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Project summary

The Diversifying STEM Curriculum project aims to bring the conversation and actions around decolonising and diversifying curriculum in higher education into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. While there have been some efforts in our departments in this area, this project aims to build upon and to coordinate activity in the Division and collaborate with others across the University.

This project is a collaboration between scientists/mathematicians and historians in the University of Oxford. The current participating STEM departments are: Chemistry, Engineering Science, Maths, Physics and Zoology. We have partnered with colleagues from the Faculty of History and the History of Science Museum. Funding has been received by the Vice Chancellor's Diversity Fund.

Undergraduate students in science will work with and be supervised by DPhil historians of science on a summer project to develop an online repository of materials available to professors/lecturers teaching undergraduate courses in maths and physical sciences subjects (within Oxford and externally). The material will include (1) a critical understanding of the historical context of key scientific concepts/theorems/research, and (2) highlight and discuss important contributions from a diverse range of people (with respect to ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, class, religion, etc.) and those who may have been sidelined or not given the recognition they deserve.

The specific aims are to:

  • Research material and collect approaches to diversifying the undergraduate science curriculum;
  • Broaden student learning in undergraduate science courses to have a better understanding of: the global historical and social context to scientific research; the diverse range of people who have contributed to scientific knowledge construction; colonial contexts in which ideas about whose knowledge is ‘scientific’ have been developed and deployed and their consequences for indigenous knowledge; and historical work revising older narratives of scientific progress;
  • Create collaborations between scientists and historians;
  • Develop an online repository of material for undergraduate lecturers within Oxford and across the sector to easily integrate into their lectures/courses, encouraging them to critically reflect on their curriculum content;
  • Ultimately to advocate for a cultural shift towards STEM curriculum that embraces an interconnected global view of sciences/maths (not just a euro-centric one) and includes a diverse range of people and historical context alongside the necessary technical content.

While this project was planned to launch in Summer 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been postponed until Summer 2021. 

If you have any questions, please contact diversity@mpls.ox.ac.uk

Call for Undergraduate interns!  Deadline: 17 March 2021

Are you keen to work collaboratively with historians of science to influence undergraduate courses, encouraging an interconnected global view of science/maths?

Would you like to research a diverse range of scientists who are not typically included in course material?

Could you help make a real difference to undergraduate STEM teaching? 

The Diversifying STEM Curriculum project aims to bring the conversation and actions around diversifying and decolonising the curriculum in higher education into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. We are looking for interns to research the historical contributions from the diverse range of people who have contributed to scientific knowledge construction; colonial contexts in which ideas about whose knowledge is ‘scientific’ have been developed and deployed and their consequences for indigenous knowledge; and historical work revising older narratives of scientific progress. 

Who you are:

  • A student with a background or interest in Physics, Maths, Chemistry, Engineering or Biology (including Zoology and Plant Sciences);
  • Demonstrated interest in history, history of science, and/or equality and diversity in science;
  • Have ability to clearly communicate (in writing and verbally) complex scientific concepts to a lay audience – ability to work in other languages would be useful but not required;
  • Able to demonstrate excellent time management and ability to meet tight deadlines; and
  • Available to work for 8 weeks in Summer 2021 (July and August).

What you will gain:

  • Paid internship consistent with the Oxford Living Wage;
  • Experience of independent research;
  • Broader scientific and historical understanding of scientific developments;
  • Building collaborations with colleagues across different departments and subject areas; and
  • An opportunity to present your research at the History of Science Museum in Oxford (or virtually if necessary) and share your work online to a wide audience.

What you will be part of:

  • A cohort of five interns, two DPhil historians of science, one postdoc in History, and a number of academics and administrators working on this project (either remotely or in-person depending on the circumstances);
  • An innovative project with the potential for real impact internally in the University and beyond; and
  • Lectures and events in departments or online. 

HOW TO APPLY

Please provide your CV and (up to one page) statement explaining why you are interested in this project and what relevant experience you have, and email the documents to diversity@mpls.ox.ac.uk by 17 March 2021.

Some examples of potential summer research topics

These examples show a wide range of ideas that could be taken forward as summer projects, but they are not meant to be prescriptive. Students are encouraged to develop their own ideas and agree their summer project topic(s) with their supervisor(s).

Biology

  • Economic plant collecting in colonial Brazil (1500-1800)
  • Indigenous knowledge and the teaching of Linnaean botany in Britain (1750-1850)
  • Women and the scientific collection of seaweeds

Maths

  • Solution of polynomial (quadratic) equations by al-Khwarizmi in 9th-century Baghdad
  • Study of infinite series by the 'Kerala School' in India (14th-16th century CE)
  • Seki Takakazu's 'circle principles' (calculating arc lengths, areas, and volumes) in 17th-century Japan, and Seki's work on determinants
  • Ancient Chinese number theory – particularly the Chinese Remainder Theorem
  • Emmy Noether on abstract rings (1920s)
  • Mechanics via the writings of Emilie du Châtelet and/or Mary Somerville (18th-19th centuries)

Physics

  • Women leaders in climate and planetary physics
  • South Asian contributions to maths and astronomy, for example, Indian astronomical models from the 18th century and earlier
  • History of modern measurement, which is tied deeply to the idea of the ‘Empire’ and Imperial standardisation
  • Exploring ways in which the first industrial revolution and the birth of “modern science” ushered in a new era of social change, and the impact of thermodynamics