The Afterlife of Atomic America

“Atomic America” is an undergraduate general education (“Gen Ed”) course that was originally designed and delivered by the historian Ferenc Morton Szasz at the University of New Mexico (UNM). The historian of science Luis Campos has since inherited and revitalized the course at UNM, which...Read more

I. Five Nuances to the Traditional “Atomic America” Course

Our approach to teaching Atomic America sought to nuance the traditional curriculum in five intersecting ways:

1. Through an interdisciplinary approach, we read across the disciplines of history, anthropology, geography, geology, ecology, and...Read more

II. Course Learning Outcomes

1. Advanced literacy in the regional tradition of historical and cultural studies of nuclear technologies and development in the United States, and the role of New Mexico in particular, as well as the complex moral, political, economic, and environmental...Read more

III. Selected Literature

Our approach to teaching Atomic America was divided into two parts. The first part of the course was dedicated to a survey of the literature and class discussions. Students compiled weekly reading annotations based on a shared set of questions ( ...Read more

IV. The Life of the By-Product

The second part of the course was focused on two collaborative case studies that were selected in advance by the instructor because they mark the beginning and the end of the life cycle of nuclear development, from uranium mining to nuclear weapons testing in New Mexico. A life cycle...Read more

V. B-EiJ Teaching Collective: Reflections on Pedagogy and Course Infrastructure

In September 2020, I was contacted by a colleague at New Mexico Tech with news that a professor had unexpectedly passed away, leaving a vacancy for teaching a course with 25 students already enrolled. When I accepted the invitation to teach Atomic America, I had to rapidly design the...Read more

VI. Case Study 1: The Grants Uranium District

What follows are the general instructions for student implementation of the first collaborative case study :

Recall your reading of McLemore (2010). The "Grants...Read more

VII. Case Study 2: Chupadera Mesa

The following captures the general instructions for the second collaborative case study :

Chupadera Mesa is located northeast of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and...Read more

VIII. Openings: Future Superfund Research and Education

This section is still being written and revised in coordination with colleagues from UNM METALS SRP, NMT CLASS, B-EiJ Teaching Collective, and the Radiation Governance Project in the Disaster STS Network. It will be published after a series of online onferences and workshops....Read more


The primary author of this essay is Thomas De Pree, but none of this would have been possible without the collaborators who have contributed to the course and this essay from UNM METALS SRP, B-EiJ Teaching Collective, and Disaster STS Network, especially Johnnye Lewis, Debra MacKenzie,...Read more