News and Notes

Changing venues: from DC to NYC

by Alex Wellerstein, published May 16th, 2014

I haven't posted as much as I've wanted to this month. The main culprits have been teaching, grading, writing, and a week of stomach flu. All of which are pretty OK by me except the last one, which was the exact opposite of pleasant. But I'm better now. But one of the other things that has been brewing has been me finalizing and preparing for a new job. As many of you know, for the past three years I've been the Associate Historian at the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics, in College Park, Maryland, which is just outside of Washington, DC.

Where I've been for the past three years: the American Institute of Physics.

Where I've been for the past three years: the American Institute of Physics, in College Park, MD. 

The position was a postdoctoral fellowship. It gave me the flexibility to start the blog, to make the NUKEMAP, to do a lot of talking with people in DC, to write whatever I wanted, and to teach at Georgetown in the Spring 2014 semester. It has been a wonderful place for me to explore what kind of work I wanted to produce, and one couldn't ask for a better incubator for someone who was recently out of grad school and was still figuring out exactly what I wanted to be doing.

But it was always a fixed-term (3 year) position, destined to end in the late summer of 2014. So I've spent some time over the past eight months or so thinking about what I wanted to do next, and see who would take me. It was important to me that wherever I landed that I be allowed to continue the kind of scholarship that I've been doing for the last few years, including the digital projects. Aside from the professional benefits it has conferred upon me from the increased exposure (I'm plugged into communities now that never knew I existed before), it has helped me develop my writing (my "voice") and helped me to think about ways to use the unique benefits of the web (e.g. interactive data visualization/manipulation that is massively scalable and distributable) to further public understanding of issues I care about.

So I'm excited to announce that I have accepted, a tenure track position as an Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. It's a small engineering school with a lively humanities division, and they've made it clear that they like what I do as I've been doing it and want me to do even more. This is a huge draw for me, because I knew that my Internet-related activities, however hard this may be for any of my readers to fathom, would not be a great fit with many more traditional academic departments. And hey, they want me to teach a class on the past, present, and future of nuclear technology my first semester there — what'd I say about a good fit?

Also, the location is pretty impressive. This is my obligatory, "where is this place" photograph, taken from one of their promotional brochures, of course:

Stevens Institute of Technology

Where I'm moving to: the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, NJ, just outside of NYC.

Stevens are the buildings above and to the right of the main athletic field above. The body of water is the Hudson River; the skyscrapers on the other side are midtown Manhattan. The big one is the Empire State Building. So basically I'm going to be a short ferry across (or train/bus ride under) the river from New York City. So you could call this my Manhattan Project, if you wanted to be punny about it. My wife has also managed to find a good job in the area, too, which is one of the things I was waiting on before announcing this. She is going to be teaching at one of the best prep schools in the country out there, which I think is going to be a great fit for her. We are feeling exceptionally fortunate.

As with all job changes and moves, there is a bittersweet aspect to this. I've really enjoyed living in Washington for the last three years. I thought it was a fun, exciting town, and there's probably no better place in the world for people who study secrecy and nukes. So many interesting people, so many interesting talks, so many interesting events. Fortunately the train ride from New York to DC is very pleasant, so I hope my DC friends and acquaintances will consider me not too far away. Or, as I like to put it, you've got another friend in the NYC area.

I'll be moving there over the summer, sometime in late July or early August. Don't worry, the blog is going to keep chugging along — during and after the move. Now that teaching is done I want to squeeze in a few more DC archive research trips while I still live a few blocks from the Library of Congress, and I have a few blog posts I've been working on for awhile. The visualization/app work may even be accelerated in the years to come, because at Stevens they want me to try and teach students how to do similar things, and that always leads to more little inspirations. Keep an eye on this space. I thank you, and AIP in particular, for the support that made this possible.

19 Responses to “Changing venues: from DC to NYC”

  1. Jay Couk says:

    Congratulations Alex! Hope this will lead to even greater input to the discussions here.

  2. Martin says:

    Congrats and good luck Alex – Love the blog even learned a few new things about nuclear…

    Glad to hear the blog is keeping up too – Lots of interesting things… 😀

  3. Cory Newman says:

    Congratulations. Welcome to New Jersey. I hope your new teaching job works out well.

  4. nukeman says:

    As I have indicated to you before I will be glad to support you and your new students in any way possible. Congratulations on your new position. You have my email address and can always reach me that way. There is a great deal of nuclear history as regards to many countries and I hope you will keep up your blog at the new job.

  5. Patrick McCray says:

    AIP’s done the community a great service by having such a longstanding postdoc program. The people who have come up of it – present company perhaps excluded – have really helped advance scholarship.


  6. Steve Huntsman says:

    Good luck and best wishes!

  7. Michael says:

    Congratulations, Alex, and best wishes,

  8. Mark Mandeles says:

    Alex, Congratulations on your new position. Best wishes for great success!

  9. Conrad says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter here to say that I’m very, very glad that the blog’s going to continue. This is, by far, my favorite blog on the Web. Congrats on the new post, and thank you very much for sharing your research and your passion.

  10. Byron says:

    Congratulations. I live just north of Hoboken, in Weehawken. There’s a lot to like in Hoboken- a lot of good restaurants, a nice walking and jogging path down by the Hudson River, easy access to NYC. I hope you enjoy it!

  11. Peter says:

    Very good! Stevens doesn’t maintain a high profile but has an excellent reputation among those in the know.

  12. Oral Pavlov says:

    Congratulations! It appears you are at the right place with support and encouragement from your peers. I am also very pleased that your blog will continue and I thank you for all the fine information you have provided. Best wishes to you and your practice of proper mental hygiene. Oral Pavlov

  13. Robert Barron says:

    Congratulations & Good luck!

    Regarding your “voice”, I’d like to say that, for me, this blog has (by far) the best signal-to-noise ratio on the net.

  14. Mara Drogan says:

    Congrats on the new position, Alex!

  15. Patrick Pipino says:

    1. A hearty congratulations to you. I hope that you continue this blog, because it has been excellent reading.

    2. I can’t help but chuckle at the cosmic irony of your newfound digs, were a first strike “bolt from the blue” occur.

    Best to you Sir…

  16. Ben Johnson says:

    Very happy for you and your wife Alex. Best wishes for the road ahead.

  17. priscilla mcmillan says:

    Dear Alex, thank you for your wonderful e-mail describing your move to
    Stevens and the reasons therefor. I’ve always thought of Stevens as a very
    serious place: it sounds as if they’ll give you room to do your own work.
    I’ve noticed, Alex, that you are scheduled to make several appearances at
    the SHAFR meeting later this month. I wonder if you’d keep an eye out for
    Paul Rubinson, a professor at Blackwater State here in Mass. I read
    something by him in Diplomatic History a year or so ago, recounting nuclear
    weapons history to about 2008,, and I liked it so much that I got in touch
    with him and read his entire thesis. Of course he would like it to be
    published, and an editor at Johns Hopkins Press is looking at it now. Paul
    is 29 r 30 years old, his work is excellent, and if you see him, I wonder if
    you would share with him any ideas you might have as to where he might offer
    it next?

    Meanwhile, good luck with the move, I’m glad Ellen has a job she likes, and
    I love everything you write, esp. your history of the H-bomb. With warmest
    wishes to you and Ellen, Priscilla

    • Dear Priscilla,

      I actually will not be at SHAFR this year, in the end. But I will see about getting in touch with Rubinson separately.

      Thanks so much again. I have a paper on H-bomb history that I am working on, that I will send you fairly soon for feedback, if you have the time.