Susan Smith

Sr. Lecturer, HASS Inquiry Faculty Coordinator


Interdisciplinary work is at the core of Susan Smith’s research and educational interests.  Her undergraduate work in Biology serves as a basis for her research in Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Race and Biomedical Ethics. Her master’s work at the University of Guelph was completed under the direction of Michael Ruse and focused on the nature of human action with respect to free will and determinism.  At the University at Buffalo, working with Jorge J.E. Garcia, she explored the metaphysical basis of race with a focus on its intersection with healthcare.

Dr. Smith’s current work explores the ethical issues related to genetic testing and, specifically, informed consent.  She is also actively investigating the perpetuation of racial disparities in medicine and medical research and solutions for their elimination. Additionally, she continues to explore ethical issues with data privacy and algorithmic bias. 

Before coming to RPI, Dr. Smith taught at Mercyhurst University, Canisius College, and the University at Buffalo.  She has taught courses in Biomedical Ethics, Research Ethics, Philosophy of Human Nature and Science, Technology and Human Values.  Teaching has been a passion for her since she received her undergraduate degree in Education from the University of Windsor.  Dr. Smith encourages students to critically examine their own beliefs and to attempt to create rational defenses for those beliefs.  Dr. Smith was selected by the graduating class of 2021 as one of four professors at Rensselaer to present a "Last Lecture" as somemone who had a last positive impact on their undergraduate experience. She was the recipient of the 2022 Teaching Excellence Award for the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Rensselaer.

Prior to her arrival at Rensselaer, Smith was the Director of the Social Science Interdisciplinary Degree Programs at the University at Buffalo and served on the advisory board of the University at Buffalo Genomics, Education and the Microbiome (GEM) Community of Excellence. 

Education & Training

PhD, Philosophy, University at Buffalo

MA, Philosophy, University at Guelph

Hons B.Sc, Biology and Philosophy, McMaster University

B.Ed., University of Windsor 


Other Focus Areas

Bioethics, Research Ethics, Philosophy of Race


Presentations & Appearances


2023 Innovative Pedagogy Faculty Fellowship - RPI

2022 Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Teaching Excellence Award


2022    “Living a Philosophical Life” – selected by graduating senior class as one of four professors at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that had the most positive impact on them to deliver a lecture as part of the  2022 Rensselaer Last Lecture series. The Last Lecture Series was inspired by Dr. Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon University faculty who, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer delivered a last lecture, titled, “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. Link to lecture:

2021    “What “Works” for Rensselaer Students” – part of the 2020 Teaching Colloquium Series Talking About Teaching, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

2019    “The Relevance of Gracia’s Genetic Common Bundle View of Race for Contemporary Medical Research and Practice” Invited Paper - A Collection Individuals: The Philosophical Legacy of Jorge J.E. Gracia, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

2017    Playing God: A Conversation With Rensselaer Faculty About the Science, Application and Ethics of CRISPR/CAS 9 Gene Editing, Dr. Lois S. Peters Series: “The Ethics of Managing Emerging Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

2016    Research Ethics, CSTEP Program, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY (2013 & 2014)

2016    Research Ethics, LSAMP Program, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY (2013 & 2014)

2015    “Sickle cell screening of NCAA athletes: Legal obligations fulfilled, moral obligations lacking”, UB Scholars on the Road, Macaulay Honors College, New York, NY

2014    “Screening for Sickle Cell Trait in NCAA Athletes”, American Society for Bioethics and Humanities Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA

2013    Medical Ethics: An Overview, Pre-Health Symposium University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

2013    Research Ethics, Chemical Engineering Graduate Program, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

2012    “Can Kitcher Have His Pluralism and Realism Too?”, Philo-Stem 3, The Midwest Workshop in Philosophy of  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Indiana-Purdue University, Ft. Wayne, IN

2012    The Use of Race in Clinical Research and Practice, UB Clinical/Research Ethics Symposium, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

2008    “Race and Medicine”, California Roundtable on Race, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

2008    “Biological Ethnicity”, Student Society of Philosophers, University of Texas, Austin, TX

2007    “Gender, Philosophy and Leadership”, Graduate Program in Organizational Leadership, Mercyhurst College, Erie, PA


2023 "Ethical and Safety Considerations in Automated Fake News Detection", Behaviour & Information Technology TBIT, co-authored with with Benjamin D. Horne and Dorit Nevo.

2022     Chapter in The Philosophical Legacy of Jorge J.E. Gracia, “Using Race in Medical Research and Practice”, Rowman & Littlefield.

2018     (with Jorge J.E. Gracia) chapter in Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Race, “Analytic Metaphysics: Race and Racial Identity”, eds, P. Taylor, L. Martin-Alcoff and L. Anderson, Routledge.

2015     Dinner at Orazio’s: Davide Triggle, the model of a mentor, Biochemical Pharmacology, 98:2 (November 2015): 308-312

2014    Sickle Cell Screening of College Athletes: Legal Obligations Fulfilled, Moral Obligations Lacking, Oregon Law Review, 92:4 (2014): 1127-1156.  Co-authored with Miriam Shuchman

2013     The Conceptual Space of the Race Debate , Theoria, 137:60, 4 (December 2013): 68-89.

The following is a selection of recent publications in Scopus. Susan Smith has 1 indexed publications in the subjects of Arts and Humanities.

Jorge J.E. Gracia, Susan L. Smith
The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race
, 2017
, pp.203-215

View All Scopus Publications


Media Interviews and Blogging


2022     NPR – Academic Minute: Informed Consent of University Student Athletes (

2020     Newspoint 360 - Interview: Data Privacy and User Agreements (


2023     The Tyler Baughcome Podcast  "The Metaphysics of Race, Whistling Vivaldi, and Racial Inequity in Healthcare" ( )

2019     Why Not Change The World? “Technology and Upgrading Humanity”   


2021   For Every Day Matters – The RPI Research & Discover Blog “Creating an Inclusive Campus Community

2020    For American Journal of Bioethics – “Priority Access to COVID-19 Vaccine and American Healthcare

2019    For Every Day Matters – The RPI Research & Discovery Blog “Do You Know Where Your Personal Information Is?”

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