Michael J. Thate, Ph.D., M.S.L.

Research Scholar for Responsible Tech, Innovation, and Policy/Lecturer
Office Phone
Engineering Quadrangle , Room H109, Princeton, NJ 08544 USA

Michael J. Thate, Ph.D., M.S.L. is as Research Scholar for Responsible Tech, Innovation, and Policy at Princeton University’s Faith & Work Initiative, and Lecturer at the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Michael comes from a background in law (Northwestern Pritzker’s School of Law, MSL), design (MIT Sloan School of Management, cert.), ethical philosophy and religious studies (Durham University, Ph.D.), and GIS (University of Alaska Fairbanks, cert.). Michael has held fellowships and lectureships at Yale Divinity School, Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions, and the Département de Philosophie at l’École normale supérieure, Paris. Michael was the recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt award, spending three years at Universität Tübingen in the Institute für antikes Judentum und hellenistische Religionsgeschichte. He was also elected a senior fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Corvinus University in Budapest, Hungary. 

Michael’s academic interests and focus are informed and complemented by his corporate experience where he advises across STEM industry sectors on matters of brand equity, communication strategy, institutional trust, ethics, and regulatory strategy.

He is the author of two monographs. The first, Remembrance of Things Past? (Mohr Siebeck 2013), compares the “historical Jesus” genre that emerged from the “new science” of history in nineteenth and twentieth century European thought with recent trends in social memory theory. The second, The Godman and the Sea (UPenn Press, 2019), reads varying representations of the sea in antiquity, Judaism, and early Christianity through the rubrics of desolation and trauma. Michael has edited four volumes and written several articles on subjects ranging from suicide, A.I. regulatory challenges, political philosophy, imaginaries of participation, labor, time and money, the second space age, the attention economy, design thinking, and business ethics. In his work, Michael attempts to track genealogies of thought and set into comparison the assemblages of frontier ethical questions.

Current projects include a volume entitled, Scented Life: a text on olfactorial difference and the ambiguities across the biological sciences and legal system on defining “life.” Another text in preparation, Natural Prayers of the Soul, engages ecologies of attention, technologies of persuasion, and privacy law. He is also co-editing a volume on the history of corporate responses to racial unrest.

At Princeton, Michael co-teaches the “Engineering and Ethics” course (EGR501), as well as the “History of Entrepreneurship” (EGR 301) course.

His research interests and topics of student supervision include:

  • The philosophies of “Reverence for Life” and the biological sciences
  • Environmental Law
  • Animal Welfare
  • STEM Industry Ethics, Policy, and Regulatory Strategy
  • History of Innovation, Technology, and Social Impacts