New STS Program Explores Science, Society

New STS Program Explores Science, Society
A biotechnology student works in the quantitative analysis lab.
Students listen during a history 101 class.

Complex and often controversial topics such as global warming, stem cell research, biotechnology in food production, and nonrenewable energy resources don't fall under any single academic subject. The issues encompass a broad spectrum of disciplines, and those who want to engage in the legal and public policy debate need an educational background that includes science, technology, sociology, philosophy, history, politics and economics.

Cal Poly Pomona will introduce the Science, Technology & Society (STS) program in the fall to address the convergence of these fields.

“STS is an interdisciplinary program that integrates knowledge in the natural sciences and in technology as well as in humanities and social sciences,” says Peter Ross, associate professor of philosophy who is coordinating the program. “The program prepares students who want a broader perspective on science and technology than that provided by a traditional science or technology major.”

Although STS is the first of its kind in the CSU, it isn't new in the academic world. Several universities across the country, such as Caltech, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and UC Davis, have similar undergraduate majors or concentrations.

The curriculum for the major and minor incorporates existing courses from about two dozen departments across campus, including biology, geology, ethnic & women's studies, and urban & regional planning. STS will introduce three new courses: an introductory course, a capstone course and a senior project.

“This program will prepare students to anticipate and understand the profound impacts on society and the environment that modern science and engineering will have,” says College of Science Dean Donald Straney.

The major is relevant to a variety of careers and can provide a stepping stone for students interested in graduate degrees in law, public policy and journalism.

Fourth-year philosophy student Mark Arranz says he may switch to the STS major, which he says is “more relevant than ever.” He want to attend law school and concentrate on intellectual property or environmental law.

“Engineers might not study history and society, and sociology majors might not know how computers work or how chemicals affect certain plants. But it's important to understand the society that you're living in,” Arranz says. “Why wouldn't you have a program that examines the interdependency of the two opposite ends of the spectrum?”

For more information about the STS program, visit