Grants | 22 March 2022

CFA: New THI Graduate Fellowships “Race, Empire, and the Environments of Biomedicine”



Deadline:  April 15, 2022

Number of awards:  2 

The Humanities Institute invites applications for two graduate fellows to support an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on “Race, Empire, and the Environments of Biomedicine” scheduled for the 2022-23 academic year, under the direction of Associate Professor Jennifer Derr (History).  The seminar working group will be led by Professors Jennifer Derr (History) and Jenny Reardon (Sociology).

Through public lectures, scholarly talks, and a regular interdisciplinary reading and discussion group, the seminar will interrogate the intersections among race, empire, and the environment, and their significance in the theory, practice, and structure of American biomedicine. The seminar’s geographic frame is that of the American biomedical empire, a formation that includes the United States as well as those places formed by and encircled in the networks of American (biomedical) imperial influence. Within these geographies, race has functioned as a determinant of environmental exposures with deleterious impacts on human health. It also has been a central component of the environmental imaginaries that undergird the theory and practice of medicine and the provision of care. This seminar will approach the history and study of biomedicine from the vantage point of its racialized environments with an eye towards how these critical engagements might be marshaled to produce a more equitable practice of medicine. It is rooted in the proposition that to fully grasp the significance of race in medicine, we must probe how race is made material through environmental imaginaries, practices, and material entanglements, and how these in turn undergird and shape American biomedicine.

We welcome applications from PhD candidates in any discipline or field in the humanities, social sciences, arts, sciences, or engineering at UCSC whose research relates to the themes explored in the seminar. As the seminar will function as a temporary research center, the applicants’ research need not relate to all of the topics that define the seminar’s program but it must be intersectional, engaging, for example, environment and race, empire and medicine, etc. Most importantly, applicants must be interested in expanding their research to explore the intersection of race, environment, biomedicine, and empire. Awardees will also be expected to assist and participate in seminar activities with faculty, students, and visiting scholars; these activities will include workshops, exhibitions, film screenings, lectures, and colloquia.

Award Includes: $30,000 stipend ($8,000 per quarter, plus $6,000 for summer) and in-state tuition, fees, and health insurance. We will award two advanced PhD students at UCSC over AY 2022-2023.

Fellowship recipients are expected to devote themselves to writing during the time of the award (AY 2022-23), and not to hold teaching assistantships or other employment. Partial-year awards are not permitted. The applications will be evaluated for academic excellence, as well as their ability to contribute to and enhance the overall seminar project. Fellows are required to present their work during the Sawyer Seminar in the 2022-23 academic year. Fellows are also required to present their work during the annual Graduate Research Symposium, hosted by the UCSC Graduate Division during Spring 2023.


a) Be an advanced PhD candidate enrolled in a graduate program at UCSC; applicants will have taken their Qualifying Exams and advanced to candidacy before the beginning of the fellowship (Fall Quarter 2022);

b) Be within normative time and in good academic standing;

c) Be enrolled in at least five credits of graduate-level coursework. Students are ineligible to apply while on leave.

Application consists of:

1) Letter of application describing the current status of dissertation research, with a detailed timetable for research and writing plans during 2022-23;
2) Brief statement of previous and current awards and grants (award and grant titles, dates, and amounts);
3) Summary of the dissertation project (no more than 3 pages);
4) One-page curriculum vitae;
5) Signed form from the department Graduate Director stating that you will be within normative time and in good academic standing during the 2022-2023 Academic Year (Download Form here)
6) Letter of support from the faculty advisor evaluating the student’s academic work to date, addressing the student’s timetable for research and writing, verifying that they are within normative time and in good academic standing. Advisors should send the letters directly to


Questions? Please contact Jennifer Derr at