Successfully defending his PhD thesis amidst a global pandemic is not something Lee Nelson could have ever imagined would be part of his “educational odyssey”.
This summer, he did exactly that.
Growing up, Lee always felt he had a somewhat moored relationship with his education and even as an undergraduate, viewed the world of academia as a place where he was, “only a visitor”. Starting out in the engineering program at Dalhousie before switching to economics and political science, he continually felt like something was missing. In the summer before his third year, Lee decided to construct an “educational wish list” of classes he was interested in taking before graduation. Particularly drawn to some History of Science and Technology (HOST) courses at King’s, he decided to enrol.
Lee describes a transformational point in his education upon taking Dr. Gordon McOuat’s class, Science and Nature in the Modern Period. Gordon was a constant encouragement and inspiration to Lee, and suddenly made the possibility of pursuing further education seem much more accessible. It was in his HOST studies at King’s that Lee developed a real interest in academia as a career path.
On his post-graduation travels, Lee visited a friend at Aarhus University in Denmark. During the visit, he discovered that one of the main sources in his HOST thesis was teaching there. Needing no encouragement, Lee enrolled in the Philosophy and History of Ideas Department, continuing to build upon the interdisciplinary education he had come to enjoy so much at King’s.
After Aarhus, Lee returned to Canada to be part of the University of British Columbia’s inaugural Science and Technology Studies MA cohort. Attending the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences in Victoria, he had the pleasure of bumping into Gordon, who once again offered his guidance and advice, this time on pursuing a PhD and a career in academia.
In 2015, Lee embarked on his PhD at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; once more finding a serendipitous link back to King’s by attending the Ischia Summer School in Italy in the summer before his final year, where Gordon had been a faculty member some years before.
Lee’s PhD dissertation focuses on human decomposition research within the forensic sciences, specifically forensic entomology, and how the category “Natural Death” within death certificates affects forensic research and naturalizes environmental injustices; a truly fascinating field of study.
It is only upon completion of his PhD that Lee admits he can now take time to soberly reflect on the impact King’s has had on his life.
Describing his King’s education as a “spectacular fluke”, he adds that, “the accident that was my King’s experience was a metamorphosis event, one that is now, has been, and will be, one of my most cherished.”
“King’s has both woven and continued weaving itself through my friendships, my educational pursuits, thoughts, and acumen. Though I know not what will come next, I have no doubt that my kind, inspirational and cherished winds from my King’s experience will continue to blow in my sails, motivating and cultivating curiosity, rigor, astuteness and desire to learn.”