Jump to content
histsci

History of Science applicants

Recommended Posts

I have seen a number of posts on the 2018 applicant thread about History of Science programs so I wanted to start a thread for those of us applying to programs under the  History/Philosophy/Sociology of Science, Technology, and Medicine.

What are your interests? Which programs have you applied to/ heard back from/considering? 

For those already pursuing these, what are some of the best departments?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey! I do history of psychoanalysis and psychiatry (and their intersections) with a focus on how categories of disability are constructed, and additionally how psychoanalysis has developed in conversation with natural scientific discourses. 

I applied to five programs and have been accepted to two, still waiting on Chicago CHSS. Has anyone heard anything from them?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great idea! Thanks for setting up this thread.

I work on medieval medicine and technology, with an emphasis on material culture. I applied almost exclusively to History programs. This my second application cycle for PhD programs, but my third application cycle total. I applied and was accepted to some fantastic MA programs in the UK and Ireland year after year, and every time made the decision not to go into debt for a terminal degree in the humanities, even though MAs are increasingly viewed as a prerequisite for medievalists. Last year I only applied to four PhD programs, and was waitlisted at my first choice institution. This year I applied more widely, to eight PhD programs and to three MA programs in medieval history and medieval studies (two of which had accepted me in previous application cycles). Of these, only one was a History of Science program (at Princeton). That program is part of their History program, so technically the degree is in History and not History of Science, but the program has an independent application process. I also applied to two Medieval Studies PhD programs.

I chose only to apply to top institutions within my field, broadly defined as medieval history rather than history of science, but I made sure to look for faculty coverage in both fields. Between last year's application cycle and this year I've learned a lot of indefinable things about how to define and articulate fit. My first choice from last year slipped in the rankings, and an institution I didn't even apply to last year became my first choice instead, based on some faculty changes and a little more digging on my part. When trying to identify whether institutions could provide supervision of my present research interests, I would scour department pages and faculty profiles looking for at least two but preferably three or more professors who matched at least three of the following:

  1. subfield (history of science/medicine/experimentation; medieval material culture; food studies)
  2. period (high and late medieval, but (very) early modern was acceptable if in HoS. If the HoS person did early modern then I looked for at least one medievalist who worked on the same region with a similar methodology)
  3. region (Complicated. I'm interested in the Arabic to Latin translation of medical texts and the dissemination of medical theory in Europe, so there were few people who couldn't conceivably work with me in terms of regional specialization. I gravitated towards medieval Mediterranean PoIs, although my work to date has been on English and French sources.)
  4. methodology/"type" of history (social and intellectual history, sort of)

Most HoS programs just couldn't cut it in terms of faculty coverage. In 5-7 years, I intend to interview for faculty positions as a medievalist first, and historian of science second. It would make absolutely no sense to sacrifice very necessary, period-specific training in favor of a HoS degree. Hence applying to History and Medieval Studies programs instead, sometimes even at institutions that had standalone HoS programs (such as Harvard). For just about every institution I applied to, I had either email correspondence with multiple PoIs, or email in addition to Skype interviews. I did my best to make it clear during these exchanges why I was reaching out to these professors, explaining how I see their work relating to mine and referencing the above criteria. The conversations were always fruitful and often resulted in recommendations of other professors to reach out to within the institution, who resided in other departments but had affiliations with History and overlapping research interests with my own. This helped give me a better sense of the resources available at a given institution, the relationships between departments, and how many people I might be able to work with should disaster strike and my advisor depart partway through my program. I looked very closely at placement and attrition records where available, and asked if they were not to be found on a public page. "Best" is highly variable, but once you define your personal cutoff for acceptable programs in terms of placement and field specialization, fit becomes the biggest factor.

I've just been accepted to my top PhD program with five years of guaranteed funding (not contingent on teaching!), and a sixth year postdoc with a higher stipend if I complete my dissertation within five years. Pretty damn thrilled!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm already attending, but broadly speaking, my interests are in late medieval/early modern astronomy/chymistry (yet to see where the latter is going!).

Last year, I applied to Indiana HPS, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Wisconsin, Yale, Minnesota, Hopkins, and Chicago. I shouldn't have applied to Yale, Princeton, Harvard, or Chicago given my interests at the time (much more focused on Jesuit science and the like). I was accepted to Minnesota and Wisconsin for the full MA/PhD, Chicago gave me the MAPPS, and Indiana an unfunded MA.

In terms of the best programs, it depends specifically what you want to do. Hopkins HoS and HoM are phenomenal for early modern and late medieval. Principe and Portuondo are really great people. Harvard is strong in later periods, but is rebuilding its early modern, as they've had to replace Katie Park and Mario Biagioli. Princeton is obviously very strong, though Tony Grafton has stopped taking grad students.

With regard to Wisconsin, I'm of two minds about this program. Obviously I go there, so I have my own biases. I think that if you want to do something closer to STS, you ought to go somewhere like Cornell or Penn. Nicole Nelson is excellent, but she's the only formal STS scholar. The Medical History dept. here is very focused on 19th/20th century, so it's tough to do anything earlier. Lynn Nyhart remains one of the best historians of biology, and Pablo Gomez is great if you want to do Atlantic history of medicine/science. If you want to talk about Wisconsin further, PM me.

Indiana's HPS is a good program, but has bad internal issues. Bill Newman and Domenico Meli are top scholars on the history side, but philosophy runs the department. Minnesota has funding issues because it's somewhat placeless.

I can't say anything substantive about Pitt, Berkeley, ND, UCLA, Stanford, or Oklahoma. @Neist knows way more about OU than I would.

Edited by psstein

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, gnossienne n.3 said:

Great idea! Thanks for setting up this thread.

I work on medieval medicine and technology, with an emphasis on material culture. I applied almost exclusively to History programs. This my second application cycle for PhD programs, but my third application cycle total. I applied and was accepted to some fantastic MA programs in the UK and Ireland year after year, and every time made the decision not to go into debt for a terminal degree in the humanities, even though MAs are increasingly viewed as a prerequisite for medievalists. Last year I only applied to four PhD programs, and was waitlisted at my first choice institution. This year I applied more widely, to eight PhD programs and to three MA programs in medieval history and medieval studies (two of which had accepted me in previous application cycles). Of these, only one was a History of Science program (at Princeton). That program is part of their History program, so technically the degree is in History and not History of Science, but the program has an independent application process. I also applied to two Medieval Studies PhD programs.

I chose only to apply to top institutions within my field, broadly defined as medieval history rather than history of science, but I made sure to look for faculty coverage in both fields. Between last year's application cycle and this year I've learned a lot of indefinable things about how to define and articulate fit. My first choice from last year slipped in the rankings, and an institution I didn't even apply to last year became my first choice instead, based on some faculty changes and a little more digging on my part. When trying to identify whether institutions could provide supervision of my present research interests, I would scour department pages and faculty profiles looking for at least two but preferably three or more professors who matched at least three of the following:

  1. subfield (history of science/medicine/experimentation; medieval material culture; food studies)
  2. period (high and late medieval, but (very) early modern was acceptable if in HoS. If the HoS person did early modern then I looked for at least one medievalist who worked on the same region with a similar methodology)
  3. region (Complicated. I'm interested in the Arabic to Latin translation of medical texts and the dissemination of medical theory in Europe, so there were few people who couldn't conceivably work with me in terms of regional specialization. I gravitated towards medieval Mediterranean PoIs, although my work to date has been on English and French sources.)
  4. methodology/"type" of history (social and intellectual history, sort of)

Most HoS programs just couldn't cut it in terms of faculty coverage. In 5-7 years, I intend to interview for faculty positions as a medievalist first, and historian of science second. It would make absolutely no sense to sacrifice very necessary, period-specific training in favor of a HoS degree. Hence applying to History and Medieval Studies programs instead, sometimes even at institutions that had standalone HoS programs (such as Harvard). For just about every institution I applied to, I had either email correspondence with multiple PoIs, or email in addition to Skype interviews. I did my best to make it clear during these exchanges why I was reaching out to these professors, explaining how I see their work relating to mine and referencing the above criteria. The conversations were always fruitful and often resulted in recommendations of other professors to reach out to within the institution, who resided in other departments but had affiliations with History and overlapping research interests with my own. This helped give me a better sense of the resources available at a given institution, the relationships between departments, and how many people I might be able to work with should disaster strike and my advisor depart partway through my program. I looked very closely at placement and attrition records where available, and asked if they were not to be found on a public page. "Best" is highly variable, but once you define your personal cutoff for acceptable programs in terms of placement and field specialization, fit becomes the biggest factor.

I've just been accepted to my top PhD program with five years of guaranteed funding (not contingent on teaching!), and a sixth year postdoc with a higher stipend if I complete my dissertation within five years. Pretty damn thrilled!

This is an excellent post. Also, congratulations on your acceptance. I'm assuming ND, in which case, I'm sure we'll meet soon enough!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, psstein said:

This is an excellent post. Also, congratulations on your acceptance. I'm assuming ND, in which case, I'm sure we'll meet soon enough!

Thank you! I'll see you in the midwest :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I applied to one History of Science program and the rest History. I was accepted to Harvard's HOS. I am a little hesitant about leaving the field of "History."  I am unfamiliar with how History of science programs work. Harvard has its own department. I've spoken with my POI and it all sounds amazing, perfect, dreamy, and like I will get solid training. I'm just hesitant and it's all a bit overwhelming. Especially with the cost of living in Cambridge.  I was also accepted to UChicago, UTAustin, Brown, and Duke.  I study medicine and healing practices in Mexico, 18th and 19th centuries. I feel torn, but leaning towards Harvard.  I hope I will feel more certain after visiting the places. 

Edited by 18C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, 18C said:

I applied to one History of Science program and the rest History. I was accepted to Harvard's HOS. I am a little hesitant about leaving the field of "History."  I am unfamiliar with how History of science programs work. Harvard has its own department. I've spoken with my POI and it all sounds amazing, perfect, dreamy, and like I will get solid training. I'm just hesitant and it's all a bit overwhelming. Especially with the cost of living in Cambridge.  I was also accepted to UChicago, UTAustin, Brown, and Duke.  I study medicine and healing practices in Mexico, 18th and 19th centuries. I feel torn, but leaning towards Harvard.  I hope I will feel more certain after visiting the places. 

What would you like to know about HoS? 

Most HoS today isn't all that different from regular history, with a few exceptions (some historians of astronomy do very technical work).

Edited by psstein

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm thinking about the job market. I know there is no guarantee and the market is grim, but would I be better off doing a HOS from Harvard or doing History from one of the other schools? Since my focus is Latin American history, Mexico, etc. I wonder if one way would give me more options on the market than another.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
51 minutes ago, 18C said:

I'm thinking about the job market. I know there is no guarantee and the market is grim, but would I be better off doing a HOS from Harvard or doing History from one of the other schools? Since my focus is Latin American history, Mexico, etc. I wonder if one way would give me more options on the market than another.

That's a decision you have to make for yourself. I'll say that most HoS programs today require you to interact with the history department more generally. The differences really come in the kinds of theory and approaches you're exposed to. For example, most history departments aren't going to have you read Kuhn/Latour/Woolgar/Hacking, whereas most HoS departments will.

Harvard HoS is an excellent program. It really depends on what you want to focus on. If you want to focus on history of Mexican medicine, then Harvard is the choice. If you want to focus on history of Mexico with an eye on medicine/healing, then you're better off in history. I hope that makes sense. My department has an Africanist who writes about medicine/healing, but he's fundamentally an Africanist, not a historian of medicine. Also, keep in mind that the two will often have different thematic approaches.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, 18C said:

I applied to one History of Science program and the rest History. I was accepted to Harvard's HOS. I am a little hesitant about leaving the field of "History."  I am unfamiliar with how History of science programs work. Harvard has its own department. I've spoken with my POI and it all sounds amazing, perfect, dreamy, and like I will get solid training. I'm just hesitant and it's all a bit overwhelming. Especially with the cost of living in Cambridge.  I was also accepted to UChicago, UTAustin, Brown, and Duke.  I study medicine and healing practices in Mexico, 18th and 19th centuries. I feel torn, but leaning towards Harvard.  I hope I will feel more certain after visiting the places. 

Those are all great schools, congratulations! I agree with @pssteinit really depends on the training and theory you want to be reading. 

I made the switch from History to History of Science for my field after I took several seminars in the HoS department in my field and found it more suitable for my needs. My supervisor on the other hand trained in HoS field but ended up wanting to teach in the history department in general cause he felt his work fit well within those approaches. Plus there were also several people in my cohort who were doing history of science research within the history department and were comfortable with that. I am not sure how the choice of department might affect job market prospects. Although i would say it's also important that you find out what kind of relationship  the HoS has with the history faculty more broadly. I am not sure about Harvard so much but Uchicago's history of science program for example works very closely with the general history department. It's also important that you go through the kind of course work requirements that will be needed of you. I know someone who now regrets choosing the HoS program instead of the general history one as they wanted to train in a specific geographic area but the initial years needed them to take courses only within the HoS and now they feel quite stuck. 

Hope this helps!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/16/2018 at 9:05 AM, 18C said:

I applied to one History of Science program and the rest History. I was accepted to Harvard's HOS. I am a little hesitant about leaving the field of "History."  I am unfamiliar with how History of science programs work. Harvard has its own department. I've spoken with my POI and it all sounds amazing, perfect, dreamy, and like I will get solid training. I'm just hesitant and it's all a bit overwhelming. Especially with the cost of living in Cambridge.  I was also accepted to UChicago, UTAustin, Brown, and Duke.  I study medicine and healing practices in Mexico, 18th and 19th centuries. I feel torn, but leaning towards Harvard.  I hope I will feel more certain after visiting the places. 

@gnossienne n.3's post might be helpful. 

As for the Job market it would depend on which of the two you are associating yourself with. Like @psstein said, are you an Latin Americanist with a focus on medicine or a historian of medicine with a focus on Latin America. History departments in general might offer you broader training in the area of your study as opposed to HoS where you might be asked to read extensively with a thematic focus in a number of regional areas. The visits will help in making the decision, don't shy away from asking graduate students about the respective History/ HoS departments. All the best. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, histsci said:

As for the Job market it would depend on which of the two you are associating yourself with. Like @psstein said, are you an Latin Americanist with a focus on medicine or a historian of medicine with a focus on Latin America. History departments in general might offer you broader training in the area of your study as opposed to HoS where you might be asked to read extensively with a thematic focus in a number of regional areas. The visits will help in making the decision, don't shy away from asking graduate students about the respective History/ HoS departments. All the best. 

Just so everyone knows, it is very rare for HoS grad students to be hired as historians of science. More often than not, you're hired for another reason (teaching British history or whatever) and you do HoS stuff on the side. There aren't more than 20 or so HoS departments in the entire country, so HoS jobs are fairly rare.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey folks, not quite History of Science (I did apply to Harvard due to wanting in on the STS minor/concentration over at Kennedy), but I'm sort of treading the line between Media Studies and STS, and have been accepted at RPI's STS program. I know it'll work well for me, but I had kind of developed hopes of an Ivy in the process of applying. I know the details about the program from an on-paper perspective, but curious if anyone's got some more insider-info on it, how it stacks up in the world of Science Studies and its various related fields and such. Thanks guys, all best. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello hello! This will probably be old news to some of you as I’ve already posted a similar intro in the big thread.  My interests include the history of medicine, specifically the intersection of poverty, nutrition, disease, and public health.  My work thus far is centered around the 20th century U.S. south, but I’m not by any means married to the location. I only applied to Cambridge’s History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine mphil and I just heard back with an interview invite.  That’s about it for me! Glad you started this thread @histsci!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, glycoprotein1 said:

Hello hello! This will probably be old news to some of you as I’ve already posted a similar intro in the big thread.  My interests include the history of medicine, specifically the intersection of poverty, nutrition, disease, and public health.  My work thus far is centered around the 20th century U.S. south, but I’m not by any means married to the location. I only applied to Cambridge’s History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine mphil and I just heard back with an interview invite.  That’s about it for me! Glad you started this thread @histsci!

Congratulations on the interview invite! HPS is a great department to be at. Who's your POI? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, 35mm_ said:

Congratulations on the interview invite! HPS is a great department to be at. Who's your POI? 

Thanks!!! I’m hoping to work with Salim Al-Gailani. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 21/02/2018 at 7:24 AM, glycoprotein1 said:

Thanks!!! I’m hoping to work with Salim Al-Gailani. 

Nice! The medicine side of the department has been considerably strengthened in recent years. 

About the interview, don't be too stressed. It's generally a very informal chat about your research interests. Good luck! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/15/2018 at 11:30 PM, 18C said:

I'm thinking about the job market. I know there is no guarantee and the market is grim, but would I be better off doing a HOS from Harvard or doing History from one of the other schools? Since my focus is Latin American history, Mexico, etc. I wonder if one way would give me more options on the market than another.

I would say (and this is quite a simplification) that you shouldn't worry about an HoS degree from Harvard bogging you down further down the line. The fact that it's Harvard will outweigh any reservations search committees might have about hiring a historian with a degree in HoS instead of a historian with a degree in plain ol' history. Most HoS doctorates find employment in history departments anyway, since history of science departments are so rare.

The questions I would ask are whether you will be able to study your chosen period and region with enough specificity within the structure of the program and whether there are enough faculty with enough clout to supervise your dissertation and support you in the job search when the time comes. The other schools you have to choose between are excellent options. Visit each if you can, weigh your financial offers, negotiate for more funding if you feel you need to, and make decisions from there!

Edited by gnossienne n.3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi everyone, I'm reviving this thread because I am totally torn about me schools decisions, and hoping some of the HOS folks on this board might help. My interests tend to sit at the intersection of environmental history and history of science and technology. I'm not a 100% committed HOS person (is that a thing?), but I definitely enjoy History of Science. I went to SHOT last year and found it to be totally up my alley. That said, I don't want to be too far removed from the straight history side of things.

I've been accepted to both HOS and History programs, and I've gotten extremely conflicting advice from mentors and POIs. Some feel it doesn't matter at all if I do HOS; others are certain it will make it harder for me to get the broader history experience and hurt me on the job market.

What do you guys think? What have your experiences with the interaction of history and history of science departments been like? And, for those of you in programs, what has that looked like for your peers on the job market?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, HardyBoy said:

Hi everyone, I'm reviving this thread because I am totally torn about me schools decisions, and hoping some of the HOS folks on this board might help. My interests tend to sit at the intersection of environmental history and history of science and technology. I'm not a 100% committed HOS person (is that a thing?), but I definitely enjoy History of Science. I went to SHOT last year and found it to be totally up my alley. That said, I don't want to be too far removed from the straight history side of things.

I've been accepted to both HOS and History programs, and I've gotten extremely conflicting advice from mentors and POIs. Some feel it doesn't matter at all if I do HOS; others are certain it will make it harder for me to get the broader history experience and hurt me on the job market.

What do you guys think? What have your experiences with the interaction of history and history of science departments been like? And, for those of you in programs, what has that looked like for your peers on the job market?

I could've sworn I'd replied to this last night.

Anyway, to answer your questions: none of Princeton, Yale, or Wisconsin have too much trouble placing their graduates within broader history programs. In Wisconsin, you're encouraged to take courses outside of HoS. Besides, we merged in July 2017, so it's the same department overall. There's an option here for a joint HSMT/History degree, which is apparently far easier than it used to be. It's also worth understanding that the history of science field as it currently exists is far removed from the highly technical, internalist histories of science produced in the 1960s and 1970s. Outside of a few scholars (Heilbron and Shank are the two most notable ones), highly technical work is in disrepute and has been for some time.

We have a fine relationship with history here, and I'd imagine Princeton does as well, since they're technically a subsidiary of the broader history department. I don't know much about Yale, but I imagine they're okay as well. These are questions you ought to ask at the respective visitation days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, psstein said:

I could've sworn I'd replied to this last night.

Anyway, to answer your questions: none of Princeton, Yale, or Wisconsin have too much trouble placing their graduates within broader history programs. In Wisconsin, you're encouraged to take courses outside of HoS. Besides, we merged in July 2017, so it's the same department overall. There's an option here for a joint HSMT/History degree, which is apparently far easier than it used to be. It's also worth understanding that the history of science field as it currently exists is far removed from the highly technical, internalist histories of science produced in the 1960s and 1970s. Outside of a few scholars (Heilbron and Shank are the two most notable ones), highly technical work is in disrepute and has been for some time.

We have a fine relationship with history here, and I'd imagine Princeton does as well, since they're technically a subsidiary of the broader history department. I don't know much about Yale, but I imagine they're okay as well. These are questions you ought to ask at the respective visitation days.

Thanks @psstein! This has been my feeling as well (and definitely something I will be asking about on visit days), but I've gotten such confusing feedback that I thought it might be helpful to hear from people who are in no way connected to my decision-making process.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, I had phone calls with several professors at Yale HSHM. They all emphasized the close, flexible relationship between History and HSHM.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Partha92 said:

Hi, This is Partha from India. I want to apply for History of Science PhD for fall 2020. Can any one tell me about GRE score I need to gain admission?

Verbal: 90th percentile or higher

Quantitative: As best you can. If you're doing history of mathematics or 20th century physics, 90th percentile or higher.

Analytical Writing: 5 or higher.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.