Science, Technology and International Affairs

Mark Giordano, Director; Mini Murphy, Curricular Dean

A glance at the daily newspaper is enough to convince even the most casual observer that there are international dimensions to almost every aspect of science and technology and that science and technology play a crucial role in foreign policy and international affairs.

The Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) major aims to equip students with the tools needed to understand the complex problems at the intersection of scientific and technical issues and international affairs.

The major combines work in the natural sciences with international affairs courses dealing with the environment, energy, business and economic development, information technology and communications, health and security—many of which are specially designed for the STIA program.

Goals of the Major

Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) is a unique, multi- and inter-disciplinary liberal arts program. It equips students with the tools they will need to understand and address the complex issues related to science and technology (environment, health, energy, security, and development) that are interwoven with the historical, political, economic, social, and cultural concerns of international affairs. STIA’s essential goal is to produce graduates who can manage issues with a strong content of science and technology. STIA is the only SFS major to have a science requirement, and provides SFS students with the option of continuing in science after graduation in fields such as the environmental and energy sciences and medicine. The major provides comprehensive knowledge within four concentrations:

Environment and Energy 

This core offers an essential introduction to environmental science and global energy, as well as the political, historical, and economic factors that influence environmental and energy policy and the state of the global environment and supply of energy. STIA offers a wide range of environmental and energy courses, including water resources, geographic information science, geoscience, climate, soil and agriculture, environmental restoration and policy, energy resources and security, and sustainable energy technologies. Related resources include the University’s science departments and the numerous national agencies and organizations of Washington, DC.

Business, Growth and Development 

This core explores policy and management issues arising from advances in technology, while building essential skills in international business and economics. Coursework covers four main areas: economics and business (accounting, finance, and marketing); technological elements of business (information, biotechnology, energy, industry, and agriculture); and business-government relations from regional to international scales; and national technology and competitiveness strategies. Related resources include the SFS Program in International Business Diplomacy and the graduate program in Communications, Culture, and Technology.

Biotechnology and Global Health

Political, economic, cultural, and social factors influence world health as much as the traditional issues of medicine and public health. The challenges to health and society call for recognizing the close relationship between health and international affairs, and gives equal prominence to the public and the private sectors. This core area offers students courses spanning a broad range of topics from epidemiology to computational biology, health economics, biotechnology policy, medical bioethics, demography, and the politics of international health. Related resources include the School of Nursing and Health Studies and the Medical School.

Science, Technology and Security 

This core focuses on how science and technology affect existing and emerging security policy in the broader context of international politics. The key issues range from technology and military strategy to nuclear proliferation, testing, and monitoring, energy and security, communications and intelligence, weapons, and unconventional or emerging security threats, including terrorists, asymmetric and cyber warfare, organized crime, narcotics traffickers, and low-level conflict. Related resources include the Security Studies programs in the SFS.

Students build their substantive expertise in these areas through key foundational courses. Within each area, they gain knowledge and skills in matters of particular interest to them by taking supporting courses in a wide range of specialized topics within each area. In addition, all students are expected to master the analytical methods, the appropriate sciences, and quantitative skills necessary to be productive consumers of research in international science and technology. Many students enrich their coursework with world class internships and international field studies, and a select group writes Honors Theses based on original research conducted around the world.

Objectives of the Major 

STIA is dynamic and far-reaching. Addressing many of the world’s greatest challenges requires a sophisticated and informed understanding of science, technology, and international affairs to choose and implement the best policy and management responses. The STIA education prepares students to do so in the following ways:

  • Understand, evaluate, and apply the key concepts and research in science and technology in international affairs
  • Be knowledgeable about quantitative and qualitative methods, and able to apply them in research
  • Recognize and apply a toolkit of scientific techniques and methods
  • Understand and evaluate the world’s most important science and technology challenges
  • Identify key institutions and dynamics in international science and technology
  • Explicate and critique science and technology issues in clear written and oral presentation
  • Develop substantive and theoretical expertise necessary to understand, interpret, and explain complex events and case studies in international science and technology
  • Recognize important moral dimensions of scientific issues and apply ethical frameworks to these challenges
  • Develop the substantive, analytical and ethical skills necessary to anticipate emerging threats, challenges and opportunities in the global arena and respond effectively
Fields and Faculty Experts

STIA faculty members include three elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and they produce cutting edge scholarship in many areas, including environmental science, management, and policy. As with our other core strengths, the faculty approaches these questions from multiple perspectives, producing well-educated and resourceful students who have gone on to become scientists, physicians, lawyers, development experts, and business people in positions worldwide. Our faculty’s research includes questions about the renewable energy industry and policy development, scientific uncertainty, privacy, global competitiveness, information policy, technology transfer and innovation mechanisms, the role of science and technology in economic performance, international competitiveness strategies, international climate policy, landscape and ecological change, geoarchaeology of Central America and the Mediterranean, and environmental history, low-fertility regimes particularly with regard to security issues, and infertility.

Additionally, STIA taps into the other multifaceted resources of Georgetown, including its noteworthy group of scholar-practitioners who share their experience from the applied worlds of international affairs, science, and business with our students. Other synergistic institutions at Georgetown include The Center for the Environment, directed in the past by two STIA faculty members, which provides a wide ranging forum for all aspects of the environment; the Mortara Center for International Studies advances the study of all aspects of international affairs; the School of Nursing and Health Studies; and programs in development, international health, and the main sciences departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Science. Lastly, STIA faculty are working with their students to produce and publish their own scholarship, connecting with other groups for events and speakers, and drawing on the vibrant scientific, cultural, and social resources of the Nation’s Capital.

Honors in the Major

Selection of honors candidates is based on evaluations of proposals submitted during the spring semester of junior year.

In order to graduate with honors in Science, Technology, and International Affairs, a student must:

  • Earn a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 and a grade point average of 3.67 in the major by the date of graduation.
  • Successfully complete a senior thesis on an approved topic which is judged to be of honors quality by a faculty committee appointed for this purpose.

For more details, please see the STIA Director.

STIA Office Phone Number:
202/687-2248