BS in Science, Technology, and Society
Study how history, culture, politics, and ethics set the stage for scientific and technological breakthroughs.
Learn to critically evaluate scientific and technological innovations.
The Science, Technology and Society degree advances students' ability to understand society, culture, law and health – and how they are shaped by media, science and technology. This degree offers a broad and flexible liberal arts education.
STS students headed for medical school often dual major in Science, Technology, and Society in addition to Biology or Biomedical Engineering. Students headed for law school often dual major in Science, Technology, and Society and Management or Information Technology.
What STS students learn to do
- Analyze social change by looking at the history of science and technology
- Think critically about contemporary social problems, recognizing the matrix of factors (economic, technical, biophysical, cultural, etc.) that shape problems and constrain solutions
- Cultivate a global perspective and an understanding of cultural differences
- Analyze and respond to multiple viewpoints
- Creatively access, interpret, and use research resources
- Apply social science and humanities knowledge to real-world challenges
Examples of student research in STS
- The role of blogs and social media in elections and politics
- The changing focus and role of the World Health Organization
- Factors shaping community health
- The impact of robots on occupational health
The B.S. in Science, Technology and Society (STSO) requires 32 credit hours of STS courses including a Public Service Internship and Senior Project. The minor in STS requires 16 credit hours.
Pursued as an independent major, an STSO degree requires 124 credit hours, including the standard Rensselaer 24-credit HASS core requirement and 24-credit core science requirement. The degree also requires 16 credits in a technical area (the Technical Option). Dual majors automatically fulfill the technical option, and STS courses double-count as their HASS core requirements.
See the STS department wiki for upcoming course offerings
Frequently Asked Questions
What are STS classes like?
STS classes are very interactive and often filled with deliberation and debate. Students are encouraged to learn about and respect diverse perspectives, while developing their own. They gain a lot of experience with different forms of communication, and excel as translators between different disciplines. They learn about the scientific, technical, and social dimensions of a range of contemporary issues -- learning to think in sophisticated ways about complex topics like illicit drug use, the global food system, robotics, genetics, water pollution, and climate change to name just a few.
Is there a required sequence of courses?
All of our first-year students take a gateway course in their major, after which they proceed through degree plans that are structured yet still offer many choices. Most students do independent research and projects at some point in their programs, and many study abroad, pursue internships and co-ops, and participate as student leaders in a range of campus activities.
What kind of support would I get as an STS major?
Our students have a strong social network among themselves, which supports them both at Rensselaer and as they advance in their careers. STS faculty are known for their commitment to teaching and advising, and enjoy getting to know students over many classes and years.
Is it a lot of extra work to pursue a dual major?
It does not require more coursework, just a clear focus in selecting your courses. One of the great advantages of Rensselaer is that you can create dual majors relatively easily. Your HASS core is 24 credits (22 credits for engineering students). Let's say you have a major in science, management, or computer science, and you take all 24 credits of your HASS core in STS. The STSO degree requires 48 credits, so you've already completed half the credits with your HASS core. If you are a major in a department outside the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, then you can count your "technical option" requirement (a minor of four courses) from the courses you take in your first major. That gives you another 16 credits, or 40 credits total. For many students, only two more courses are then needed in STS to get the major, and they can be taken as free electives.
What if I'm a major in a humanities or social sciences field, say Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication or Economics? Can I still do a dual major with STS?
Yes. We have courses on information and society, on the environment, and on many other topics that will interest majors in other HASS programs. As a HASS major, you'll still need to take the HASS core of 24 credits, which you can cover with courses in the STS major. That will get you halfway to the major (24 of 48 credits). You'll still need to do the technical option (a group of 4 courses outside the School of HASS) plus another two STS courses. (The science core requirement of 24 credits only needs to be satisfied once for dual majors.)
What's the difference between a dual major and a double degree?
A dual major means that the student has to satisfy the degree requirements for both majors, but double-counting is allowed, including of the science core, the HASS core, and non-restricted electives. In other words, if Science, Technology, and Society is your second-listed major, you only need to fulfill the Science, Technology, and Society requirements of 32 basic credits, as long as the first degree covers the "technical option" of the STS major. The HASS core requirement will be fulfilled by courses in the Science, Technology, and Society major. With a dual major, you earn one diploma with both majors listed. With a double degree, you takes an extra year equivalent of about 32 credits. This means that the student takes the HASS core as one set of courses, and the Science, Technology, and Society major as another set of courses, and earns two independent diplomas, one listing each major.
STS students can take a wide array of courses
Science, Technology and Society
Century of the Gene
Cultures of Scientific Revolutions
China Past and Present
Medicine and Society
American Foreign Policy
Law, Values and Public Policy
Environment and Law
Globalization and Development
Self-Organization in Science and Society
Drugs in History
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
What People Are Saying About STS
STS was the best department at RPI! It provided me with a well-rounded education and taught me the art of critical analysis.--Kerry Ricker, D.O., in family practice in New York State
The program at RPI was fantastic. The students I met were concerned with society and looking to mix theoretical and practical knowledge. The program is most suited for people who are self-directed and highly motivated.--Deborah Rich, Manager of Marketing Research, University of Michigan Health System