Abby Kinchy

Professor and Department Head
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Abby Kinchy is a sociologist, working in the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies (STS). Her research and teaching focus on the politics of environmental pollution and the relationship between science and democratic engagement. She became the head of the STS Department at Rensselaer in January 2023. 

Education & Training

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Sociology and Rural Sociology, August 2007

Master of Science, University of Wisconsin, Sociology and Rural Sociology, Fall 2002

Bachelor of Science, Vassar College, Science, Technology and Society, Spring 1996


Dr. Kinchy has written two books that explore how ordinary people use “citizen science” to examine environmental problems. Science by the People: Participation, Power, and the Politics of Environmental Knowledge, co-authored with Aya Kimura, compares case studies in the United States, Japan, Mexico, and other parts of the world, where citizen scientists have investigated the impacts of shale oil and gas, nuclear power, and genetically engineered crops. Seeds, Science, and Struggle: The Global Politics of Transgenic Crops focuses on farmers and activists in Mexico and Canada who organized in defense of alternatives to industrialized agriculture. 

Dr. Kinchy led the Watershed Knowledge Mapping Project, a study of volunteer watershed monitoring projects in Pennsylvania and New York. This research examined social conflicts surrounding unanswered scientific questions about the impacts of shale gas "fracking." The study combined interviews, participant observation, surveys of water monitoring organizations, and GIS mapping of water monitoring activities. Dr. Kinchy also studied other dimensions of the fracking controversy, such as the disclosure of industry information about chemicals used in the fracking process and the risks of transporting oil by rail. This project led her to co-organize STS Underground, a research network that advances social science research on the technoscientific dimensions of mining, burial, and other forms of subterranean exploration. 

Her newest project, Nuestros Suelos/Our Soil, explores how citizen science and novel sensors could help urban and residential communities identify heavy metal contamination in soil. She is writing a book about how scientists, decision-makers, and affected communities attempt to reduce the harms caused by lead-contaminated soil in different places around the world. She is also working with a team at RPI to develop novel sensors that will enhance the public's capacity to recognize and respond to soil pollution. 

Primary Research Focus
Science and public participation in environmental controversies
Other Focus Areas

sociology of agriculture; interdisciplinary studies of soil and water; social movements and contentious politics; sensors and other citizen science tools


Office Hours

To set up a meeting with Dr. Kinchy, use this scheduling link.

Current Courses

Dr. Kinchy teaches courses and advises students in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. As department head, she oversees the degree programs in 1) Science, Technology, and Society, 2) Design, Innovation, and Society, and 3) Sustainability Studies. She also works closely with students in the STS PhD program.

As department head, Dr. Kinchy has a reduced teaching load, but she regularly contributes to the graduate curriculum in STS with courses such as "Science and Technology Policy" and "Community-Engaged STS." Her favorite undergraduate courses to teach are "Food, Farms, and Famine," and "Investigating Society."

Additionally, Dr. Kinchy works with many students as research collaborators and advises senior thesis and dissertation projects. Students who are interested in pursuing research with Dr. Kinchy should reach out to schedule an appointment. 

Advising & Mentoring

Professor Kinchy advises students majoring in STS, Sustainability Studies, and Design, Innovation and Society.

She also mentors PhD students in STS and has chaired the following dissertation projects:

Nathaniel (Bucky) Stanton, The Cultural Politics of the Arkadian Underground: Archaeological Pasts, Energy Futures, and Imaginaries of Late Modernity. Graduation August 2023.

Leo Bachinger, Extreme Heat Governance for Rural Agricultural Communities. Graduation August 2020.

Rebecca Jablonksy, Mindful, Technically: Mindfulness Meets Digital Technology. Graduation August 2020.

Laura Rabinow, Persistent: Why New York State and the United States Still Don’t Regulate PFOA. Graduation August 2019.

Guy Schaffer, Building Utopias with Tomorrow’s Trash: A Study of Projected Futures and Distributed Infrastructure Design in the New York City Waste Stream. Graduation August 2016

Kirk Jalbert, Promising Data for Public Empowerment: A Study of Grassroots Water Monitoring Practices for Pollution from the Natural Gas Industry. Graduation August 2015

Sean Ferguson, Plastics without Petroleum: The Politics of ‘Green’ Bioplastics in the United States. Graduation December 2012

Anna Lamprou, Toxic Chemicals, Environmental Organizations, and the Governance of Science and Technology in the EU and the US: The Case of Nanotechnology, Graduation December 2012



Kimura, Aya H. and Abby Kinchy (2019) Science by the People: Participation, Power, and the Politics of Environmental Knowledge. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Kinchy, Abby J. (2012) Seeds, Science, and Struggle: The Global Politics of Transgenic Crops. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

The following is a selection of recent publications in Scopus. Abby Kinchy has 36 indexed publications in the subjects of Social Sciences, Environmental Science, Arts and Humanities.

Hannah L. Price, Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro, Kathy High, Mónica D. Ramírez-Andreotta, Sebastián Ureta, Dan Walls, Chie Xu, Abby Kinchy
Local Environment
, 29
, 2024
, pp.480-494
Dan Walls, Abby Kinchy, Tal Margalit, Mónica D. Ramírez-Andreotta, Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro
Environmental Science and Policy
, 128
, 2022
, pp.165-174
Sarah Blacker, Aya H. Kimura, Abby Kinchy
Social Studies of Science
, 51
, 2021
, pp.780-796
Abby Kinchy
Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space
, 3
, 2020
, pp.76-94
Jason A. Delborne, Dresden Hasala, Aubrey Wigner, Abby Kinchy
Energy Research and Social Science
, 61
, 2020
Aya H. Kimura, Abby Kinchy
Citizen Science: Theory and Practice
, 5
, 2020
Abby Kinchy, Guy Schaffer
Science Technology and Human Values
, 43
, 2018
, pp.1011-1038
Kathryn J. Brasier, Kirk Jalbert, Abby J. Kinchy, Susan L. Brantley, Colleen Unroe
Journal of Environmental Planning and Management
, 60
, 2017
, pp.2103-2121

View All Scopus Publications


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