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Melissa Charenko, Ph.D.

Melissa  Charenko
  • Assistant Professor
  • History, Philosophy & Sociology of Science
  • Department of History
  • Holmes Hall, E-194A
  • 919 E. Shaw Lane
  • East Lansing, MI 48825
  • (517) 884-1520


  • LB 325A: Science and the Environment
  • LB 321A: Science and the Public
  • LB 492: Senior Seminar


Melissa Charenko received her Ph.D. in the History of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018. Her work explores scientists’ diverse understandings of climate, which, she argues, arise from the various ways that scientists encounter, measure, and see climate. She is particularly interested in the ways that scientists use climate proxies, such as fossil pollen, tree rings, or air bubbles in ice, to understand earth’s climate over the past 12,000 years or longer, as well as the ways these proxies are used to foresee future climates. At Lyman Briggs, Dr. Charenko teaches courses on Science and the Environment (where students visit sites in the Lansing area to explore the relationships between science and the environment), Science and the Public (where students use podcasts to examine interactions between scientists and the public), and a Senior Seminar (where students use a board game to understand biology and society). She also teaches courses on Environmental History in the Department of History. Dr. Charenko has been a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and her work has been supported by the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. In 2020-2021, she will be a resident fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Historical Studies as part of their “Climate in Context: Historical Precedents and the Unprecedented” theme.


  • Ph.D., History of Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.A., Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, (IHPST), University of Toronto
  • Honors B.A. & B.Sc., Arts and Science, McMaster University


  • Charenko, Melissa. “Reconstructing Climate: Paleoecology and the Limits of Prediction during the 1930s Dust Bowl,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1-2, no 50 (2020): 90-128.
  • Austin, Jeanie, Melissa Charenko, Michelle Dillon, and Jodi Lincoln. "Systematic Oppression and the Contested Ground of Information Access for Incarcerated People," Open Information Science 4 (2020): 169-186.