Hello. My name is Tom Waidzunas, and I am a sociologist and science studies scholar in the Temple University Department of Sociology. I am also affiliated the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program, and I am a member of our newly formed Science Studies Network at Temple University.
Welcome to my webpage!
These three scholarly communities at Temple make this university a rich place to explore my research and teaching interests where these fields overlap: at intersections of sexuality and gender studies, science and technology studies, and sociology of social movements. I also maintain a strong interest in social theory. My research thus far has emerged in two primary clusters:
1. Studying workplace experiences of LGBTQ STEM professionals, and related mechanisms of disadvantage and inclusion for marginalized persons in STEM fields.
This areas of research includes my two current National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research projects. In many STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workplaces today, there is a great deal of discussion about diversity and inclusion--much moreso than when I was working as an electrical engineer in the 1990s. The content of these discussions has also been changing at a rapid pace. For years, scholars in the social sciences have studied STEM professions to document and explain why women and members of particular minority groups are under-represented in these fields, and they have been designing and evaluating interventions to counter these trends. My colleague Erin Cech of University of Michigan have sought to be research leaders in this field by including LGBTQ status in nationwide STEM research. We are in the process of implementing the STEM Inclusion Study, funded by an NSF grant. This mixed methods project is the first nationwide study of diversity and inclusion in U.S. STEM professions to systematically address experiences of LGBTQ professionals with a study that meets standards of representativeness and that includes non-LGBTQ control group comparisons. Click our logo or the hyperlinks above for more information!
The other NSF-funded project I am working on is coordinated by the American Society for Engineering Education, and our team is led by our Principal Investigator, Dr. Stephanie Farrell, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University, and current President of ASEE. The ASEE Action on Diversity initiative, Promoting LGBTQ Equality in STEM has been underway for a few years, and the NSF grant for this project was the first to include "LGBTQ" in a grant title at this agency. The centerpiece of the project is a two-level LGBTQ Safe Zone training program offered by our team members across the country, teaching LGBTQ cultural competence and bystander intervention skill development to interested STEM faculty and staff. After completing this training, participants can act as designated LGBTQ allies, signaling their role with Safe Zone stickers on their doors. The training and activist team meets regularly in a virtual community of practice (VCP) online led by Stephanie Farrell.
The ASEE project includes a research component that informs and is informed by the ASEE Safe Zone Program. Erin Cech and I have been conducting research exploring the climate for LGBTQ students and faculty in engineering colleges, the challenges involved in establishing and implementing ASEE Safe Zone and other diversity initiatives in engineering, and ways of overcoming those challenges. A paper led by Cech and her group at University of Michigan uses survey data gathered from eight engineering colleges to argue that LGBTQ students experience social, professional, and personal disadvantages in engineering schools, and the uniformity of this trend across a wide range of college types and regions suggests the phenomenon is integral to the engineering profession itself. This paper won the ASEE Best Diversity Paper Award for 2018. From Temple, I have been conducting Participatory Action Research, joining the ASEE training team to experience various challenges directly, any my team has been developing a version of the ASEE STEM Safe Zone training to be offered at Temple through the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Leadership (IDEAL). I also have been interviewing Engineering Deans in different kinds of engineering colleges about diversity and inclusion and how the ASEE program might fit at their school.
2. Examining the assemblage of sexualities through technoscientific practices
In a second set of research questions at the intersection of three fields, I use approaches from science and technology studies to examine ways that scientists come to know, and hence constitute, sexuality and sexual desire. My book The Straight Line: How the Fringe Science of Ex-Gay Therapy Reoriented Sexuality (University of Minnesota Press, 2015) explains how mainstream science of sexual orientation has been forged under the spectre of reorientation therapies, and in many ways, forecloses possibilities of human freedom even as it has liberated gays and lesbians.
Other work in this area includes tracing the history of the "penile plethysmograph," a technique used in some scientific and correctional settings to purportedly determine the character of a man's sexuality. My paper with Steven Epstein offers a critique of treating the device as an invisible window onto sexual truth, revealing assumptions built into different configurations of the "phallometric test" that employs the device.
Please read my recent blog post at University of Minnesota Press (8.11.2016): "The global implications of RNC support for gay 'conversion therapy'"