Jessica Smith

Associate Professor, Engineering, Design, & Society
Director, Humanitarian Engineering Graduate Programs

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.

Professor Smith holds a PhD in Anthropology and a certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan and bachelor’s degrees in International Studies, Anthropology and Latin American Studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Stratton Hall 402
(303) 273-3944
Professor Smith’s Website


  • PhD, Anthropology, University of Michigan
  • Certificate, Women’s Studies, University of Michigan
  • BA, International Studies, Anthropology and Latin American Studies, Macalester College