Sharon Ku, PhD

Assistant Research Professor

Sharon Ku, PhD


Curriculum Vitae: Download [PDF]


  • PhD, History & Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, UK, 2009
  • MA, History of Science, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, 2003
  • MS, Physics, National Chiao-Tung University, Taiwan, 1999
  • BS, Physics, National Chiao-Tung University, Taiwan, 1997


I was trained as an experimental physicist. My career in history and sociology of science started from an unexpected identity shift --from a peripheral “surface physicist” who studied “basic” material structures to a “nanoscientist” whose research was considered as the most applied science--since the announcement of the US National Nanotechnology Initiative in 2000. The research culture change triggered a series of questions about the construction of science and scientific experts, gradually opening the door for my interdisciplinary journey of science studies and policy intervention.

My research spans the field of history, philosophy and sociology of science. I am particularly interested in the ontological and boundary work at the interface among science, policy and laws. Grounded on the empirical study of scientific practice informed by Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK) and multi-sited ethnographies, I have developed several case studies in federally-funded nanotechnology research centers examining the socio-political processes of “knowledge translation”, including the boundary drawing and infrastructural building that impact scientific knowledge to travel from laboratory to public domains.

As an active member of nanotechnology subcommittees in several international standard organization (ISO, ASTM), I also collaborate with academic and government scientists identifying social and organizational factors that influence the travel of scientific knowledge.These experiences foster my belief that STS research can greatly inform policymaking and STS scholars can play dual roles as critical analysts and active integrators for science communication. My current research projects include:

  • Knowledge translation and standardization in nanomedicine (through the collaboration with the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory at the National Cancer Institute).
  • Knowledge architecture for nanorisk construction (through the collaboration with the Center for the Environment Implications of NanoTechnology at Duke University).
  • Sociology of data-intensive science, especially the rhetorics and application of “nanoinformatics”and its impacts on experimental practices and nanotechnology regulation.
  • The mobilization of standardization mechanisms for science communication.
  • Cultural and international aspects of nanotechnology standardization, particularly in the US and Asian contexts.

I joined the Department of History and Politics at Drexel University in September 2013. I am currently a Research Assistant Professor and an adjunct research fellow in the Office of History at the National Institutes of Health.


Refereed papers

  • Ku, S. Room at the Bottom: The techno-bureaucratic space of Gold Nanoparticle Reference Material”, in Slaton, A. ed., New Materials: Their Social and Cultural Meanings. University of Pennsylvania Press (Forthcoming).
  • Ku, S. (2013) Disappearing nanoparticles: Regulator’s regress and its impacts on evidence-based nanotechnology regulation in the United States, Social Studies of Science (Submitted).
  • Ku, S. (2012) Forming nanobio expertise: One organization’s journey on the road to translational nanomedicine, Nanomedicine and Nanotechnology 4: 366-377.
  • Lin D.S., Ku, S., and Chen R.P. (2000) Interaction of Phosphine with Si (100) from core-level photoemission and scanning-tunneling-microscopy, Phys. Rev. B 61: 2799-2805.
  • Lin, D.S., Ku, S., Sheu, T.J. (1999) Thermal reactions of Phosphine with Si (100): a combined photoemission and scanning-tunneling-microscopy study, Surface Science 424: (1) 7-18.

Manuscripts in progress

  • Ku, S. & Zehr, S., Disciplining Interdisciplinarity: Infrastructure, identity, and interdisciplinary practice of nanoELSI research, to be submitted to Science and Public Policy.
  • Ku. S & Klaessig, F. Rule-maker or rule-follower? Agency and authority in nanotechnology standardization, in Schlaudt, O. & Huber, L. eds. Standardization in Measurement: Philosophical and Sociological Issues. Pickering and Chatto: London.
  • Ku, S. A matter of size does not matter: Material agency and the shape of actions in nanotechnology standardization.


  • ‘There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom’: A Sociology of Nanodrug Standardization. PhD dissertation of Cambridge University, 2009.
  • A Biography of the STM Tip: Tools, Knowledge and Identity Building in Taiwan Nanotechnology Community. Master’s thesis of National Tsing Hua University, 2003.
  • Surface Dynamics of Phosphine and Oxide on Si (100): A Perspective of Scanning-Tunneling-Microscopy Study. Master’s thesis of National Chiao Tung University, 1999.