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Nancy D Campbell

Associate Dean for Graduate Studies & Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Professor Nancy Campbell is Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

Her research focuses on technology as related to healthcare, with recent work on the social significance of legal and illegal drugs to those who govern and use them, produce scientific knowledge about them, and seek to treat drug problems.

“How have ideas about drugs and drug addiction changed over time? What do we know about drug addiction, and how do we know it? Why do we have the drug policies that we do?” said Campbell. “We consider some drugs to cause social problems, and others to solve them. Often we are talking about the same molecules—the differences lie in who uses them and how they do so. My research centers on scientific communities who make knowledge about drugs, and interactions between scientists, treatment providers, policymakers, and patient advocates.”

Campbell is currently working on the history of overdose prevention; the ethics of LSD research in the US Public Health Service; and the fruitful convergence between neuroscience and addiction research.

Her most recently published book, co-authored with Elizabeth Ettorre, is titled Gendering Addiction: The Politics of Drug Treatment in a Neurochemical World. This book took up the theme of gender introduced in Campbell’s first book, Using Women: Gender, Drug Policy, and Social Justice (Routledge, 2000), which was about how drug-using women figured in drug policy discourse from the 1910s to the 1990s.

Campbell and co-authors JP Olsen and Luke Walden published a visual history of the federal drug treatment hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, titled The Narcotic Farm: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug Addicts (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2008). Campbell also appeared in Olsen and Walden’s 2007 documentary, The Narcotic Farm, and she often speaks on radio shows about the relevance of this project to current drug treatment.

Campbell’s scholarly book on the history of the formative science conducted by the laboratory at The Narcotic Farm, which was called the Addiction Research Center and is now the intramural research program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is titled Discovering Addiction: The Science and Politics of Substance Abuse Research (University of Michigan Press, 2007).

With Joseph Spillane she created the Oral History of Substance Abuse Research Project, funded by the National Science Foundation, the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, and the University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center, which can be found at In 2009 she received the Media Award from the College on Problems of Drug Dependence for this work on the history of substance abuse research.


  • –present
    Associate Dean for Graduate Studies & Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute