Friday, May 31, 2013

Galison, Shapin, Zivkovic, HVEC, MRP, PhD, oh my!

This was certainly an interesting month for me. I got to meet Peter Galison and discovered that he was Edward Jones-Imhotep's PhD supervisor at Harvard. Edward was my prof for an undergraduate course in STS and he is also to be the second reader for my Major Research Paper (MRP) for which I am finalizing the proposal. Galison's talk was a fascinating look at time and how we interpret time. The timing was fortuitous because I am currently reading his book Image & Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics. For links to the talk, see last month's post.

I also got to meet and have lunch with science blogger and Scientific American blogs editor Bora Zivkovic! He's a fun and fascinating guy and is interested in my Van de Graaff research. My colleague and blogger (Confessions of a Science Librarian) John Dupuis invited me to join him, his son, and Bora to lunch. Good times. I attended the talk afterwards (see link last month) but was unable to attend the tweetup that evening. There may be an opportunity for me to guest blog at ScienceOnline!

I met up with my MRP supervisor, Dr. Katharine Anderson, to discuss approaches and questions I had gathered towards my research paper. It was a productive meeting and we agreed that I could do an interesting paper on Van de Graaff's company High Voltage Engineering Corporation (HVEC). Specifically, I would look at annual reports, marketing materials, advertisements, articles, and such to investigate how they were communicating science but also how they were running a most unusual business - that of manufacturing particle accelerators - and making lots of them and lots of money.

The company ran from post World War II through the 1980s and I will also investigate how their fortunes compared against physics economics of the day. I will also look into the culture or subculture of HVEC to attempt to determine what was going on there. Steven Shapin's thoughts on the scientific entrepreneur will weigh heavily here. I will also be using the aforementioned Galison book (among others, of course) as another key text in trying to understand what material cultures were going on at HVEC. Because the paper is a modest 75 pages or so, I will be limiting the span to the 1960s and 1970s and perhaps through the 1980s when it finished.

My long-postponed research trip to the American Institute of Physics is finally happening soon. I booked the hotel and whatnot, hurray!

I did a bit of poking around into taking my academic career to the next level in Fall 2013: to begin studying for a PhD. An e-mail exchange with Dr. Steve Alsop with the Faculty of Education, the Department of Science and Technology Studies, and IRIS (Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability) here at York University led to him very kindly offering to happily and strongly support my admission. Thanks, Steve! I truly appreciate your generous support and confidence in me, my goals, and my research interests!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One step forward, pause, one step forward: blog reboot and status update.

Life sometimes throws you come curve balls. Alas, my one-year hiatus is over and my health is restored. I am good to go. Ergo, I will begin this blog once more and reboot it. I'm feeling great and am now focusing on three things: my Major Research Paper draft due in December, my research trip to the American Institute of Physics this summer, and my biography on Robert Jemison Van de Graaff.

My coursework for my MA in Science & Technology Studies is done! Dare I think of starting a Ph.D in a year or two? I would have to do it part-time so that may limit my options.

Being free of coursework now offers more time to attend STS-related events. Recently, the University of Toronto's Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST) recently took its turn hosting the Fifth Annual GTA Science Studies Workshop. YorkU's Research Seminar Series in STS is always a favourite of mine to attend. Being a full-time employee, however, limits my opportunities to attend these events so I adjust my lunch times when I can. Back on February 26, 2013, I met Sheila Jasanoff briefly before her talk "Science and Reason in the Public Sphere." Back on October 9, 2012, I met with David Kaiser after his talk "Calculating Times:  Testing Einstein's Relativiity in the Cold War." I had just finished reading his fascinating book How the Hippies Saved Physics.

Coming up here at YorkU is Peter Galison who will be the Keynote Speaker at STS conference Materiality: Objects and Idioms in Historical Studies of Science and Technology (May 2-4, 2013). Galison's talk, "Time of Physics, Time of Art" is a public lecture. Attached to this conference is the 3rd Annual Graduate Conference in Science and Technology Studies (May 1-2). Another fascinating guest speaker coming to YorkU is Bora Zivkovic, Blog Editor at Scientific American. His talk, "Science and the New Media Ecosystem," will happen May 6, 2013 with a tweetup dinner to follow. Lots of interesting stuff to learn and contacts to make. I never know where my next Van de Graaff lead will come from!