Funding: World-Leading Interdisciplinary St Andrews Funded PhD Scholarship

Deadline: January 16, 2020

World-Leading Interdisciplinary St Andrews Funded PhD Scholarship

Turning Science Fiction into Data Science

What happens when we treat books as data? Can literary theory ever meet scientific standards? By applying a range of historical and current methods of quantitative analysis to a body of science fiction, this project will investigate claims for objectivity in literary theory. Given that science fiction has successfully predicted future scientific discoveries, the data sets created by different methods of quantitative analysis have the potential to influence not only the future of science fiction, but the course of science itself.

The project will focus on science fiction about exoplanets from any language area(s). By combining the expertise of a literary specialist, exoplanet scientist, and computational biologist as co-supervisors, this doctoral project will be uniquely placed to discover and critique interrelationships between these disciplines. The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Emily Finer, Dr Christiane Helling, and Dr V Anne Smith and based in the Centre for Exoplanet Science at the University of St Andrews. A central question for the Centre and this project is how would human society respond to life beyond our planet? The project will explore whether analysis of science fiction as a dataset, using computational techniques from both digital humanities and artificial intelligence, can give us hints as to a societal gestalt potentially predictive of reactions to real extraterrestrial contact.

The candidate may have or be working towards a Master’s degree or equivalent in Comparative Literature, Digital Humanities, English, Cultural Studies or Modern Languages, but applications from candidates qualified in other disciplines are also encouraged. For example, applicants with a background in Physics, Computer Science or Statistics with a strong interest in science fiction would be appropriate.

For more details about the project, please consult