PhD in Science and Technology Studies

Our PhD in Science & Technology Studies (STS) provides students with the opportunity to pursue an independent and research-based project on the ethical, social, political, and economic implications of science, technology, and innovation. This experience enables students to develop their expertise in interdisciplinary theories and methods to analyze the diverse structures of the sciences, technology, and innovation. Our PhD is a 5-year program and all accepted students are offered a funding package comprising a fellowship and teaching assistanship. Other financial opportunities are also available.

The STS graduate program aims to prepare students for a range of career pathways and to this end we have revisioned our course requirements to enable students to plan for careers in academia, policymaking, journalism, healthcare, business, education, and beyond. We recommend that applicants discuss their career goals with potential Supervisors as early as possible, even before application.

(Please note that the new curriculum changes are subject to Senate approval)

DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY PROGRAM

ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

The deadline for applications is published on the Admissions website.

Applicants must have:

  • Master’s degree (or equivalent) from a recognized university in field(s) relevant to Science and Technology Studies, with a grade average of at least a B+. Examples of relevant Master’s degrees include any MA or MSc degree in which the student has completed a significant amount of coursework on the application of the social sciences and/or humanities to an understanding of science or technology.
  • Three letters of recommendation;
  • A statement of intent which provides an outline of the dissertation project the applicant would like to undertake and a cogent rationale for undertaking study at York; and
  • A sample of written work relevant to graduate study in science and technology studies

We suggest you read up on things to consider when applying to a PhD program. Here are some suggestions by Matthew Wolf-Meyer (Binghampton University, USA) which can be helpful.

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

Our PhD program is a multiyear program of advanced graduate study whose purpose is the training of students to become highly qualified scholars in Science and Technology Studies (STS). The program culminates in the preparation of a dissertation that makes an original contribution to scholarship in STS.

All PhD applicants are required to identify and contact a Supervisor in the program before applying. Once in the program, PhD students develop a plan of study in which they provide an integrated, coherent rationale for their studies as they relate to their course work, competencies examination, and dissertation. Candidates should discuss their plans with Supervisors and the Graduate Program Director at the beginning of their first term, with the end of the year as the deadline for finalizing the plan. Both the student’s Supervisor and the Graduate Program Director must approve the plan of study.

Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that students develop an integrated, coherent plan of study and complete their degree requirements in timely fashion and for providing them with general academic advice (with regard, for instance, to preparing for their competencies examination; applying for scholarships and teaching fellowships; writing their dissertation; attending and contributing to scholarly conferences; and learning how to prepare scholarly papers for publication in learned journals; and undertaking a job search which may require the preparation of a detailed teaching dossier).

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

Students are required to take 15 Credits in courses consistent with their plan of study, as approved by their Supervisor and the Graduate Program Director.

Courses

  • Students are required to take:
    → 3-Credit Introduction Science and Technology Studies in the Fall term of their first year, unless they have already taken the Introduction course as an MA student in the York University STS graduate program.
    → One 3-Credit Research Cluster course, running over Fall and Winter terms (see below) (PhD1).
    → One 0-Credit Research Cluster course, running over Fall and Winter terms (see below) (PhD2).
    → 0-Credit Colloquium course, running over Fall and Winter terms (PhD1 & PhD2).
    → At least one 3-Credit STS elective course.
  • Students have the option to take:
    → One other 3-Credit Research Cluster course, running over Fall and Winter terms.
    → One 3-Credit Directed Reading course.
    → One 3-Credit course offered by another graduate program relevant to their studies and in consultation with the Graduate Program Director.

Competencies Examination

Students are required to complete a competencies exam by the end of their second year (Term 6).  The examination is based on three reading lists, and has both an oral and written component. The first list tests a student’s general knowledge of STS as a discipline; the second list tests their specialized knowledge of a specific topic or research area in STS; and the third exam tests their application of STS to a distinct career pathway and can include active research engagement outside the University (e.g. internship, community research, social activism, etc.). Students create the second and third lists themselves, but the first list is set by the program. Students produce a written ‘output’ of 6000 words that deals with all three lists, but mainly focuses on their final list and career pathway; for example, it could be an essay, course outline, policy report, internship report, community research project, documentary film, art installation, etc. Students are then examined in a 3-hour presentation and discussion of their three lists by a Competencies Examination Committee comprising three faculty members, two of whom must be from the STS graduate program.

The objectives of the competencies examination are threefold: first, to prepare and qualify students to teach undergraduate courses in the areas examined; second, to equip students with the initial specialized knowledge they need to undertake research on their doctoral dissertation; and third, to prepare students for different career pathways. Students are expected to demonstrate competency within their designated areas of the examination. This is assessed through an evaluation of a student’s written output and their responses to questions during the examination that address the material on the reading lists. Outcomes of the exam include: Qualified; Qualified with Condition (decided by the committee); and Not Qualified.

In the case of a Not Qualified outcome, students are permitted to re-sit the examination only once, and the re-examination is to take place within six months of the date of the first examination.  A second failure requires withdrawal from the program.  The examination committee will be composed of three faculty members:  the student’s Supervisor, a Graduate Program in STS faculty member appointed by the Graduate Program Director in consultation with the student and the supervisor; and either another STS faculty member or a member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies from another graduate program appointed by the Graduate Program Director in consultation with the student and the supervisor.

Language Requirement

Students working in an area where the language is other than English must demonstrate to the members of their Dissertation Supervisory Committee that they have the ability to read primary sources and secondary literature in that language.

Dissertation

Students must complete a dissertation that makes an original contribution to STS scholarship. The dissertation can take three forms according to Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations: first, a 60,000-100,000 word research monograph; second, three or four refereed and published journal articles and/or book chapters (‘by manuscript’), as well as a 20,000 word Introduction and Conclusion that ties the published work together in a coherent whole; and third, a multi-modal project comprising an alternative output (e.g. documentary film, art installation, organizational project, etc.) and 30,000 word report explaining its relevance to theories, concepts, and research in STS.

TIME LIMITS

Full-time students are expected to complete their studies within five academic years of admission (15 terms).

RESEARCH CLUSTERS

1. Technoscientific Injustices

Kean Birch, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change
Denielle Elliott, Departments of Anthropology & Social Science
Anna Agathangelou, Department of Politics

The Cluster is focused on three thematically linked topics, one for each year, all relating to technoscientific injustices. First, an examination of the configuring of technoscientific capitalism, specifically as this relates to the social, political, and economic implications of innovation-finance logics that drive the development of technoscience of economic exploitation; for example, the digital technologies underpinning Big Tech’s dominance and their configuration by specific forms of extraction (e.g. of our data, of our attention, etc.). A core question to consider is how STS fits within this framework, and what role it has and how it is sidelined in these arenas. Second, the identification and exploration of the politics of Indigenous science, settler colonialisms, and technoscience across settler nations (e.g. Australia, Canada, USA, Palestine, and Aotearoa/New Zealand). While a growing body of research has helped to underscore the many roles technoscience plays in longstanding entanglements between citizenship, knowledge claims, land, and nationhood, much of this scholarship seems to define the social roles of science and scientists in implicitly settler terms. We will consider how STS might interrogate its own assumptions about settler science and Indigenous knowledge. Third, engagement with decolonization, of society, of university, and of STS itself. Many struggles and movements, ranging from Indigenous movements at Standing Rock to student movements in South Africa are calling for decolonization. These decolonial struggles are emerging as pivotal acts in the wider struggle to end imperialism, capitalism and white supremacy. The surge of Black Lives Matter has also intensified these calls for decolonization in Europe and the Global North. But what is “decolonization?” These examples inquire into the colonial and enslaving scientific knowledge productions and STS as a field, ethos, and practice. What do such struggles imply about the possibilities for the world’s remaking?

2. Bodies: Organic, Inorganic, Technological

Ganaele Langlois, Department of Communication Studies
Hélène Mialet, Department of Science and Technology Studies
Joan Steigerwald, Department of Humanities

The Cluster is organized around the following three interconnected areas. First, cosmotechnics and bodily assemblages to challenge the tripartite system of colonialism, modernity and capitalism as it has grown to assert a monotechnologism aiming on absolute control and domination over organic and inorganic bodies. It does so by focusing on forgotten, ignored and discarded technologies, with particular attention to indigenous and women’s technologies. It invites participants to explore the cosmotechnics (Yuk Hui) – the articulation of technical processes with cosmological and ethical values, which transform technologies into bodily and heavenly communication – that emerge from these alternatives and potentials. Second, bodies in translation as a way to destabilize the boundaries between humans and non-humans, nature and society, subject and object. We will explore the specificity and the role of the human in these assemblages composed of humans and non-humans (whether networks in the case of Latour or cyborgs in the case of Haraway). We will explore how the flesh and blood body is experienced and constituted through, with, and by others, machines, humans and animals, and taking into account the importance of senses, sensations, and feelings, notions of attachment, and sensibility. Finally, experimental and technological practices and reasonings remaking bodies. The instrumentalization of inquiries into organic and inorganic bodies is often cast as producing an objectification of the world for the use and the corresponding enframing of human subjects. Yet technological innovations can also act as medial tools and techniques for expanding our engagements with the world and for embedding human senses, cognition and imagination in extended assemblages of organic, inorganic and technological bodies. The epistemic, ethical and cultural implications of the medial relationships between different kinds of bodies will be explored through various cases studies and theoretical approaches.