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Dr Emily Dawson
22 Gordon Square
Tel: 020 3108 441
  • Associate Professor
  • Dept of Science & Technology Studies
  • Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Science & Technology Studies at University College London. My research explores how people learn about and engage with science, with an emphasis on inclusion and social justice. In other words, why do some people do well in school science, watch science on TV and visit science museums while others do not? In particular, I am interested in how we might develop ways to disrupt rather than reproduce science related injustices. 

I began working in research after a career in science museums,  community development & science communication practices. Over the last 12 years I’ve explored the full breadth of science education, through the lens of social justice. For instance I spent 5 years working directly with schools, particular science teachers and their students (2012-2017,Enterprising Science), researching how Science Capital might best be supported for youth from under-privileged backgrounds. My post-doctoral work on the Wellcome Trust’s Review of Informal Learning in the UK spanned science education providers across the whole country, from science teachers, to educators in botanic gardens, to after-school science club organisers, examining which communities they served and why. While my PhD research focused on people who felt excluded from almost all forms of science education and communication, and asked why and how that could happen.   

My current project (on which I am a Co-Investigator, alongside Professor Louise Archer, PI, Professor Angela Calabrese Barton, PI and Professor Lynn Dierking, Co-I), is called Youth Equity and STEM, or YESTEM (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/departments/education-practice-and-society/youth-equity-stem). This four year project (awarded in 2017) is a collaboration between youth from minoritised backgrounds, informal science education practitioners and researchers across the UK and the US. Working in partnership we are developing evidence-based approaches to building informal science learning practices that support minoritised youth to enjoy, engage with and learn about science. 

Research Summary

***NEWS: My book "Equity, Exclusion & Everyday Science Learning" was published by Routledge in their Education Series in February 2019! You can find it here: https://www.routledge.com/Equity-Exclusion-and-Everyday-Science-Learning-The-Experiences-of-Minoritised/Dawson/p/book/9781138289949 ***

My work focuses on how people learn about and engage with science, with an emphasis on equity and social justice. My research and teaching explore how some science education practices across the formal and informal education sectors (i.e. from schools, to museums, to watching TV at home) set certain kinds of people up to be successful when they engage with science, while other people are set up to fail. 

Theoretical work

I have developed a theoretical approach to how informal science learning practices and publics might be understood by drawing on science and technology studies, cultural sociology, political philosophy (particularly theories of social justice, democracy and participation) and education.  I have written widely on these topics and they are the focus of my forthcoming book "Equity, Exclusion & Everyday Science Learning". 

I believe that learning more about science education through the lens of social justice can help us to find ways to change them through reimagining who and what counts in science education. To address the substantial challenges of social justice in science education I draw across my practical & research background, as well as across theories from pedagogy, to sociology of education, to science and technology studies. 

Practice & Research Collaborations

My research has focused on collaborations between practitioners and researchers involved in the many different fields of informal science learning and science communication. For instance, across the five years of the “Enterprising Science” we actively worked with teachers at the school, delivering targeted continuing professional development that supported their teaching practices and improved their students’ performance and enjoyment in science classes. 

At present,  I am a co-investigator on an international UK-US collaborative project funded through the Science Learning + awards that have allowed me to combine theoretically-driven and practice-based research. The four-year grants builds on our earlier development grand and is an attempt to take this challenge seriously through collaborations with youth from minoritised backgrounds and practitioners in four cities (Bristol, London, Lansing and Portland) to co-develop participatory research exploring how informal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning could become more equitable. This project will run until 2021. 

Here is my Orcid ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7152-6032

Teaching Summary


  • Term 1: Science and Popular Culture (HPSC0013, 2nd Year UG, STS)
  • Term 2: Science, Technology and Identity/Science & Social Justice (HPSC0091, MSc, STS)

In previous years in the Department of Science & Technology Studies I taught:

  • Investigating Science & Society (1st Year UG, STS)
  • Science Communication & Computing (2nd Year UG, Natural Sciences)
  • Science & the Mass Media (2nd Year UG, STS)

At present I supervise 4 amazing PhD students and note with regret that I will be unable to undertake any additional PhD supervision until one of them finishes (no pressure!).

Completed PhDs:

  • Spela Godec, KCL (2016), "Urban girls' engagement with science within school, science museum and family contexts: Interactions of gender, social class & ethnicity". 
  • Agnes Ryder, KCL (2015), "An exploration of student's perceptions of Second Life for learning purposes".

At King's College London I taught on the following courses Science PGCE, Science Education MSc, Advanced Qualitative Research Skills for the MPhil, Education in Cultural Settings MA and the Education Studies BA. 

I have also taught Science Communication and Social Studies of Science at MA and MSc level at the Royal College of Art and the University of the West of England.

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