Headshot of Dr. Sonja Schmid, Associate Professor, Department of Science Technology & Society, Virginia Tech University

Dr. Sonja Schmid is an associate professor of Science and Technology Studies (STS) at Virginia Tech and serves as the co-director of the STS graduate program in Northern Virginia. Her research is situated at the interface of national energy policies, technological choices, and proliferation concerns. Her work has been published in leading scholarly journals and university presses. For her first book, “Producing Power: The Pre-Chernobyl History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry” (MIT Press 2015), she used Russian archival sources and interviews with industry veterans to reconstruct the history and organization of the civilian nuclear energy sector in the Soviet Union. In other research, she traced Soviet nuclear technology transfer to central and east European nations, specifically East Germany and Czechoslovakia, and studied the fate of these nuclear industries during their post-Soviet integration into the European Union. In her most recent project on the challenges of globalizing nuclear emergency response, which was supported by an NSF CAREER Award, Schmid compared post-Fukushima initiatives to prepare for, and respond to, beyond design basis accidents in different nations and regions. During that project, she hosted a monthly speaker series, the Seminar on Interdisciplinary Research and Education in Nuclear Emergency Response (SIREN), which is now available as an online archive.

Schmid teaches courses in social studies of technology, science and technology policy, socio-cultural studies of risk, energy policy, and nuclear nonproliferation, and has supervised several dissertations, including projects on the U.S. nuclear industry’s "maintenance rule," the history of the Linear No-Threshold model (LNT), and visions of fusion futures. Together with the Nuclear Engineering Program and the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, she developed an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in Nuclear Science, Technology, and Policy, a program that aims at encouraging cross-disciplinary learning and engagement among often siloed areas of expertise.

Schmid is an affiliate faculty in Virginia Tech’s Nuclear Engineering Program and serves as a faculty member of the newly founded Jean Monnet Center for Excellence at Virginia Tech (CEUTTSS), which offers her a prominent platform to advocate for international, in addition to interdisciplinary, collaboration in the nuclear field.

Before joining Virginia Tech, Schmid spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford, where she also taught in the STS program, and another year at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California. She earned her Ph.D. in science and technology studies from Cornell University, and a master of arts in Slavic studies, philosophy, and linguistics from the University of Vienna, Austria.