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PHYS 047 / AMST 099 / ER&M 089 / HIST 059: Asian Americans and STEM: Biographies

An interdisciplinary course guide highlighting resources for your projects.

Yale Databases

Many of the resources below are from a research guide called Biographical Resources for the Sciences; you are encouraged to look at that guide for more information about resources.

Workflow for Finding Information on Scientists

There are many methods for locating biographical, career, and science information about a specific person. Here are some guidelines that can help your search:

  1. Start with the scientist's curriculum vitae, or (at minimum) a list of institutions/corporations they've worked at and awards they've received. Also make a list of projects they've been involved in. This initial information can be used to seed everything else. One of the best places to look for current scientists is in the Scopus author database — however, as a caveat, there may be some errors with author disambiguation because the system is automated. The Web of Science also has a lookup tool, but as of now (March 2022), its disambiguation tool does not work as effectively. For some scientists, Wikipedia will collate together information about awards in a way that reduces the difficulty of searching, but do be sure to check the actual linked websites.
  2. Using their award information, identify the research paper(s) and/or discoveries that got them the award. Download those papers and put them in a folder in your reference management software. Distinguished scientists' CVs can be overwhelming. This will help you narrow down to their main achievements.
  3. Has the scientist uploaded an award speech for any of their main awards? Speeches often include a range of biographical and scientific information. For physicists, one place to check for speech notes is on the arXiv — some will make theirs available there. There may also be videos of the lecture(s) on YouTube that you can watch and save to your reference management tool — even lectures recorded in the 1900s may be there, depending on the release(s) that were signed at the time of recording.
  4. After receiving a major award or acknowledgment, what did the press say about them? This is a great time to engage with our news databases (see the Find Articles tab, which covers both academic articles and newspaper/magazine articles). Press coverage may include interviews. Search for the scientist's name and generic terms (like "physicist") first — if that nets too many irrelevant results, type in specific award names.
  5. Check to see if the scientist has written anything for a general audience. Scientists will publicize their work in "interested public" spaces like Scientific American and New Scientist (and SciAm goes back to 1845), in addition to more general magazines and books. If you can't find anything, take a look at their research. Circle terms you don't know and use a reference database like Credo Reference (or, yes, Wikipedia, provided that the topic is not politically controversial) to learn more about the concepts.
  6. Does the discipline the scientist is in maintain an archive that interviews prominent people? In the American physics community, for example, one professional society — the American Institute of Physics — maintains an oral history archive. Many physicists involved in important (or potentially important) projects are interviewed there (although, as a heads up, you need to request permission via a form to use direct quotes). You can find oral history or digitized archives in many disciplines, often by searching on the name of your scientist and the term "oral history" or "interview" in Google.
  7. Use government documents databases to see if there are documents or hearings related to projects they've worked on. This information may or may not be about the scientist, but it will often give you some important context for their research.
  8. If the scientist is deceased, check our library databases for obituaries. Some physics publications will include obituaries, especially society (read: not a commercial publisher) publications.