FAQs about STS

1. What is “STS”?

Science, technology, and medicine are powerful forces influencing social change. STS (Science, Technology, and Society) is a multi-disciplinary field that uses methods and concepts from the humanities and the social sciences to study how politics, economics, and cultural values shape—and are shaped by—technology, science, and medicine. STS addresses historical and contemporary topics and is global in scope.

2. What is the STS minor at the University of Michigan?

The minor in STS at the University of Michigan consists of one core course and a focus track in “Technology and Society,” “Medicine and Society,” or “Science and Society.” The minor is designed to introduce you to the central theories and methods of STS and give you detailed knowledge of the field.

U-M’s STS program is particularly strong on issues of global concern in science, technology, and medicine. Faculty involved with the program conduct research on topics ranging from global nuclear proliferation, epidemiology and HIV/AIDS, energy and climate change policy, architectural design, history of computing and the Internet, technology and colonialism, philosophy of science, history of intelligence testing, and health and reproduction in the global South.

Additional information is available at www.lsa.umich.edu/sts/stsminor.

3. Why should you minor in STS?

The STS minor gives you knowledge and insights of clear relevance to the “real world.” It also demonstrates connections between the social sciences and science, technology, and medicine that rarely occur within the academic concentrations themselves.

STS courses challenge you to improve your written and oral communication skills, particularly when considering the complex interface of politics, economics, culture, and the core themes of STS (medicine, science, and technology). While the courses that count towards the STS minor can be demanding, they are also stimulating.

The knowledge and skills taught in STS courses are in high demand in the public sector and industry, and are excellent preparation for professional schools. STS responds to a growing need for professionals and academics who can draw on perspectives and methods from across conventional academic disciplines to address the world’s most pressing global technical, medical, and environmental challenges.

4. What will an STS minor offer me if I am pursuing a major in the humanities, social sciences, business, art, or design?

The STS minor offers you an opportunity to apply the skills and perspectives gained in your major to a body of specialty knowledge. STS can also serve as a base for graduate programs in law, business, public policy, or public health. For example, many top-ranked public policy, and law programs now offer specializations in such areas as environmental policy, technology policy, or biotechnology patent law.

People who can pair knowledge of a field of science, engineering, computing, or mathematics with sharp analytical thinking, writing, or design skills are increasingly attractive on the competitive job market for public sector professions, marketing, business, journalism, and humanitarian organizations.

5. What will an STS minor offer me if I am pursuing a major in the sciences, engineering, mathematics, or computing?

The STS minor is a superb complement to any degree in the sciences or other technical fields. Coursework in the program will reinforce your technical training while also giving you skills to communicate about your expertise to a broader audience. It will challenge you to think deeply about cultural differences and the political, ethical, and social dimensions of the practice of medicine, technology, and science.

If you excel in the sciences or engineering but are considering a different career path, STS can give you resources to pivot into other careers, including—but not limited to—science journalism, education, law, business administration, and entrepreneurship for tech companies.

6. Is an STS minor a good track for pre-medicine and pre-public health students?

Absolutely. An STS minor is a natural complement for pre-med or pre-public health. You can refine your course selections within the STS focus track on “Medicine and Society” to explore cross-cultural medical practices, the history of medical institutions in the United States, public health policy, or approaches to sickness and healing in other parts of the world.

7. What other benefits does an STS minor offer?

STS is an unusual minor, which comes with benefits and challenges. Not all employers or even professional schools will be familiar with STS, which might require that you explain your selected course of study. But this can be an advantage, since it gives you a talking point for interviews and cover letters. It can be an opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants.

Further, STS is a relatively small program. Students stand a good chance of getting to know their professors and advisors well. This is worth considering when deciding on a major or minor. Relationships with advisors who know you personally can make a big difference when you need recommendation letters for jobs or graduate school, and/or if you decide to undertake an honors thesis project.

Former STS minors have used coursework to develop honors-thesis projects and long-form essays that bolster applications to professional schools, medical school, and research positions outside the academy.

8. What are students saying about the STS minor’s core course?

“I found this class engaging and challenging. It has changed the way I view society.”

“By far one of the coolest classes ever.”

“The course is filled with great information and I would highly recommend it to anyone.”

“I chose this class because it fell under the list of courses that I could take for the international studies major. I ended up really enjoying this class, even more than I expected. I loved the atmosphere of the class and how we had discussion during lecture as well [as sections].”

“This was one of the most engaging classes I have taken at U of M.”

“The course was very illuminating and one of the most fun classes I have taken.”

“This was my favorite class I think I have ever taken.”

“I put in a lot of effort into the class… I took away a lot of knowledge about the sociotechnical systems of science and technology and look at the world in a different way.”

9. Are there STS programs anywhere else?

Yes, many. STS programs (and related programs with different names) exist around the country, including at MIT, Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, the University of California (at its Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, and San Diego campuses), and the Universities of Pennsylvania, Chicago, and Wisconsin. STS is also well established in Europe and Japan. It’s worth your time to look at these departments’ offerings to learn more about the field of STS beyond Michigan.

10. Where can I get additional information?

If you have questions about the STS minor, contact the STS undergraduate minor advisor, Professor Anna Kirkland (sts.minor.advisor@umich.edu). Also, feel free to stop by the offices of any STS faculty member. You can always address questions to the STS program coordinator, Terre Fisher (telf@umich.edu) and program director, Professor Gabrielle Hecht (hechtg@umich.edu).

Find additional information about requirements for the minor and a list of approved courses at our website.