Congratulations to the newest members of the History and Philosophy of Science graduate program at Oregon State University who have advanced to candidacy. Despite the small size of the program, which currently has five students in the PhD program, three have all moved to candidacy in spring 2020 with the fourth anticipated to move towards candidacy in fall 2020. 

In order to advance to candidacy at Oregon State University in the History and Philosophy of Science program, students must complete all required coursework (which typically takes two years), complete a prospectus (which is a detailed proposal for their dissertation research), and pass their comprehensive exams. Once students complete these requirements, they advance to candidacy and can focus solely on their research and dissertation writing. The comprehensive exams are quite rigorous, and in order to pass, students are expected to show high degree of expertise in their chosen fields. At OSU, the comprehensive exams include three written exams and one oral exam. Each written exam is administered by a member of the student’s graduate committee. One exam is administered by the student’s major professor, a second exam is administered in the student’s area of focus, and another exam is administered in the history and philosophy of science. The oral exam is conducted in all three aforementioned fields, plus a minor field (the student does not take a written exam in the minor field). A graduate school representative (GCR) oversees the oral examination to ensure fairness in the process.  

If the student passes all the exams, they advance to PhD candidacy and are considered to be ‘All but Dissertation’, or ABD.  An ABD status indicates that the student has completed all academic requirements for the PhD degree, with the exception of writing and defending their dissertation. 

In May and June of this year, Aimee Hisey, Miriam Lipton, and Marcelo Carocci-Ormsbee completed their written and oral exams. All three students passed all the exams and have now advanced to PhD candidacy. Below are brief summaries of the areas of study of the three new PhD Candidates in History and Philosophy of Science and their experiences with their oral and written comprehensive exams. Each candidate wrote an entry of one of their colleagues.             

Hisey at the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City with advisor Nicole von Germeten and undergraduate student Ismael Pardo.

Written by Miriam Lipton:

Per the regulations of the program, Aimee Hisey took three written exams and one oral exam. Hisey’s committee consisted of Professor Nicole von Germeten who served as her major professor and tested Hisey on Latin American History. Professor Jake Hamblin served on Hisey’s committee as her history and philosophy of science general field member. Professor Cari Maes tested Hisey on the History of Medicine in Latin America in the National period. Professor Rena Lauer served as Hisey’s Minor Professor and tested her on early modern history. Professor Aurora Sherman from the psychology department served as Hisey’s Graduate Council Representative.

 While preparing for her exams, Hisey had to read in all of her fields in order to become proficient in and prepared to field questions from her committee members on a range of topics. Even though she had a lot of readings, there were several books that were particularly interesting. Hisey enjoyed reading Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra’s How to Write the History of the New World, William B. Taylor’s Drinking, Homicide and Rebellion and Claudia Agostoni and Patience A. Schell’s bodies of work on hygiene and nationalism. 

Now that Hisey is done with her exams, she can focus full time on her dissertation. Her research situates Jewish medical practitioners and their circulation of knowledge in the Spanish viceroyalties. Hisey is in the beginning stages of her research and will need to access some archives in order to help whittle down what exactly will qualify as medical knowledge and which practitioners she will focus on for her research. 

If Aimee could pick tacos or burritos, she picks tacos, 100%! In particular, the tacos al pastor from El Califa Taquería in Mexico City.  

Miriam Lipton at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Lipton conducted research at the World Health Organization in Geneva in July 2019 for her dissertation and took a side trip to visit the UN

Written by Marcelo Carocci-Ormsbee:

Miriam Lipton, a Soviet researcher in the History and Philosophy of Science program here at OSU, advanced to PhD candidacy after passing her comprehensive exams on June 10th, 2020.  Having studied the Soviet Union for several years, and as a fluent speaker of Russian, Lipton is currently studying the use of antibiotics and bacteriophages in the Soviet Union and the United States from the 1920s to the 1960s.  She seeks to understand how and why both countries had such divergent paths in dealing with bacterial infections, and how they handled the rise of bacterial resistance.

As part of the examination process for PhD candidacy, PhD students are submitted to written exams in three major fields, along with an all-encompassing oral examination where the candidate is tested on all three major fields and a minor field at once. Lipton was examined in the fields of History of Science, History of Science in the 20th Century, Political History of Soviet Science and Medicine, and in the minor field of Diplomatic History, Foreign Relations, and History of the Cold War.  The professors guiding and examining Lipton in those fields were: Drs. Jonathan Kaplan, Jacob Hamblin, Sarah Hendernson, and Chirstopher Nichols respectively.  The graduate representative (GCR) in the oral examination was Dr. Anita Cservenka from the Psychology Department.  

During the preparation for the comprehensive exams, Lipton read several books in the areas in which she was examined, but one particular book stood out.  It was The Final Act by Michael Cotey Morgan. Lipton has said that she enjoyed this book because it helped her place the Helsinki ‘Final Act’ into a Cold War framework in a compelling way. The book also helped her contextualize the ‘Final Act’ as the event that helped end the Cold War and led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  Now that Lipton has passed her competency exams and is a PhD candidate, she can focus solely on continuing her research and writing her dissertation.

If made to choose between tacos and burritos, Lipton would choose burritos. Vegan burritos of course!     

Marcelo Carocci-Ormsbee at his desk at the Benton County Historical Society, in Philomath, Oregon.

Written by Aimee Hisey:

Graduate student Marcelo Carocci-Ormsbee last week advanced to PhD candidacy, passing his comprehensive exams by unanimous vote. Carocci-Ormsbee, who studies under Professor Stacey Smith, is investigating the impact of diseases such as yellow fever on foreign relations focusing on port cities of the United States, Mexico, and Cuba during the long nineteenth century.

Other members of Carocci-Ormsbee’s committee included: Professor Nicole von Germeten focusing on public health in Latin America, Professor Jacob Hamblin focusing on the general history of science, and Professor Christopher Nichols focusing on U.S. foreign relations in the long nineteenth century. Professor Natchee Barnd served as Carocci-Ormsbee’s Graduate Council Representative.

In preparation for comprehensive exams, graduate students read dozens if not hundreds of books and articles to properly understand the historiography of their field. Carocci-Ormsbee cites three specific favorites in this process. David A. Brading’s Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763-1810. This classic of Latin American history, Carocci-Ormsbee argues helped him to contextualize public health in the Spanish empire during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Also, of particular interest, Carocci-Ormsbee recommends Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, which discusses medicine, death, and dying during the violent Civil War. Lastly, Carocci-Ormsbee recommends Michael Hunt’s Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy as a classic text that examines the ways in which ideology influences U.S. foreign relations.

Now that he has advanced to candidacy, Carocci-Ormsbee plans to take some time off this summer before diving into research in the fall. 

If Carocci-Ormsbee had to choose, he’d pick burritos. Having taken his exams in Texas, Carocci-Ormsbee has been enjoying the breakfast burritos at Big Brew, Little Brew in Killeen Texas, near Fort Hood. 

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