Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Heidi Knoblauch

knoblauchName: Heidi Knoblauch ’08

Education (UR and additional): BA (History & Health and Society), University of Rochester 2008; MA in Public Humanities, Yale University, 2011; M.Phil. (History of Science and Medicine), Yale University, 2012; PhD (History), Yale University, 2015

Current city/state of residence: Brooklyn

Job Title: Doctoral Student and Teaching Fellow

Employer: Yale University

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?  

1)       Librarians. The librarians at the University of Rochester are an invaluable resource and are totally underutilized. They can point you towards sources you would have a hard time finding on your own and teach you how to do research more effectively.

2)       The Writing Center. The Writing Center and Writing Fellows are wonderful services that can help you make papers you are currently writing for your courses better and help you become a better writer. Writing is a crucial skill and college is the time to develop that skill.

3)       The Career Center. The career center is great resource for helping you make your first resume, reading over cover letters, and finding internship opportunities. Go see them early, do an externship, and learn what internship opportunities are available in Rochester.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

My mentors at the University of Rochester were Ted Brown and Dean Harper. They were integral to my college education and have continued to be very influential. I see Professor Brown once a year at the American Association for the History of Medicine conference and although I have not seen Professor Harper in a few years, we kept in touch via phone. My advice for students is to meet with professors and listen to them. That sounds really simple, but to actually listen to professors is hard because they normally ask you to do more research, studying, writing, revising, editing, presenting and applying. Essentially, more work. My advice is: do the work. It is worth it.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

As an undergraduate, I did not think that I wanted to be a historian — I actually was sure I was going to work in public health — and took a very circuitous route towards my current career path. Immediately after graduation, I moved to New York City with my freshman year roommate and started working in an East Village coffee shop as a barista. After working there for a while, the owner decided to sell the business and my co-worker and I made an offer to buy it. To make a very long story short: it didn’t work out, but it was a great learning experience. After that, I began working in another coffee shop and thought I was going to make a career in coffee. I had a secret love for medical history and, unbeknownst to my friends, read extensively about the history of health care reform and went to academic conferences on weekends to get my history fix. At these conferences, I realized I wanted to be a professional historian so I applied to Ph.D. programs.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am a fourth year Ph.D. student in the History of Science and Medicine Department at Yale University. At the University of Rochester, I became fascinated with the history of health care in America and wrote my Health and Society senior thesis on cartoons that opposed health care reform over the course of the twentieth century. I chose to follow my fascination with medical history and become a historian because history, unlike other things, is something that has continually excited me. In addition to history, filmmaking has been a passion of mine for a long time and I have recently begun to combine my love of history and film by writing and producing historical documentaries.

Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years, I hope to have my Ph.D., be living in the New York City area, teaching at the college level, and making historical documentaries. Additionally, since that will be a few years after I finish my Ph.D., I also hope to have published a book with an academic press and completed at least one feature length documentary film. 

What advice do you have for current students?

Do not pick courses based on what you, or others, perceive to be their immediate impact on a potential career. The University of Rochester has a rich liberal arts culture with a cluster system that allows students to take a wide variety of courses. Take advantage of it. Especially, take language classes, writing intensive classes, and classes with labs. The things that will stick with you forever are the skills you develop, not the information you memorize. Learn how to study, write, research, and present your thoughts. Most importantly, in the first days of April, when the sun finally comes out, forget all this academic advice and go sit on the quad with your friends.