Notes for prospective students

For prospective applicants to the doctoral program seeking to work with me (Dr. Pratim Sengupta): Please read this page as you are considering your application.

General expectations

  • I am generally interested in working with academically oriented students (simply put: students who are in love with ideas), who wish to pursue a path of knowing with humility. I have come to value humility and mutual respect as the most essential elements in scholarship.

  • You do not have to be a computer scientist or an engineer or a scientist to work with me. Humility and mutual respect, however, are non-negotiable.

  • I work closely with my students, and see the PhD program as an opportunity to develop rich collaborations with students. A do-it-all-by-yourself attitude typically ends up in lower quality scholarship. This means that I expect to co-author with my students, and this helps in publishing in well regarded journals in the field.

  • I would typically find a way to fund your work with supplemental RA funding from one of my funded projects. These projects are all around technology design in some form, and engaged deeply with disciplines. They are all collaborations with scholars in Learning Sciences, Sociology, Environmental Science, Medicine, etc., ranging from cybersecurity education to modelling race and segregation to modelling pain in medicine. I will work closely with you to help you carve out a piece of the project that will position you as the lead author.

  • If you pursue the "three manuscripts" route for your PhD, based on the institutional guidelines, you will need a single author paper, and two other papers can be co-authored with you as the lead author. I will work with you to ensure this.

  • I encourage technological inventions, when necessary. But ethical considerations along many dimensions, including authorship, must be clearly discussed as we go along. This is particularly important given the relative power differentials in the academy, as well as the history of the academy and industry in invisibilizing contributions of people of color (among other intersectional forms of marginalization), as well as extracting their experiences as data.

  • If you have read this far, please also take the time to read some of the papers below and then send me an email for inquiry.

Research Orientations

These papers will give you a sense of the kind of issues I am interested in

  1. Sengupta, P., Dickes, A., & Farris, A. V. (2021). Voicing code in STEM: A dialogical imagination. MIT Press. (OPEN ACCESS; please click on the link).

In a few words: This book offers "computational heterogeneity" as a critical phenomenological lens for computing education, as well as for integrating computing in STEM disciplines in the K-12 setting. The theoretical framework builds on Bakhtin's notion of heteroglossia, and empirical chapters offer different "framings" of computing as experience. Chapter 1 (Beyond Technocentrism: Coding as Experience) offers an orientation to the overarching arguments in the book.

  1. Philip, T. M., & Sengupta, P. (2021). Theories of learning as theories of society: A contrapuntal approach to expanding disciplinary authenticity in computing. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 30(2), 330-349.

In a few words: We seek to sharpen the principle that learning is political by elucidating historical and contemporary processes of European and U.S. imperialism that remain foundational to our field and developing the argument that theories of learning are theories of society. Methods: Through a contrapuntal approach, which emphasizes a critical lens to analyze empire, we juxtapose notions of authentic practice in computing education with scholarship in sociology that brings the lives of tech industry immigrant workers to the fore. Our analysis reveals how the social construction of disciplinary and professional expertise in computing is intricately interwoven with historically persistent patterns of the appropriation of lives and labor of endarkened people through systems of transnational migration and institutional forms of racial segregation.

  1. Sengupta, P. (2021). Towards Racially Equitable Computing Education. In: Leonard et al. (Eds), Fostering computational thinking among underrepresented students in STEM: Strategies for supporting racially equitable computing. Routledge.

In a few words: This chapter is an invited Foreword to a wonderful edited volume by Black computing education scholars in the US, led by Dr. Jacqueline Leonard. In this chapter, I (Pratim) offer the argument that Computing Education is deeply entrenched in the White Gaze, and position the authors' contributions in the book as necessary resistances for thwarting the White Gaze in computing education, especially in the context of working with Black, Indigenous and Immigrant children.

  1. Sengupta, P., Chokshi, A., Ozacar, B.H., Dutta, S., Sanyal, M. & Shanahan, M.-C. (Accepted with minor revisions). Language and Symbolic Violence in Computational Models of Ethnocentrism: A Critical Phenomenology and Southern Re-Orientations. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. [Pdf to be posted soon, along with acknowledgements of significant editorial work]

Abstract: Viewing code as heterogeneous language we offer an investigation of the relationship between language and symbolic violence in computational models of sociopolitical phenomena such as segregation and ethnocentrism. We offer a critical phenomenological account of how the transparency and ambiguity inherent in computational models of ethnocentrism embody and enact symbolic power and violence through assumptions of docility and omissions of marginalized voices and experiences. Centering voices of immigrants of color and Dalit scholars from the Global South, we present an empirical vignette as well as theoretical arguments that illustrate experiences of pain, oppression and erasure that underlie experiences of migration and urban segregation. Our work argues for a fundamental axiological re-orientation of computational ontologies toward Southern perspectives, an imminent call for the fields of computing and computing education.

  1. Sengupta, P. (2020). Re-orienting design: An unbearable pain. Invited talk at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, 2020.

In a few words: This is an invited lecture at ICLS 2020, in which I (Pratim) seek to "dismantle the monuments in our discipline that have, since its inception, throttled anger and mourning and enabled subjugation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color everywhere". I argued for taking on disciplinarily enacted forms of symbolic violence that Learning Sciences has essentially been complicit in, and a fundamental turn toward acknowledging and centering the roles that racialized emotions (Bonilla-Silva, 2019) play in life and education.