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Jessica M. Smith


As an anthropologist, Professor Smith’s research interests focus around public accountability and engineering, with a particular focus on the mining and energy industries. She spent her 2018 sabbatical as a British Academy Visiting Fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews (Scotland). Her book Extracting Accountability: Engineers and Corporate Social Responsibility will be published open access by The MIT Press in 2021 and was funded by a Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM grant from the National Science Foundation.

Professor Smith’s first major research project investigated gender and mining from the perspective of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, where she grew up and drove haul trucks in the mines for summer employment during college. That research forms the basis of her book Mining Coal and Undermining Gender: Rhythms of Work and Family in the American West (Rutgers University Press, 2014), which was funded by a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a research grant from the National Science Foundation and received the 2018 Western Social Science Association book prize. 

Professor Smith is a co-convener of the STS Underground network and co-organized the 2016 “Energy Ethics: Fragile Lives and Imagined Futures” conference at the University of St. Andrews, which was later published as special issues of Energy Research & Social Science and the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. She also maintains an active research agenda on engineering education, including low-income and first generation engineering students. She is currently co-PI on a five-year NSF Partnerships in International Research and Education grant that educates US engineering undergraduates to co-design, implement and evaluate more sustainable artisanal mining practices and technologies with miners and affected communities in Peru and Colombia. In 2016 her Corporate Social Responsibility course was named an Exemplar in Engineering Ethics by the National Academy of Engineering.


  • PhD in Anthropology with certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Michigan, 2009
  • MA in Anthropology, University of Michigan, 2006
  • BA in Anthropology, International Studies, and Latin American Studies with minors in Spanish and Women’s Studies, Macalester College, 2003

active funded research projects

2017    National Science Foundation Grant 1743749 “PIRE-Sustainable Communities & Gold Supply Chains: Integrating Responsible Engineering & Local Knowledge to Design, Implement & Evaluate Sustainable Artisanal Mining in Latin America.” (Co-PI, $4 million)

2017    NSF grant 1734044 “EAGER: Investigating and Pinpointing the College Success Factors for First-Generation, Underrepresented College Students in Engineering.” (PI, $300,000)

2015    NSF Research Grant 1540298: “The Ethics of Extraction: Integrating Corporate Social Responsibility into Engineering Education” (PI, $450,000)


Selected Publications

  •  Smith, Jessica M. The Ethics of Material Provisioning: Insiders’ Views of Work in the Extractive Industries. The Extractive Industries & Society.
  • High, Mette M. and Jessica M. Smith. Energy and Ethics? Special issue of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 25 (S1): 1-194., Jessica M. Boom to Bust, Ashes to (Coal) Dust: The Contested Ethics of Energetic Exchanges in the US Coal Market Collapse. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 25 (S1): 91-107.
  • High, Mette M. and Jessica M. Smith. 2019. Introduction: The Ethical Constitution of Energy Dilemmas. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 25 (S1): 9-28.
  • Kinchy, Abby, Roopali Phadke and Jessica M. Smith. 2018. Engaging the Underground: An STS Field in Formation. Engaging Science, Technology & Society 4: 22-164.
  • Smith, Jessica M. and Nicole M. Smith. 2018. Engineering and the Politics of Commensuration in the Extractive Industries. Engaging Science and Technology Studies 4: 67-84.
  • Zilliox, Skylar and Jessica M. Smith. 2018. Colorado’s Fracking Debates: Citizen Science, Conflict and Collaboration. Science as Culture 27 (2): 221-241.
  • Smith, Jessica and Johan Thomas van Ierland. 2018. Framing Controversy on Social Media: #NoDAPL and the Debate about the Dakota Access Pipeline on Twitter. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 61 (3): 226 – 241.
  • Smith, Jessica M. and Mette M. High, eds. 2017. Exploring the Anthropology of Energy: Ethnography, Energy and Ethics. Special issue of Energy Research and Social Science 30: 1-116.
  • Zilliox, Skylar and Jessica M. Smith. 2017. Memorandums of Understanding and Public Trust in Local Government for Colorado’s Unconventional Energy Industry. Energy Policy107: 72-81.
  • SmithJessica M., Carrie McClelland and Nicole Smith. 2017. Engineering Students’ Views of Corporate Social Responsibility: A Case Study from Petroleum Engineering. Science and Engineering Ethics 23 (6): 1775-1790.
  • Smith, Jessica M. 2017. From Corporate Social Responsibility to Creating Shared Value: Contesting Responsibilization and the Mining Industry. In Competing Responsibilities: The Ethics and Politics of Contemporary Life, Susanna Trnka and Catherine Trundle, eds. Pp 118-132. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Smith, Jessica. Blind Spots of Liberal Righteousness. Cultural Anthropology Hot Spots series on “The Rise of Trumpism.” January 18, 2017.
  • Smith, Jessica M. and Abraham Tidwell. 2016. Everyday Lives of Energy Transitions: Contested Sociotechnical Imaginaries in the American West. Social Studies of Science 46(3): 327-350.
  • Smith, Jessica M.and Juan Lucena. 2016. Invisible Innovators: How Low Income, First Generation (LIFG) Students Use Their Funds of Knowledge to Belong in Engineering. Engineering Studies 8 (1): 1-26.
  • Smith, Jessica M. and Juan Lucena. 2016. “How do I show them I’m more than a person who can lift heavy things?” The Funds of Knowledge of Low Income, First Generation Engineering Students. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 22(3): 199–221.
  • Tidwell, Abraham and Jessica M. Smith. 2015. Morals, Materials, and Technoscience: Reimagining Energy Security as a Sociotechnical Imaginary in the United States. Science, Technology & Human Values 40(5): 687-711.
  • Rolston, Jessica Smith. 2015. Turning Mine Protesters into Collaborators: The Opportunities and Challenges of Corporate Social Responsibility in the Mining Industry. Society and Natural Resources 28(2): 165-179.
  • Rolston, Jessica Smith. 2014. Mining Coal and Undermining Gender: Rhythms of Work and Family in the American West. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Rolston, Jessica Smith. 2013. The Politics of Pits and the Materiality of Mine Labor: Making Natural Resources in the American West. American Anthropologist 115 (4): 582-594.
  • Smith, Jessica M. and Federico Helfgott. 2010. Corporate Social Responsibility and the Perils of Universalization. Anthropology Today 26(3): 20-23.


111 Engineering Annex
Colorado School of Mines
Golden, CO 80401