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Graduate Students Interests

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Graduate Students

Master's Candidates

Jonathon Self is a self-admitted book nerd who loves to read about science, technology, and socioeconomics.  After completing his BA in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine from the University of Oklahoma, he gained admittance to the dual-degree MA program for the history of science and library and information studies at OU and hopes to continue his metabiographical and bibliographic studies of Charles Darwin’s biographies that he conducted for his undergraduate capstone.  More generally, Jonathon’s research interests include mediums and technologies that communicate and popularize science, as well as how those mediums affect the perception of science's practitioners.  In his spare time, Jonathon enjoys walking, spending time with his wife and daughter, and reading.

Aja Tolman completed a BA in History at Brigham Young University and an MA in History at Utah State University.  Her focus was primarily the history of geology and empire, especially the British Raj in India.  She has worked on the Geological Survey of India and private Indian enterprises, and researched how Indian geologists used the science to make India more economically self-sufficient and globally competitive.  She is also interested in paleontology, volcanology, and plate tectonics theory.  Aja plans to become a professor of the history of science. In addition, she enjoys traveling, reading, music, and baking.

Preparing for General Exams:

Kraig Bartel completed a BA in History at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.  He is currently finishing an MA in History of Science, Technology, and Medicine here at OU and plans to complete his thesis in fall of 2016.  Kraig is interested in how knowledge is generated and established over time and space; how knowledge is continually socially and culturally conceptualized.  His current research examines a 1623 manuscript held by the History of Science Collections at the University of Oklahoma.  This manuscript was a set of student notes from an introductory astronomy course taught at the Collegio Romano by Orazio Grassi, a Jesuit who engaged in a debate with Galileo over a series of comets observed in 1618.  As a set of student notes recorded at a premier educational institution in Europe, this 1623 manuscript serves as a primary source for how observational evidence was incorporated into astronomical knowledge, a process that involved much negotiation and vetting by expert witnesses, many of whom were teachers at the Collegio Romano along with Grassi.  After Kraig defends his master's thesis he plans to get a PhD in the History of Science and expand on his current research to study the controversy over the comets and the role of the Collegio Romano and its scholars in establishing the validity of observational evidence in astronomy after the invention of the telescope. 

Bill Munsell attended the New York School of Visual Arts as a fine art major before earning his BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Oklahoma. He joins our program with a career as a forensic engineer specializing in design and failure analysis. Having repeatedly witnessed the tragic consequences when design engineers fail to incorporate basic safety concepts into their plans, Bill would like to explore the history of safe design principles and practices as they have arisen and evolved in the United States and other countries. He is also interested in the transformation of technologies and the role of the engineer through the crucible of the war years 1914-1945. Personally, Bill continues to paint, cook, and race sports cars. Long-term, Bill plans to publish his findings and work as an educator to see that safety knowledge is incorporated into engineering curricula both at the University of Oklahoma and engineering programs elsewhere. 

Doctoral Candidates:

James Burnes has traveled from Mayan ball courts in Belize and the fossil filled deserts of Utah to the TEDxOU stage absorbing and sharing the knowledge of field expeditions and collecting. Passionate about community outreach, he maintains his own traveling fossil exhibition called the Paleo Porch Mini Mobile Museum which he takes to school classrooms, homeschools, libraries, universities, and even city parks in order to engage people who may not have the opportunity to visit a museum.  By combining the history of science with the history of objects as well as personal experience in archaeology and paleontology, the exhibits reveal a dynamic relationship between the sciences and the humanities and have allowed him to live up to his museum’s tagline: “Have Bones Will Travel.”  Museum updates, paleo news, and PhD progress can be followed at  He also tweets about cartoons more than he should @Egonatello.  Currently, James is the Assistant Exhibition Coordinator for the University Libraries, overseeing the curation and technical aspects of exhibits across the main and satellite libraries.  In his position, James works to provide a unique exhibit experience for the public and visiting researchers.  

Kirsty Gaither is currently preparing for her exams and researching for her dissertation. After looking at the public spaces of learning in 17th-century England in her master's thesis, she has continued to research public and everyday access to scientific knowledge in non-academic settings. Her dissertation looks at scientific, technological, and medical knowledge present in 18th-century British kitchens, kitchen practices, and recipe books. She is also working on incorporating a digital humanities component into her dissertation. 

Personally, she describes herself as a worldwide traveler and adventurer, having grown up in various countries. She is an avid fan of science fiction and all things Marvel. She devotes most of her free time to kickboxing, her two dogs, and working out with her husband. 

Nathan Kapoor completed a B.S. in History and secondary education licensure at Tennessee Technological University and completed his M. A. in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Oklahoma.  In addition to history, Nathan has studied jazz and was the first-chair percussionist in the school's jazz ensemble for three years, and he has continued with the University of Oklahoma Chamber Jazz Ensemble.  He has done some museum internships and worked on history of science exhibits, such as assisting the chairman of the André Michaux International Society with the development of an exhibit.  His master’s thesis critiqued the historiography of electrical generation technologies and argued for a greater inclusion of wind power in the history of early electrification.  Currently, Nathan is preparing for his field exams in: energy and electricity, technology and empire, and engineering and ethics.  He is also set to complete a Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies for his final field.  Early dissertation work is focused on the electrification of New Zealand, specifically the relationship between the colonial administration and electrical technologies.

Read more about Nathan's research at

Younes Mahdavi completed his BS in Mathematics at Shahid Beheshti University (Tehran) and then earned his MA in the History of Science at the University of Tehran. His MA research focused on mathematics and astronomy in medieval Islam. In his master’s thesis he explored the application of spherical trigonometry in astronomy from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries, with a focus on new techniques developed by Islamic and Iranian mathematicians that replaced the techniques of Ptolemy’s Almagest. In spring 2015, Younes, enrolled in the University of Oklahoma’s PhD program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. He is interested in the cross-cultural transmission of science between the Islamic world and the Latin West during the middle ages and early modern period.  For his dissertation project, he is working on the intellectual history of Safavid Iran, which dates back to the early modern period (16th and 17th centuries), focusing on astronomy and mathematical sciences.

Photo of Brent Purkaple and his wife Becky

Brent Purkaple completed a BA in Greek and Hebrew with a minor in History in 2007 from Oklahoma Baptist University, and then completed an MA at Wheaton College in Biblical Exegesis in 2009. In spring 2015 he completed his MA in the History of Science at OU. His master’s thesis, titled, “Making Sense of Mathematics: The Certitudine Mathematicarum Debate and its Relationship to Plato and Aristotle,” explored the ontology of mathematics in a sixteenth-century Italian debate. He plans to continue looking into the development of science within the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for his dissertation. Brent works as a graduate research assistant in the History of Science Collections, and as such has been working to strengthen K-12 education outreach for the Collections as well as to help launch the exhibition, Galileo’s World. In his free time he enjoys running, exploring the outdoors, and fiddling with his violin.

Read more about Brent's research at

Anna Reser has a BFA in studio art and an MA in history of science.  She is currently pursuing a PhD and writing a dissertation about design culture and the built environment in the American space program.  Her other writing and research interests include popular culture, critical and literary theory, art history, and women and gender studies.  She is a painter, sculptor, and printmaker with a focus on the aesthetics of technology and information.  She is the co-editor of the monthly magazine Lady Science [].

Read more about Anna's interests at

Photo of Amy Rogers

Amy Rodgers graduated from OU with a BS in astronomy and a minor in the history of science in 2009.  She undertook the dual degree program, pursuing both the MA in history of science and the MLIS, which she successfully completed in fall 2012.  Her master’s thesis was entitled, “Blood, Books, and Bile: Ancient Greek Humoralism in Louisa May Alcott's 1868 Novel, Little Women”.  In her PhD dissertation, Amy furthers the research she began in her master’s work, locating medical theories of disease in popular culture.  She currently runs an editing business, ASR Editing.  After completing the PhD she plans to continue editing while working as a special collections librarian. 

Carolyn Scearce completed a BA at the University of Maryland in English literature and a BS in biological sciences followed by an MS in oceanography at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UC-San Diego. After completing her degrees, Carolyn worked as an aquatic science database editor before entering the program in the history of science at OU. In spring 2013, she successfully defended her master’s thesis: “John Gray and Albert Gunther are Dead: Zoology at the British Museum During the Darwinian Era.” While preparing for her general exams, Carolyn is studying the history of the life sciences, with particular emphasis on biogeography, exploration, natural history collections, and ichthyology.

Blair Stein holds a Bachelor of Journalism (2010) from Carleton University, a MA in History (2011) from Queen's University, and a MA in HSCI from OU (2014).  Her MA research from both schools focused on Trans Canada Air Lines (now Air Canada).  At OU, she examined how the special relationship Canadians have historically believed themselves to have with cold weather was used as a rhetorical tool in the development and advertising of TCA's first pressurized airliner in the late 1940s.  Her dissertation expands this further, examining how Canadian climatic identity has been expressed through aviation discourse during the first three-quarters of the twentieth century and exploring what this says about the modern experience of technology, environment, and nation.  Blair is currently a regular featured blogger for the Network in Canadian History and the Environment (NiCHE) blog, The Otter.  When she's not talking about cold-weather Canadian airplanes, Blair can be found riding her bicycle, watching reality television, and dreaming about real maple syrup.