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Alumni Spotlight: Erick Peirson

January 17, 2018

The Center for Biology and Society recently caught up with Erick Peirson, a 2015 graduate with a PhD in Biology (Biology & Society: History & Philosophy of Science). He is currently working for arXiv.org, which gives open access to 1,331,599 e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance, Statistics, Electrical Engineering and Systems Science, and Economics at Cornell University. Here is what he had to say:

How did your degree in Biology & Society impact your career?
Working at the interface of science, technology, and humanities gave me the kind of high-level perspective required of a successful software architect. Infrastructure that supports scientific research and communication (such as arXiv) are best understood as sociotechnical systems, which requires both a deep understanding of scientific practice as well as a strong awareness of historical contingency.

What do you consider to be the benefits of a degree in Biology & Society?
The biology and society program gave me the freedom to pursue research and technology projects, informed by historical and philosophical perspectives, that would have been impossible in more traditional humanities programs. A major benefit for me was being embedded in the School of Life Sciences, which meant that many of my peers and mentors were practicing scientists. 

What advice do you have for someone seeking a degree in Biology and Society?
Use the program as an opportunity to build the career that you truly want, taking advantage of diverse mentorship opportunities in SoLS. Very few of my peers in Biology & Society went on to traditional academic careers. While PhD training across the humanities has not caught up to the economic and professional realities of the 21st century, the multidisciplinary orientation of the Biology & Society program is ahead of the curve when it comes to developing a broad and marketable skillset for careers in the real world. Use it.

More information at: https://erickpeirson.github.io/

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