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Gwen Ottinger, PhD

Gwen Ottinger, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Politics
Center for Science, Technology and Society
Center for Public Policy
Office: 3101 Market Street, Room 200
Phone: 215.571.4823

Additional Sites:


  • PhD, Energy and Resources, University of California, Berkeley
  • BS, Science, Technology and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • BAE (Aerospace Engineering), Georgia Institute of Technology

Curriculum Vitae:

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I became interested in science and technology studies (STS) as an undergraduate engineering student in Georgia. When my flight performance professor off-handedly mentioned fuel dumping, I immediately wanted to know: Dumping on whom? With what consequences? And who gets to decide whether that’s okay?

As a graduate student in an interdisciplinary environmental studies program, I pursued questions about the human, political and environmental dimensions of science and technology. That led me to research at the intersection of STS and environmental justice studies, focusing on social inequality in the distribution of environmental hazards and decision-making power.

I came to Drexel in 2014 from the University of Washington-Bothell. I teach classes in Science and Technology Policy, Environmental Politics and Citizen Science. I also advise MS students in the Science, Technology, and Society and Environmental Policy Programs. My research group, the Fair Tech Collective, welcomes students from all levels and backgrounds who are interested in mobilizing science and technology to empower environmental justice communities. We use an apprenticeship model: students learn by doing alongside more experienced researchers.

Current research

My research on science, technology, and environmental justice has three parts that combine big ideas with real-world relevance:

  • Empirical – I observe and analyze environmental controversies in order to understand the disconnects between how technical experts understand environmental issues and how people actually live with these environmental hazards.
  • Ethical – I use political and ethical theory to envision ways that science and technology could better support environmental justice and more effectively empower communities.
  • Experimental – I collaborate with scientists, engineers and community members to put theory into practice: we create technologies and design studies to address environmental justice issues, then we assess their impact.

For example, in one project I document the history of community-based air monitoring at oil refinery fencelines (empirical) while collaborating with community air monitoring activists to develop an interactive website ( and an app for exploring real-time air quality data in the Bay area (experimental).

Honors and Recognition

My book, "Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges", was awarded the 2015 Rachel Carson prize for a work of social or political relevance by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S).

I received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for my project “Environmental Justice and the Ethics of Science and Technology.”

I currently serve as an elected member of the 4S Council (2015-2018), and on the editorial boards of Energy Research and Social Science and Citizen Science: Theory and Practice.

My commentary and analysis has been featured in The Washington Post, Contra Costa Times, Issues in Science and Technology, as well as in blogs such as PLOS One – Citizen Science and Backchannels.

I’ve been quoted in Grid Magazine, Public Source, and by the National Public Radio affiliate WHYY, as well as other publications focusing on energy, design, science and the environment.

Selected Publications:

Public Scholarship


Peer-Reviewed Articles

Book Chapters

  • 2016 Gwen Ottinger, "Social Movement-Based Citizen Science." In The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, edited by Darlene Cavalier and Eric B. Kennedy, 89-104. Tempe, AZ: Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes.
  • 2016 Gwen Ottinger, Javiera Barandiarán, and Aya H. Kimura, “Environmental Justice: Knowledge, Technology, and Expertise,” pp. 1029 – 1058 in The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, 4th Edition, edited by Ulrike Felt, Clark A. Miller, Rayvon Fouché, and Laurel Smith-Doerr. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • 2011 Gwen Ottinger, “Rupturing Engineering Education: Opportunities for Transforming Expert Identities through Community-based Projects,” pp. 229 – 248 in Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement, edited by Gwen Ottinger and Benjamin R. Cohen. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • 2006 Gwen Ottinger, “Belief in ‘Cancer Alley’: Church, Chemicals, and Community in New Sarpy, Louisiana,” pp. 153 – 166 in Dispatches from the Field: Neophyte Ethnographers in a Changing World, edited by Andrew M. Gardner and David M. Hoffman. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.