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Science Studies (Cluster)

The Science Studies Cluster seeks students interested in supplementing their disciplinary learning with attention to the transformations wrought by science, medicine, and technology.

Science Studies is a well-established interdisciplinary field that employs the perspectives and methods of the humanities and social sciences to examine the development of science, medicine, and technology. Science and its allied fields have become defining features of modern societies: shaping intellectual controversies, guiding industrial development, undergirding political authority, and transforming the way that people treat their bodies and conceive of their identities.

The cluster program operates under the umbrella of the Science in Human Culture program (SHC), an interdisciplinary program that was founded in the 1980s and reorganized along interdisciplinary lines in 1994. The program offers a forum for scholars and students in the humanities and social sciences to examine the history, social and cultural context, and representational practices that guide the development of science, medicine, and technology.

Programs and events

Cluster events, such as talks by visiting lecturers in our Klopsteg series and conferences, are open to all members of the University. Cluster seminars are open to graduate students across the University. Graduate students who are not cluster fellows may want to become Graduate Affiliates and participate in the Science Studies Doctoral Colloquium.

Who should apply?

Doctoral candidates from any field are eligible to apply to join this intellectual “home” outside their department. Past participants have come from the following programs, among others:

  • Anthropology
  • Art History
  • Communication Studies
  • English
  • History
  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Spanish and Portuguese

How to participate

Graduate student applicants to Northwestern who would like to participate in this cluster should indicate their interest when they apply to their respective graduate programs.

Students admitted directly to the cluster are designated as "cluster fellows" and are provided with supplementary research funds as part of their five-year funding package. Cluster fellows are also eligible for funds from SHC to present their work at academic conferences.

Graduate students already at Northwestern are also welcome to become Graduate Affiliates.

Who to contact

Please contact the program director, listed below, with questions about this program. Or, explore the graduate pages of the Science in Human Culture website for more information.

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.

Students admitted through the cluster initiative take three courses, ordinarily one in each of the three areas listed below, during their first two years of study. But it is important to emphasize that all students work with their departmental advisors and the SHC director to map out a plan of study that best suits their intellectual interests. The three main areas of study are:

  • Historical study of science, medicine, and technology, encompassing a variety of courses in fields such as Art History, History, Economics, and the Integrated Graduate Program in the Life Sciences.
  • Social study of science, medicine, technology, encompassing a variety of courses in fields such as Anthropology, Communication Studies, Human Development and Social Policy, and Sociology.
  • Study of the symbolic dimensions and representational practices of science, medicine, and technology, encompassing a variety of courses in fields such as Art History, Communication Studies, English, German, and Radio/Television/Film.

In addition, students admitted to the cluster are expected to attend the Klopsteg lecture series; the doctoral colloquium; and the quarterly reading group sponsored by SHC, which bring together faculty and students.