions that include diverse participants: a mix of men and women, and/or a balance of professional ranks (i.e., mixing senior scholars with junior scholars and graduate students). Strong preference will be given to panels whose presenters have diverse institutional affiliations. Only one proposal per person may be submitted. An individual may only appear once on the HSS program ‐‐ workshops and other non‐typical proposals are excluded from this restriction. Prior participation at the 2011 (Cleveland) or 2012 (San Diego) meetings will be taken into consideration.


How to Get the Most out of HSS

HSS Executive Director Jay Malone and GECC Co-Chair Jacqueline Wernimont have put together a guide for first-time HSS attendees (or anyone needing a refresher on how to navigate the HSS meeting).  Click here to read their pointers on making the most of the HSS program, advice about meeting people for the first time, and a note on the usefulness of those stylish name-badges….

You can also access “How to Get the Most Out of HSS” from the stable HSS 2008 Annual Meeting Page – look to the right under “Subpages” and click the title.