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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 15, 2025
  2. Most engineering ethics education is segregated into particular courses that, from a student’s perspective, can feel disconnected from the technical education at the center of their programs. In part because of this disconnect, several immersive programs designed to train engineering students in socio-technical systems thinking have emerged in the U.S. in the past two decades. One pedagogical goal of these programs is to provide alternative ideologies and practices that counter dominant cultural paradigms that marginalize macroethical thinking and social justice perspectives in engineering schools. In theory, longer-term immersion in such programs can help students overcome these harmful ideologies. However, because of the difficult nature of studying cultural change, very few studies have attempted to provide a thick description of how these alternative cultural practices are influencing student perspectives on engineering practices. Our study offers a rare glimpse at student uptake of these practices in a multi-year Science, Technology, and Society (STS) living-learning program. Our study explores whether and how cultural practices within an STS program help students develop and sustain the resources for using a socio-technical systems thinking approach to engineering practice. We grounded our work in a cultural practices framework from Nasir and Kirshner [1] which roughly understands practice to be “a patterned set of actions performed by members of a group based on common purposes and expectations, with shared cultural values, tools, and meanings” ([2, p. 99] as cited in [3]). Our descriptions of collective enactments of cultural practices are grounded in accounts of classroom events from researcher fieldnotes and reflections in student interviews. Looking across the enactment of practices in classrooms and students’ interpretations of these events in interviews allows us to describe the multiplicity of meanings that students distill from these activities. This paper will present on multiple cultural practices salient to students we have identified in this STS community, for example: cultivating an ethics of care, making the invisible visible, understanding systems from multiple perspectives, and empowering students to develop moral stances as citizens and scientists/engineers in society. Because of the complexity of the interplay between the scaffolding of the STS program’s pedagogy and the emergence of these four themes, we chose to center “cultivating an ethics of care” in this analysis and relationally explore the other three themes through it. Ethics of care manifests in two basic ways in the data. Students talk about how an ethics of care is part of the STS program community and how the STS program fosters the need for an ethics of care toward communities outside the classroom through human-centered engineering design. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  3. Many studies show that college engineering students’ sense of ethical and social responsibility declines over the course of their college careers (Cech, 2014; Canny & Bielefeldt, 2015; Schiff et al., 2021). One reason is that many college engineering programs and courses reinforce the social-technical dualism, which treats social and macro-ethical issues as distinct from the technical work more often associated with “real” engineering. Some programs, like the Science, Technology and Society (STS) program at [institution made confidential for review], attempt to challenge this dualism by supporting the integration of social and technical considerations within students’ design work and by asking students to grapple with the complex ethics of their work. However, this program is still embedded within a department, university, and society that subscribes to harmful ideologies such as technocracy, capitalism, and meritocracy, which value efficiency, surveillance, and control. These ideologies and their associated values constrain the imagination for what is possible in design work, for instance, by relying on technological ‘quick fixes’ to address complex social problems or by propping up large corporations as innovators, without adequately grappling with the harm that these corporations might be doing. This cultural reality creates an uphill battle for educators attempting to support engineering students’ sense of social consciousness and ethical responsibility. Thus, this study attempts to understand how engineering students’ imaginations are being constrained by societal structures and ideologies and when do they “break free” from these constraints? In this paper, we present a preliminary analysis of first-year STS students collaboratively reasoning through a simulated design scenario about a small community store facing challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic (adapted from Gupta, 2017). Using discourse and narrative analysis, we analyzed multiple focus group interviews to identify what we call “co-occurrences,” or ideas that tend to hang together in participants’ reasoning. Examining these co-occurrences provides insight into the variety of ways socio-technical imaginaries play out in students’ design thinking. 
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  4. Optical metasurfaces of sub-wavelength pillars have provided new capabilities for the versatile definition of the amplitude, phase, and polarization of light. In this work we demonstrate that an efficient dielectric metasurface lens can be used to trap and image single neutral atoms. We characterize the high numerical aperture optical tweezers using the trapped atoms and compare to numerical computations of the metasurface lens performance. We predict future metasurfaces for atom trapping can leverage multiple ongoing developments in metasurface design and enable multifunctional control in complex experiments with neutral-atoms arrays. 
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  5. Beard, D (Ed.)
    Neurons rely on localized mitochondria to fulfill spatially heterogeneous metabolic demands. Mitochondrial aging occurs on timescales shorter than the neuronal lifespan, necessitating transport of fresh material from the soma. Maintaining an optimal distribution of healthy mitochondria requires an interplay between a stationary pool localized to sites of high metabolic demand and a motile pool capable of delivering new material. Interchange between these pools can occur via transient fusion / fission events or by halting and restarting entire mitochondria. Our quantitative model of neuronal mitostasis identifies key parameters that govern steady-state mitochondrial health at discrete locations. Very infrequent exchange between stationary and motile pools optimizes this system. Exchange via transient fusion allows for robust maintenance, which can be further improved by selective recycling through mitophagy. These results provide a framework for quantifying how perturbations in organelle transport and interactions affect mitochondrial homeostasis in neurons, a key aspect underlying many neurodegenerative disorders. 
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