What is STSC? 

Science, Technology & Society (STSC) is a liberal arts major in the Department of History and Sociology of Science that equips students with sophisticated critical faculties and multidisciplinary skills.  Through courses in the history and sociology of technology and science, and a submajor focused on the student’s individual interest in one of four broad areas, STSC majors explorethe relationship between scientific knowledge, technological innovations, technological systems, and society past and present, by studying the social and historical context of technology and science, the arrangements and groups of people and things that make up science and technology systems, and the social and cultural consequences of scientific and technological change.

The skills and knowledge of the STSC program provide a foundation for citizenship in a globalizing and diversifying world in a time of rapid technological and scientific challenge and change.  Based on skills and knowledge acquired in the STSC major, our graduates go into business, law, government, journalism, education and research.

What are the requirements of the STSC Major?

STSC is a 14 credit major.  Students take

2 core courses (HSOC 001 and HSOC 003)

5 department courses (courses taught by department faculty)

6 courses in a submajor (one of four fields of interest)

1 Capstone course (an upper-level research seminar)

STSC majors must complete at least 34 c.u. overall, 14 for STSC and 20 in the College, to graduate from Penn.

What can I do with an STSC major?

What can’t you do?

What courses are recommended for me to take to explore the STSC Major? 

Many of our introductory level courses will help you explore the major. Freshmen are urged to consider one of our freshman seminars offered by the department.  Other courses that are excellent ways to explore the major include STSC 001 (Emergence of Modern Science) STSC 003 (Technology and Society) STSC 160 (Information Age) STSC 168 (Environment and Society) STSC 002 (Medicine in History, also HSOC 002).  See all courses at the "Courses" link on the left side of this website.

What is a submajor?

A submajor is an interest area. There are five STSC submajors each reflecting a different pathway within the larger field of STS. Each submajor consists of six courses, and has a core course that must be fulfilled. The lists of pre-approved courses for each submajor can be found by following the links below.


What if I find a course or courses that I think should be part of my submajor, but which are not on the list of pre-approved courses?

You may request to include a course or courses into your submajor other than the pre-approved ones, if you can show, and the program directors concur, that the course (or courses) are related to Science, Technology & Society and make a meaningful contribution to your intellectual agenda within the STSC major. Courses cannot be requested to substitute for core requirements or department courses.

NOTE: The lists of pre-approved courses for each submajor do change over time as courses are added and dropped. Courses that are on the pre-approved list when a student becomes an STSC major will always apply even if the course is later taken off the list. Courses from old lists do not apply to new majors.

How do I become a Science, Technology & Society major?

Go to the page "How to become an STSC Major."

What specific courses will I need to fulfill core requirements?

You must take STSC 001 and STSC 003.

What is a department course?

See the list of "department courses" for the courses that fulfill the 3 credits of department courses required for the major.

What if I am not ready to declare a major but have questions about STSC?

Talk to Dr. Etienne Benson, the STSC chair, or to Dr. Ann Greene, the HSS Undergraduate Director.  See "Advising"

What does it mean to be on "registration hold?"

Any sophomore who has not declared a major by the time of Advanced Registration in the spring is put on registration hold by the College until they do declare a major. This means that they cannot register for courses. As soon as sophomores declare a major, they are removed from registration hold (unless they are on hold for other reasons).

Can I double-major in STSC and something else?


However, being a double major means meeting two sets of requirements, and a student who wants to double major must plan their program carefully for the remainder of their time at Penn. The ability to double major depends on how many credits you need to complete both majors, and how many semesters you have before graduation. The College requires double majors to complete a minimum of 18 separate courses between the two majors. You also must complete the General Requirement, and may only double-count one course between each major and the sector requirements.

It is important to remember that it is not necessary to double major! What is most important is that you get the most out of your primary major and out of your undergraduate education, and that you do not sacrifice your educational journey to the challenges of fulfilling two sets of major requirements.  Once you have graduated, double-majoring will matter little, but the quality, coherence and depth of your major will matter a lot.

Can I minor in STSC?

Yes. See "STSC Minor"

Can I study abroad if I am an STSC major?

Yes. We encourage STSC majors to plan a semester abroad, and many do. Credits from study abroad are applied to the submajor, with a limit of 2 c.u. Check both the College study abroad website and the Penn Abroad website for more information. Courses taken abroad are submitted through the XCat system, and evaluated for credit by Dr. Bensonl and Dr. Greene

What if I am a transfer student? How do I get credit for courses taken at another school?

Go to the section on transfer students on the College website for information. Transfer courses must be submitted via the XCat system. Credits from other institutions may be counted toward the HSOC major based on the evaluation of the Director and Associate Director.

Can AP credits count toward the STSC major?


Can I get transfer credit for a summer course at another university?

Sometimes. Read the section about "credit away" on the College website. If you wish to take a course at another university, you must petition the department at Penn that has a course most closely matching the course you are planning to take.

Do LPS courses (courses offered through the College of Liberal and Professional Studies) count toward the STSC major?


Yes--if the course would count toward the major if offered in the College, then it counts if offered in LPS.

Can I take more STSC courses than the major requires?

Yes. You may take as many HSOC courses as you wish.

Can I do independent study projects as part of the STSC major?

Yes. Visit the independent study page and download the application for STSC 299.

Is research an important part of the STSC major?

Yes. All STSC majors take a research seminar in the spring of junior year or fall of senior year to fulfill their Capstone Research Requirement. Some may wish to continue and write a senior thesis for honors during the first half of the senior year. STSC majors are encouraged to explore other opportunities for research, such as internships and publication. See the College website for research opportunities and for College policy on internships, and also the CURF website.

What is the Capstone Research Requirement?

This is a requirement that you take a 400-level HSOC or STSC course during spring of junior year or fall and spring terms of senior year. The only courses that count for the capstone requirement are 400-level courses taken during one of these three semesters. Courses taken before these three semesters do not fulfill the requirement.

Visit the Capstone page for more information.

What if I want to write a senior thesis- what are the requirements for graduating with honors in STSC?


To graduate with honors, an STSC major enroll in STSC 400 during spring of junior year, research and write over the summer, and complete the senior thesis during the fall of senior year. See Senior Thesis for department requirements. The senior thesis process begins in fall of your junior year as you formulate a tentative project and talk with potential advisors.

How do I participate in STSC events and meet other majors?

Become involved with the STSC UAB and help plan undergraduate events, and join the board of Momentum, the digital journal for STSC.