PhD Students / History of Science / MAIS

 Current PhD Students

Barbara Canavan

Dr. Barbara C. Canavan


Barbara’s dissertation in progress is entitled, “Avian Influenza: Opening Pandora’s Box at the Roof of the World”. By means of historical analyses of avian influenza, a case study, and oral interviews with scientists, Barbara’s dissertation examines bird flu at the human-animal interface. Beginning with the “fowl plague” in the late nineteenth century, the dissertation examines change over time in how scientists came to understand avian influenza.

Throughout, historical accounts of human influenza are parallel with reports of flu in animal species such as pigs, horses, and birds. When virologists first proposed a link between human and bird viruses, both veterinarians and medical practitioners dismissed the idea. It is a story about a paradigm shift in scientific understanding. The primary actors in the case study include an aquatic bird that migrates over the Himalayas to a large lake on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (Roof of the World); a railroad to Tibet that traverses the vast permafrost landscape; an avian virus that first appeared in 1997; scientific knowledge networks; and people and geopolitics.

Barbara examines the points of controversy about the role of bird migration in spreading avian flu viruses into new geographic areas. Although remote in location, Qinghai is a critical place to understand the interconnections of history, bioscience, ecology, climate change, and global health. The research will deepen knowledge about the ecological pathways of viruses and the role of interdisciplinary knowledge networks in their discovery. Actors and events at Qinghai serve as powerful heuristic tools to understand the past and the present of avian influenza.


Laura Cray
Laura Cray

(ABD, Osborne)

My research currently focuses upon the biological sciences of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Most recently, I have been researching the history of myrmecology (the social study of ants) and entomology and am in the process of writing about William Morton Wheeler’s efforts to apply his observations on the social structure of ant colonies to social planning in human societies in the 1910s-1930s. Other areas of interest include the history of the natural sciences, and cartography.

An Oregon native, I received my BA in Anthropology from Western Oregon University.  There, my research focused upon historical archaeology of homesteading in the American West.  My honors thesis, “Rock Walls and Rusted Dreams: An Archaeological Examination of Homesteading on the Crooked River National Grassland, Oregon,” examined the cultural, economic, and ecological causes for the collapse of the homesteads in the 1930s and the ways in which those events have contributed to modern conditions on the Grassland. Also included was a discussion of cognized environments and the ways in which they shape human understanding of the world through culture and individual interaction with the landscape. I hope to apply my anthropological background to the history of science to create an interface between scientific thought and constructions of social and physical environments.


Andy HahnAndy Hahn

(ABD, Osborne) 

My interest in the history and philosophy of science began after I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BA in philosophy and a minor in mathematics.  Through the history and philosophy of science, I found scientific explanations and methods which I had not previously come across that suited my affinity for the arts and humanities.  In particular, I became interested in Goethe's morphology and the use of the imagination as a tool to understand the natural world. 

To study Goethe's work in closer detail, I completed a Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies here at OSU.  My thesis looked at his use of the imagination in The Metamorphosis of Plants while placing it in three distinct contexts:  its own historical context, it's potential contributions to current theories of natural aesthetics, and its application in a contemporary institution that interacts with adult learners and is engaged in the debate over the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture.

As a PhD student in the History of Science program here at OSU, I want to continue to look at Goethe's morphology, turning to how it has been received, interpreted, and put to use since Goethe's original formulation.

Brenda Keller Brenda Kellar

(ABD, Guerrini)

Did you know that the European honey bee, Apis mellifera L., is an introduced species in North America? How would the United States be different if that introduction had not taken place? Perhaps the recent bee mortality problem has made you wonder what will happen if honey bees disappear from the U.S.? These are the questions that started my fascination with agricultural economics and technologies.

Closely tied to those fields, and equally fascinating, is the way in which knowledge about pollination grew and disseminated. Three hundred years separated Nehemiah Grew's (1641-1712) identification of pollen as the male in sexual plant reproduction and the 20th century acceptance of honey bees' importance to pollination for many plant species. My research focuses on those three hundred years.





Edwin WollertEdwin Wollert

 (ABD, Kopperman)

Edwin Wollert holds a master's in philosophy from Ohio University and a master's in history from American Public University.

He has taught the former for ten years, the latter for two, at the University of Alaska Anchorage and its satellite campus at Matanuska-Susitna College.  He runs a tiny publishing company called Stone Ring Press when he's not studying history of science at OSU, and is an avid hiker, backpacker, and global explorer, having lived in Australia, Mexico, and Wales before moving to the Willamette Valley.  

His doctoral research will explore medicine and science in Tudor England, and will include considerations of humoral theory, alchemy, observational health care, plague, and sweating sickness.  He lives with his supportive and lovely wife, two high maintenance cats, and two rambunctious dogs.

Emily Simpson

Emily Simpson


Emily is a PhD student in the History of Science program at Oregon State University.  Her primary areas of interest are the history of physics and astronomy, the history of cosmology and cosmogony, and the history of the plurality of worlds debate. 

Emily has performed the bulk of her research in Classical and pre-modern astronomy and cosmology and in fictional depictions of extraterrestrial life in seventeenth and eighteenth-century literature.  Emily is currently working on projects in the modern era to extend her scope of knowledge and understand new ways in which the characterization of the extraterrestrial “other” can tell us a great deal about the interdependent relationships among science, culture, and politics.  Other interests include religion and science, science in literature, and U.S. environmental and nuclear history.

Emily received her M.A. from the University of North Texas, completing a thesis entitled “Cosmology, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Development and Character of Western European Thought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.”  Her research goals are to never stop learning new things, encountering new ways to look at the world, or being surprised by what she finds. 

Tamara Caulkins

Tamara Caulkins

(ABD, Guerrini)

Having taken every science class offered by my high school, I entered college as a pre-med major but was drawn away to music, fascinated by the physics and beauty of sound. Musicology and historic performance practices were central to my study of the classical guitar (MM, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Royal Conservatory of Music in Madrid, Spain). Returning to the sciences through the field of history, I am fascinated by the role of spectacle, aesthetics, and sociability in establishing epistemic authority.

In my master’s thesis in history (MA, Central Washington University), I explored the nascent bourgeois values that the 18th century naturalist Georg-Louis LeClerc de Buffon wrote into his encyclopedic Natural History: General and Particular. I continue to be captivated by the tension between the natural world and the industry, global trade, and high culture that developed over the long eighteenth century.

My current research focuses on the intersections of natural history, culture, and the body through the lens of visual representation in early modern France. Having studied historic dance reconstruction using Feuillet notation (1700-1750) with Wendy Hilton (Stanford) and Anna Mansbridge (Seattle Early Dance), I am hoping to find connections between the way early moderns translated graphic notation on a page into movement and the development of visual graphics in science. 

Eric Reddington

Eric Reddington


Originally from Oregon, Eric first completed a B.A. in philosophy here at Oregon State University. While an undergraduate, he worked with department faculty doing research and writing and associated with an off-campus discussion group for students of philosophic pragmatism.

Initially, he was interested in the study of science from a discipline-centric perspective utilizing philosophy's entrenched methods. However, aided by additional academic exposure, his intellectual horizons began to shift when he explored an idea encountered in a paper by Carol Cleland, which argued for the asymmetry of causes and effects and affirmed the importance of historical research methodology in the development of both philosophic and scientific knowledge alike. Strongly influenced by this and subsequent revelations, he began to take interdisciplinarity and methodological pluralism seriously and, not unexpectedly, recognized the importance in developing a degree of competence in conducting historical studies.

Reddington's current academic research focuses on medicine in the twentieth-century, particularly on biotechnology, medical ethics, and human experimentation. He is additionally familiar with the history and science of renal transplantation and dialysis therapy and continues to stay abreast of ongoing debates in the philosophy of science. He plans to complete a Ph.D before entering a research and writing profession.

When he can find the time, Eric's hobbies include dabbling in computer programming and learning Gnu/Linux operating systems.

Anna Dvorak

Anna Dvorak

(ABD, Hamblin)

Anna Dvorak graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science.  Originally a Genetics major, she found discussing interactions between society and science much more interesting and rewarding.  History of Science served as a way to unite the science classes she was taking with her love for her history.  As an undergrad, Anna focused on science in the World War Two era, and in the Third Reich in particular.  She finds the contradictions that existed in German society at this time, and how they were translated into the Nazi practice and views of science, especially intriguing. 

During her time at MSU she planned an independent study that delved into the atomic bomb projects in the United States and Germany.  This sparked her interest in the atomic bomb and the politics surrounding its use and development after the Second World War.  She has continued in this vein with her Masters work, which focused on the 1958 fallout debate by Linus Pauling and Edward Teller and their books published shortly thereafter.  Using these sources she argued that although these two men had differing opinions as to the development of nuclear weapons, their approaches were very similar and focused on educating the public using terms they could easily understand.

Continuing at Oregon State with her PhD, Anna is using Leo Szilard's fiction and non-fiction in conjunction with the work of the think tank RAND to explore post-WWII rhetoric surrounding the discussion of nuclear proliferation and the role of science in society, now and in the future.  Using the phrase "fictional truths" she argues that the rhetoric Szilard and RAND used when discussing future scenarios was similar, however, Szilard's scenarios were perceived as fiction, while RAND's were considered fact.

In her free time, Anna enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest by biking, skiing, and running, or experimenting in the kitchen.

Ambika Natarajan

(R. Nye and Von Germeten)

My interests lie in the crevices that separate the science and the arts. I am interested in the interaction between literature and science in the context of European intellectual history. The ideas and writings of Austrian philosophers and novelists like Robert Musil have captured my attention in this regard. I am especially fascinated by moral ambiguities, power, scientific rationalization and victimization.

My background includes both the sciences and the humanities. I have a Masters in Biotechnology and a Masters in English Literature with a Diploma in Creative Writing. I’ve worked in genetics, microbiological and cytological wet labs and my MS thesis was dedicated to the role of kinesin-2 motor proteins in eukaryotic olfaction and in order to do this I used Drosophoila melanogaster (T.H. Morgan’s common fruit fly) as the model organism. I’ve also worked with an extensive array of microorganisms (from Pseudomonadsto Mycobacterium to Saccharomyces) and I have done a fair amount of dry lab work, involving statistical and mathematical modelling. My MA studies in English included British, American, African, Australian, South-East Asian and Canadian literatures. I’ve taught Biostatistics for two years which inculcated in me a great admiration for the practitioners of the art of teaching.


Current Masters Students (History of Science)

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Joshua McGuffieJoshua McGuffie

Joshua McGuffie has taken a winding path to get to graduate studies at Oregon State. He received a BA in Geography from UCLA in 2002 and a Master of Divinity from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley in 2006. He also has taken classes at Buffalo State College in the Earth Science and Science Education department. Since 2007, he has worked at parishes of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Los Angeles and rural Western New York. His academic interests are a hodgepodge of his earlier degrees: the interaction between science and religion, ethics and the environment, the popularisation of scientific ideas, and the geologic history of climate change. Josh is looking forward to integrating his interest in the humanities with his experience in the Earth Sciences. 




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Matthew McConnell

Matt McConnellMatt McConnell holds a BS in Psychology and Philosophy from Central Michigan University, and has spent several years working in the field of animal research at Duke and the University of North Carolina, where his particular interests were behavioral studies of Rhesus macaques and volunteer care for Lemurs, Lorises, and other prosimians.

Matt is currently pursuing a masters of science in History of Science at Oregon State University with a related minor in Science Education. His work in both course programs focuses on science communication.

In History of Science Matt studies the personal motivations of Robert Chambers, co-founder of the 19th century W & R Chambers publishing and printing company. Chambers is also the author of the 1844 ‘victorian sensation’ Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. This work was highly criticized by academics of its time and appealed to a lower class public market never before exploited in the history of print (making Chambers one of the first ‘popular science’ writers).

In Science Education Matt focuses on methods of science communication in the course curriculum for ‘Big History’. Big History is an educational narrative incorporating elements of natural and human history to tell the scientific story- from Big Bang to the present- of where we came from. It is thematically similar to Vestiges in this regard. Big History has recently received financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now taught in over one hundred secondary schools in the United States.

When not working on his degree, Matt spends his time co-hosting the KBVR college radio show “Inspiration Dissemination”, which features graduate students from various programs at OSU who talk about their research and personal journeys live on the air. If there’s any time left in the week after that, Matt can often be found volunteering in the Physics Lab at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, where he enjoys demonstrating Faraday’s Law to children by zapping them with simple electric motors (which they line up for by the dozens).


Current Masters Students (MAIS)

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Jane Yao

“If you don’t know where you are going, you had better know where you come from.” This in my view echoes what I find in the Bible:”Out of the dust wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:19b) I had searched for ten long years for the meaning of my existence until Divine Providence guided me to Corvallis from my hometown, a serene small village. In 2002, I received my B.A. in History from Fudan University in China. As a MAIS student with two fields in History and one in English, I have decided to focus on Christianity in modern China. By focusing on the issue of identity, I will explore how, in the late nineteenth century, Chinese Christians negotiated their new identity by embracing their nation, adopting a foreign religion, and aspiring to be cosmopolitan. I am also interested in examining how Chinese converts and Western missionaries shaped each other as they worked in tandem to establish a Chinese Christendom.

Susanne Ranseen

ecology, forest management, history

I received my BA in world history from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California in December of 2008.  I am currently working on my MAIS combining ecology, forest management, and history which allows me to work both in the FES (Forest Ecosystem and society) and the History department.

My thesis concerns the impact of suppression management on tree and fuel density in dry forested systems dominated by Ponderosa Pine and how it affects high severity fires in those areas.  This summer I traveled to the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff Arizona to have a first-hand look at the Schultz Fire area and to study the fire’s impact and species recovery two years after a high severity fire.  By looking at the history and language of fire management combined with the realities on-the-ground of high severity fires, I was able to get a sense of the health of dry forested systems in the American Southwest.