Name: Wafa Khadraoui
Year: Class of 2012
Hometown: Annandale, VA
If you’ve ever been fascinated about how the Islamic Empire contributed to scientific instrument development, or wondered about the sociology of scientific knowledge and technology, or have ever been curious about how Marie Curie, Charles Darwin and Louis Pasteur impact current discoveries, then the History of Science, Medicine and Technology might be the perfect major for you. It allows its students to study science and medicine with a broad historical and social perspective, meaning understanding scientific advances based on how they developed and what their impact has been, and could be.
For students, such as myself, whose fascination with sciences is coupled with an intense interest in the humanities, the History of Science, Medicine and Technology major provides the perfect branch between the two, and encourages a “typical science student” to question, examine and learn about the history behind current science, medicine and technology. I have always had a passionate interest in the humanities, with an emphasis on history and literature. I came to Johns Hopkins with the full intention of being a neuroscience major, but during orientation week where various departments and programs held presentations, I went to the one concerning History of Science, Medicine and Technology and fell instantly in love.
I plan on pursuing a double major degree in Neuroscience and the History of Science, Medicine and Technology. The most convenient thing about this choice is that most of the science requirements of the History of Science, Medicine and Technology major are also required for my Neuroscience major, which also happens to cover most of the pre-medical requirements. This leaves a lot of space for the classes in History of Science, Medicine and Technology program that drew me to it initially, including History of Epidemiology, Women and Medicine, Science and Religion: Collaboration, Conflict, or Compromise?, Seven Wonders of the Modern World, History of Chinese Medicine, etc. The wonderful thing about this major is that, because of how it is structured, most students have an opportunity to travel abroad. Because there are no “obvious country choices” for this major, it allows each student that does travel abroad to choose a country that has a particular interest for them, in direct correlation with their History of Science, Medicine and Technology studies.
The department has exceptionally strong resources and interest in the history of science and medicine in early modern Europe, 19th and 20th century American science and technology, Russian and Soviet science and technology. The concentration extends into fields such as the emergence of science cities, the history of architecture, the iconography of science, science and religion, and environmentalism. There are also, most recently, areas of concentration in Asian Science in Technology, with a focus on East Asian science and technology in terms of Japanese, Korean and Chinese history of science and technology in the modern world.
The other new area of concentration is Museums and Modern Society. This semester I am actually taking a class called Museums and Controversy: from Enola Gay to Body Worlds for my History of Science, Medicine and Technology major that focuses on how science and technology-based exhibits have caused major controversies in modern times and who owns this public history. My professor, Dr. Arthur Molella, is actually a curator at the Smithsonian Institute and is a guest professor. This is not a unique case, however, many curators and research historians at the Smithsonian not only teach at Johns Hopkins University, they also sponsor conferences, workshops and provide curatorial internship opportunities for History of Science, Medicine and Technology students.
One of my favorite assets of this program is the access that students have to some of best collections of historical medical and scientific documents in the country – especially at the Welch Library at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Within that library, they have a 10,000-volume very rare book collection of some of the earliest printed editions of the works of classical and medieval medical writers.
While there are quite a few students in the program that are double majoring, there are a strong number of students whose only major is History of Science, Medicine and Technology. Overall, however, the department tends to run a bit small, about 30 majors a year. The advantage of having such a small department is that the advisors and faculty tend to know their students very well and are exceptionally helpful in finding internships, research opportunities, and writing recommendations. Some of the internships that History of Science, Medicine and Technology majors participate in at the Smithsonian Institute, Johns Hopkins Medical School in research, Community Health in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Medical School’s Archives and research in Public Health.
The opportunities offered to students that graduate with a degree in History of Science, Medicine and Technology are vast and varied. Many students pursue careers in areas of health care, including medicine, but also museum work, fields in academia, journalism, business, law, and public policy.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the History of Science, Medicine and Technology question thread.