Gary Downey


Gary Downey is an ethnographic listener interested in engineering studies, nonlinear STS, and questions involving expertise and personhood. Trained as a mechanical engineer (B.S. Lehigh 1974) and cultural anthropologist (B.A. Lehigh 1974, M.A. 1977 Chicago, Ph.D. Chicago 1981), he is Alumni Distinguished Professor of Science and Technology Studies and affiliated faculty member in Women's and Gender Studies. 

Downey is author of The Machine in Me: An Anthropologist Sits Among Computer Engineers (Routledge 1998), co-author of Engineers for Korea (with Kyonghee Han; Morgan & Claypool 2014), co-editor of Cyborgs and Citadels: Anthropological Interventions in Emerging Sciences and Technologies (School of American Research Press 1998), co-editor of What Is Global Engineering Education For?: The Making of International Educators (Morgan & Claypool 2010), and author of the multimedia course Engineering Cultures (Virginia Tech 2002).

He is editor of the Engineering Studies Series at The MIT Press, the Global Engineering Series at Morgan & Claypool Press, and the journal Engineering Studies: Journal of the International Network of Engineering Studies. He is co-founder of the International Network for Engineering Studies. He has been Distinguished Lecturer at the American Society for Engineering Education and Keynote Lecturer at the World Congress of Chemical Engineering and Brazilian Society for Science and Technology Studies (ESOCITE.BR).

At Virginia Tech, he is winner of the 2004 William E. Wine Award for career excellence in teaching, 2003 XCaliber Award for high-quality instructional technology, and 1997 Diggs Teaching Scholar Award for original scholarship in teaching. 

He received the 2011 Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, the highest faculty award in the Commonwealth.  Read more at VT News and in VT Magazine.

He serves as President of the Society for Social Studies of Science (2013-2015).

His current research uses historical ethnography to revisit local connections between dominant practices of engineering formation and countries, asking to what extent these have been normative in content. One goal is to extend critical analysis to critical participation, a version of nonlinear STS, to better enable both engineers and STS scholars to identify and reflect critically on their expertise, identities, and commitments.