Dr. Karen A. Rader

Dr. Karen Rader

Director of STS
(Science, Technology, and Society) Program
Associate Professor

Ph.D., 1995, Indiana University (Research and Author Blog)

Milhiser House, 916 W. Franklin St., Room 201 (Box 842535)
(804) 828-9642



Karen Rader is an associate professor in the VCU Department of History.  She holds degrees in Biology (B.S.) from Loyola College (now Loyola University) in Maryland, and History and Philosophy of Science (M.A. and Ph.D.) from Indiana University.  Formerly the Marilyn Simpson Chair of Science and Society (1998-2006) at Sarah Lawrence College, and having taught previously at Harvard and Caltech, Dr. Rader came to VCU in the fall of 2006.  She was awarded a Mellon Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the History and Social Study of 20th Century Life Sciences at MIT (1994-1995) and was a Research Fellow at the Davis Center for Historical Studies (“Animals and Society”) at Princeton (1996-1997). She has held visiting professorships at the University of Olso and the Institute for Advanced Study, Lancaster University, UK. She was awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER Grant for "Biology on Display: Museums and the New Life Sciences in America (2004-2010)." Her first book, Making Mice: Standardizing Animals for American Biomedical Research, 1900-1955 (Princeton UP, 2004) won a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book award.  In 2013 she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Section L (History and Philosophy of Science), cited for “for distinguished contributions to the history of the modern life sciences and for exceptional service to the discipline of the history of science.”

More recently, she has co-edited an anthology (with Adam Dodd and Liv Emma Thorsen) entitled Animals on Display: The Creaturely in Museums, Zoos, and Natural History,  in Penn State University Press' 'Animalibus' series, September 2013). Animals on Display presents nine essays from a range of disciplinary perspectives -- museum studies, folklore, history of science, cultural studies, and celebrity studies – which were initially brought into conversation through annual workshops funded by the Norwegian Research Council at the University of Oslo.  Collectively, the anthology surveys the historical representation and display of nonhuman animals from the eighteenth century through to the present day.

Rader has also co-authored a book with Victoria Cain (Northeastern University, History and Museum Studies), Life on Display: Revolutionizing US Museums of Science and Natural History in the Twentieth Century  (University of Chicago Press, October 2014).  Life on Display looks at how ongoing efforts to create popular educational displays compelled public natural history and science museums in the United States to develop new institutional identities twentieth-century science and American culture.  

Rader's current research interests include the role of the history of science in STEM-H K-12 learning.  She co-developed (with John Powers) and now teaches VCU's "General Education" STS course (SCTS 200-- "Science: Values, Ethics, Politics"), as well as advises students in  VCU's program in Medical Humanities (minor).  She has also created and taught courses on revolutions in science; the history of women’s health; science and film; and genetics, biotechnology and society.