2013 IAC Graduate Essay Awards

2013 IAC Graduate Essay Awards

Students who had submitted abstracts for the IAC graduate conference submitted 10-15 page papers to be evaluated by Ivan Allen College faculty judges. Authors of the three top papers each received $1500 in travel funds. Below are biographies and abstracts of prize winners in 2013.


2013 Prize winners

tong-zhaoTong Zhao (International Affairs)

Tong ZHAO is an associate at the Nuclear Policy Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, based at the CarnegieñTsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing. His research focuses on strategic security issues, including nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, missile defense, conventional prompt global strike, and Chinaís security and foreign policy. He was previously a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at Harvard Belfer Center. He holds a PhD in science, technology, and international affairs from Georgia Institute of Technology, and received a B.S. in physics and an M.A. in international relations from Tsinghua University.

Confidence Building and Nuclear Arms Control between the U.S. and China: The Role and Limit of Epistemic Community (First Prize)

Abstract: The formation of epistemic communities and diffusion of knowledge are believed to be conducive to confidence building between adversary states. During and after the Cold War, dialogues and exchanges between American and Soviet/Russian nuclear scientists were helpful to remove mutual misunderstandings and to enhance perceptions of common interests. Diffusion of knowledge about the nature of nuclear weapons and nuclear conflicts between the epistemic communities of the two sides helped both to recognize the importance of arms control and find mutually acceptable approaches to implement arms control agreements. Nonetheless, existing theories of epistemic community do not fully address the underlying mechanisms through which the formation of epistemic communities leads to sustainable confidence building between security expert groups. Nor do existing theories explain whether or to what extent the connection between the development of epistemic community and the building of confidence exists for other bilateral nuclear arms control processes than what is between the U.S. and Soviet Union/Russia. This paper seeks to explore this dynamic between the U.S. and China during their decades-long nuclear arms control interaction. The paper evaluates whether and to what extent the level of mutual confidence has increased during bilateral engagement between the U.S. and China over nuclear security. It then examines the hypothesized causal relationship and points to different approaches that the U.S. and China seek to build confidence. The findings aim to illuminate the under-explored relationship between knowledge diffusion and confidence building over nuclear arms control, offering policy recommendations to promote stable U.S.-China nuclear arms control communication.


zEmily K. Gibson (History and Sociology)

Emily earned her M.S. (2012) and Ph.D. (2017) in History and Sociology of Technology and Science at Georgia Tech.  She is currently the Associate Historian at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia.  Emily was a lead organizer in the creation of the IAC Graduate Student Paper Competition and Conference.

The Hand that Rocked the Cradle Flies the Family’s Plane Today: Feminism, Gender Roles, and the Rise of Commercial Aviation in the United States during the 1920s-30s (Second Prize)

Abstract: This paper explores the role women played in the development of commercial aviation in the United States during the 1920s and 30s. As technological innovations improved the safety and efficiency of airplanes during the early part of the twentieth century, commercial aviation companies worked to position flight as a viable means of mass transportation. In order to separate flight from its masculine WWI image of danger and risk, industry executives, male pilots, and popular news sources argued that women as pilots, wives, and mothers should promote commercial aviation as safe. In response, women as both pilots and passengers played an active role in shaping the development of commercial aviation through domesticating flight. This paper argues that an analysis of women s promotion of commercial aviation offers a new understanding of gender ideologies and expectations during the interwar years. While some female pilots carefully balanced their masculine technological expertise with conventional social expectations of femininity and traditional gender roles, others openly espoused feminist notions of gender equality. Additionally, through an analysis of women and commercial aviation, this paper explores the ways in which gender ideologies and technological innovation worked together to fashion notions of modernity, especially defining what it meant to be a modern woman. Adding to existing scholarship on the period, this paper reveals how the interplay between gender and technology in aviation is a key lens through which to view the history of the United States during the 1920s and 30s.


indexPeter G. Westin (History and Sociology)

Peter is currently working at the University of Virginia as Lecturer in the department of Engineering and Society in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Prior to his studies at Georgia Tech, Peter earned his BA in History at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas then served as an Army officer (Infantry and Military Intelligence) in Europe and the US for 8 years. This was followed by lengthy work experience in Fortune Global 100 corporations (manufacturing and retail), mid-size service companies, small businesses, and most recently owning/operating an online specialty retail micro-business.  Originally from Sweden, his parents immigrated to America in the 1950ís and his fatherís US Army career brought them back to Europe for most of Peterís formative years. This contributed greatly to his understanding and appreciation of multicultural environments and acquiring fluency in European languages. That awareness is one he draws upon as a historian of technology in his inter-disciplinary research with 20th Century technologies, Europe and the environment. He is currently examining knowledge flow, innovation, and use across the intersection of motorsports, manufacturing, environment, and automobility. He is also interested in logistics/supply-chain as well as World War II equipment and logistics.

Sparky, the Patriot, and Turbo-Diesels: The Relevance of Failed Motorsports Innovations in the History of Technology (Third Prize)

Abstract: Innovation is often associated with success witness common technological artifacts such as the steam engine, light bulb, telephone, car, and personal computer as learned in history classes. Not taught, and seldom written about, are unsuccessful innovations whether effort was by design or accidental. David Edgerton took up this issue in The Shock of the Old where he provides examples of innovations that were not necessarily new. This paper continues that conversation by examining motorsport innovations that failed, were overcome by events or ignored, but which re-appeared successfully years later. The significance of motorsports in the history of technology is that by 2005 it had world-wide economic contribution greater than $80-billion USD according to Nick Henry, et al. in Motorsports Going Global.

Fifty years before Audi and Peugeot dominated motorsports Holy Grail the 24-Heures du Mans endurance race in Le Mans, France with turbo-diesel engines, a turbo-diesel won pole position in 1952 at the legendary Indianapolis 500 with a lap record. Several years before hybrid cars were available to the consuming public using regenerative braking (to capture, store, and re-apply a vehicles Kinetic Energy), Chrysler racing division committed to qualifying a very complex hybrid at Le Mans. This rolling network of complicated subsystems used results of applied research from various national lab s with regenerative braking. However, a consistent dilemma occurs with failed innovations which Joel Mokyr referred to in The Lever of Riches as the Leonardo-problem (technology not yet capable to meet design). Failed innovations must be further examined.