Jessica M. Smith is an anthropologist and STS scholar whose research interests center on energy, engineering, and public accountability.
She is Professor in the Engineering, Design & Society Department at the Colorado School of Mines, where she also directs the Humanitarian Engineering and Science graduate program. She spent her 2018 sabbatical as a British Academy Visiting Fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews (Scotland). Her book Extracting Accountability: Engineers and Corporate Social Responsibility was published open access by The MIT Press in September 2021 and was funded by a Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM grant from the National Science Foundation. Professor Smith holds a PhD in anthropology and graduate certificate in women's studies from the University of Michigan and a BA from Macalester College, where she majored in anthropology, international studies, and Latin American studies.
Professor Smith’s first major research project investigated gender and mining from the perspective of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, where she grew up and drove haul trucks in the mines for summer employment during college. That research forms the basis of her book Mining Coal and Undermining Gender: Rhythms of Work and Family in the American West (Rutgers University Press, 2014), which was funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship and a research grant from the National Science Foundation. It received the 2018 Western Social Science Association book prize and honorable mentions from the Society for Economic Anthropology and the Society for the Anthropology of Work.
Professor Smith is a co-convener of the STS Underground network and co-organized the 2016 “Energy Ethics: Fragile Lives and Imagined Futures” conference at the University of St. Andrews, which was later published as special issues of Energy Research & Social Science and the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. She continues to theorize the coal downturn in the United States and contribute to debates about more just energy transitions.
From her position at Mines, she has developed an active research agenda on engineering education, including the funds of knowledge of low-income and first generation engineering students, belongingness among under-represented students in engineering, and the influence of social science learning for undergraduate engineering students' understandings of social responsibility and their own career aspirations.
Smith is currently co-PI on a five-year NSF Partnerships in International Research and Education grant that educates US engineering undergraduates to co-design, implement and evaluate more sustainable artisanal mining practices and technologies with miners and affected communities in Peru and Colombia.
Professor Smith’s courses introduce STEM students to social science concepts that enrich their learning, research, and future professional practice. She regularly teaches ENDS 430 Corporate Social Responsibility, EDNS 479 Community-Based Research, and EDNS 580 HES Capstone Practicum. In 2016 her Corporate Social Responsibility course was named an Exemplar in Engineering Ethics by the National Academy of Engineering.
Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon