Sustainability Studies @ RPI - Faculty


Steve Breyman

Political scientist Steve Breyman has just returned from two years of leave. He spent 2007 as Executive Director of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, New York’s leading anti-toxics group, and 2008 as lead social scientist in the Office of Climate Change at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. His teaching and research focuses on sustainability policy and sustainable development, institutional greening, and peace and environmental social movements. His publications on environmental social movements include the monographs, Why Movements Matter and Movement Genesis, and dozens of scholarly articles, book reviews, and journalism pieces.

Kim Fortun

Anthropologist Kim Fortun is best known for her study of the aftermath of the Bhopal disaster (Advocacy after Bhopal, Chicago University Press), and her work continues to focus on environmental health. Her research has examined how people in different geographic and organizational contexts understand environmental problems, uneven distributions of environmental health risks, developments in the environmental health sciences, and factors that contribute to, and reduce, vulnerability to environmental risk and disaster. She is now working on three related projects: a book manuscript that examines how the development of informatics and information infrastructure has shaped environmental science and politics; NSF-funded research on the field of exposure science; and research on the ways asthma is understood in different scientific disciplines and in different geographic locations. 

David Hess

STS scholar David Hess has played a central role in the Programs on Design and Innovation and will help to articulate PDI’s internationally recognized undergraduate curriculum with the Sustainability Studies curriculum. His teaching includes environmental social theory, environmental policy, social entrepreneurship, community development, and sustainable design. He recently completed work on an NSF grant on “Sustainable Technology, the Politics of Design, and Localism”,  which trained graduate students and led to two books and various articles. His book Alternative Pathways in Science and Industry: Activism, Innovation, and the Environment in the United States (MIT Press) won the Robert K. Merton award from the Section on Knowledge and Technology of the American Sociological Association. 

Abby Kinchy

Sociologist Abby Kinchy teaches core undergraduate courses for the Sustainability Studies minor as well as a graduate seminar on social movements. Her research focuses on political struggles over science and technology, with particular emphasis on social movements and other forms of citizen engagement. She has published articles on the advocacy activities of the Ecological Society of America, the effects of the atomic bomb on the early civil rights movement, and the regulation of agricultural biotechnology. She is currently writing a book on contemporary anti-genetic engineering movements in Mexico and Canada. She is also in the early stages of a research project investigating conflicts over the disclosure of risks associated with new natural gas drilling projects in the United States.

Linda Layne

Anthropologist Linda Layne studies environment and reproductive health, including a recent study of the experience of pregnancy loss in toxically-assaulted communities. This is also a theme in her award-winning TV series “Motherhood Lost: Conversations,” in which two episodes are devoted to preventing losses by reducing women’s and men’s exposure to toxins in the work place and homes. In two of her edited collections, Transformative Motherhood and Consuming Motherhood, she shows how consumer culture shapes parenting practices across a broad range of family types. In her most recent collection, Feminist Technology, Layne and her collaborators focus on interdisciplinary design as a locus for social intervention. Layne will bring to the proposed program both feminist design methodology and attention to the family as a nexus of (non)sustainable consumption.

Michael Mascarenhas

Sociologist Michael Mascarenhas works on environmental racism and environmental justice; political economy; and development and globalization. His current research examines the relationship between recent environmental governance regimes and their impacts on poor and minority communities. Mascarenhas is concerned with building interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives that focus attention on contemporary environmental inequalities and injustices. In over a dozen publications, he has written on water, wolves, seed-saving, standards, supermarkets, family farms, and forests.

Dean Nieusma

STS scholar Dean Nieusma works on sustainability design and sustainable development, emphasizing the intersections among diverse domains of expertise and between expert and lay knowledge. His specialty is engineering cultures and strategies for bringing social analysis and creative problem solving into engineering design practices. His dissertation research was on the alternative energy community in Sri Lanka, which carried out projects as varied as national energy policy setting, new technology design, and implementation of renewable energy systems in rural villages. Nieusma’s current research looks at an international community of engineers advocating environmental and social justice.  He is also one of the leaders of the internationally acclaimed Programs in Design and Innovation; he teaches the graduate Design Seminar; and he teaches several undergraduate courses on sustainability design from an interdisciplinary perspective. 

Edward Woodhouse

Political scientist Edward Woodhouse studies potential redesign of decision-making institutions and processes. A founding member of the new Sustainable Consumption Research Network, he has been studying chemical greening for the past decade and has written about a congeries of other environmental issues. Attempting to extend STS thinking on the reconstruction of technoscientific civilization, he seeks to understand why technologies go right when they do and how decision-making institutions can be redesigned so that humans and the species now in their care get fewer unpleasant surprises. Woodhouse seeks to promote thinking big and thinking ahead—envisioning a civilization that works well rather than confining our analyses to what is and what has been.

Latest News


Sustainability Courses for Fall Term >>

Check out the Fall 2011 course offerings here.

Minor in Sustainability Studies now offered >>

Rensselaer’s STS Department now offers an undergraduate minor in Sustainability Studies.

STS opens Sustainability Entre- preneurship >>

With support from Rensselaer's Office of E*ntrepreneurship, the STS Dept. has launched a new website for Sustainability Entrepreneurship.