Profile picture of William San Martín
Laurie A. Leshin Global Project Center 106C
Affiliated Department or Office
Community Climate Adaptation MS Program
Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Great Problems Seminar
Post doctorate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2017-2018)
Ph.D. University of California, Davis (2017)
M.A. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (2011)
B.A. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (2006)

William San Martín (He/Him/El) is Assistant Professor of Global Environmental Science, Technology, and Governance in the Department of Integrative and Global Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 

He is also a Scholar affiliated with the Climate Social Science Network (CSSN) at Brown University and a Research Fellow at the Earth Systems Governance Project at Utrecht University.

William is an interdisciplinary scholar of earth-systems sciences and global environmental governance trained in history and science & technology studies (STS). His work focuses on environmental justice; Latin America & the Global South; and science, technology & the human environment. 

He is a former Fulbright Scholar (2011-2015); a Visiting Scholar and a Postdoctoral Associate jointly affiliated with the program of Science, Technology, and Society and the History Section at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2016-2018); and a Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany (2021). 

William's main research examines socio-ecological conflicts and knowledge-policy responses emerging from changes in the global nitrogen cycle resulting from the increasing use of synthetic fertilizers, among other sources, since the 1950s. His research asks questions about the imbalances of knowledge in global nitrogen governance with particular attention to issues of expertise, sustainable development policy, and inequalities in the Global South. He examines the unequal place of expert communities, science-policy interface frameworks, and research and governmental institutions in the governance of biogeochemical processes on earth—as processes linked to lasting issues of (under)development and colonialism. 

Born and raised in Chile, William has vast experience in policy-oriented research and building collaborations with international organizations and communities. He is currently a Co-PI of the NSF-funded grant Accelerating Coordination across Research and Policy Networks to Halve Nitrogen Waste (iN-Net) ($1.49 million, Award 2412593). The project works with international scientific networks and policymakers in South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the US, and Europe, as well as with intergovernmental organizations, including the UNEP Nitrogen Working Group, a forum of 80+ government representatives created in 2019 to explore global nitrogen governance instruments. By helping international coordination across research and policy, the project aims to contribute to advancing the mandates of recent UN Resolutions on Sustainable Nitrogen Management and advancing the ambitious goal of halving nitrogen waste by 2030.  William leads the governance working group (the other two focus on data and climate) to identify knowledge gaps, social barriers, and policy challenges and develop research-action agendas that can assist Member States and research communities in advancing sustainable nitrogen management practices with attention to dissimilar knowledge capacities, needs, and agendas. 

William is also a Co-PI of the NSF's Using the Rules of Life to Address Societal Challenges GrantCo-Producing Knowledge, Biotechnologies and Practices to Enhance Biological Nitrogen Fixation for Sustainable Agriculture ($2.67 million, Award 2319430). Working with small-scale farmers, agricultural researchers, extensionists, soil scientists, and biochemists in the United States and Chile, the project uses participatory research-action methodologies to co-produce knowledge and technologies to reduce dependency on synthetic fertilizers and diminish their harmful social and environmental effects. Working with the Postdoctoral Researcher Marcela Cely-Santos, William leads the co-production component of the project to scrutinize the role of co-production methodologies in agroecological research and practice, helping reduce dependency on synthetic fertilizers, and informing debates about knowledge co-production in STS, environmental studies, and sustainability sciences.

He received his B.A. (2006) and M.A. (2011) in History from the Universidad Católica de Chile and a Ph.D. in Latin American and World History at the University of California Davis (2017) with a focus on international agricultural development, U.S. - Latin America relations, science diplomacy, and environmental sustainability. Across academic projects and institutional collaborations, William is interested in the multiple forms issues of rights, justice, and democracy take in the formation of global environmental issues. Before focusing his attention on contemporary environmental issues, William worked on questions regarding race equity, slavery, legal systems, and state formation in the 18th and 19th centuries across the North Atlantic and the Americas. Today, he integrates many of the discussions from colonial, postcolonial and development studies, history and sociology of state formation, and the social history of law and policy into his teaching and scholarship. In doing so, he aims to highlight areas that tend to be overlooked in modern scholarly and public environmental governance debates, such as political economy, inequalities, violence, and colonialism. 

William is co-editor, along with Emily O'Gorman, Mark Carey, and Sandra Swart, of the Routledge Handbook of Environmental History (Routledge, 2023), and author of various peer-reviewed articles and book chapters published in fields including history of science and technology, political ecology, environmental studies, sustainable development, and Latin American studies. He currently curates the collections "Technology and Expertise" and "Histories across Species" for Arcadia, the online, peer-reviewed journal of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.

William is a contributing author to Chapter 29 (“A Governance Framework for Better Nitrogen Management”) of the International Nitrogen Assessment (INA), the first global assessment addressing issues at the intersection of nitrogen science and governance. Set for publication in 2024, INA is sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and aims to provide policy and scientific advice to the recently established UNEP-Working Group on Nitrogen and UN member nations. William is also a Steering Council Member for the North American Chapter of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), the primary scientific organization working on building partnerships and collaborations to assess local, regional, and global impacts of nitrogen pollution. He is also currently chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Committee of the American Society for Environmental History, a former elected member of the Association for Environmental Studies & Sciences' Nominations Committee, and an affiliated researcher at NUDISUR, an international network of scholars dedicated to decolonial approaches to knowledge production and participatory, community-engaged research.

At WPI,  he is an affiliated faculty with the MS Community Climate Adaptation, the International & Global Studies, and the Great Problems Seminar Programs, and a Steering Committee Member of WPI's Latin American & Caribbean Studies Initiative. He has served as a faculty advisor for Interactive Qualifying Projects working with local organizations at the intersection of sustainable development, environmental conservation, and climate resilience at WPI's Costa Rica - Monteverde and Cuenca - Ecuador Project Centers. 

Visit Digital WPI to view student projects and research advised by Professor San Martín
For courses taught at WPI and MIT, visit Professor San Martín’s personal website

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 1: No Poverty

SDG 1: No Poverty - End poverty in all its forms everywhere

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SDG 2: Zero Hunger

SDG 2: Zero Hunger - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

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SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

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SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

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SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

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SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities - Reduce inequality within and among countries

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SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

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SDG 13: Climate Action

SDG 13: Climate Action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

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SDG 14: Life Below Water

SDG 14: Life Below Water - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

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SDG 15: Life on Land

SDG 15: Life on Land - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

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SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

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SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

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Scholarly Work

Professor San Martín’s work focuses on global nitrogen governance with special attention to issues of expertise, policy, and inequalities in the Global South.


San Martín, W. (2024). La Revolución del Nitrógeno en Chile. Expertos, Instituciones y el Desafío de la Sustentabilidad Agrícola. In Carlos Sanhueza and Lorena Valderrama (eds). Historia de la Ciencia y la Tecnología en Chile, Vol. 2 Ciencia e Historia Medioambiental. Santiago: Editorial Universitaria.

O’Gorman, Emily, William San Martín, Mark Carey, and Sandra Swart (eds). Routledge Handbook of Environmental History (2023). London and New York: Routledge.

O'Gorman, E., Carey, M., San Martín, W., Swart, S., (2023) Introduction: Framing Environmental History Today and for the Future. In Emily O’Gorman, William San Martín, Mark Carey, and Sandra Swart (eds). Routledge Handbook of Environmental History. London and New York: Routledge.

San Martín, W., & Wood, N. (2022). Pluralising planetary justice beyond the North-South divide: Recentring procedural, epistemic, and recognition-based justice in earth-systems governance. Environmental Science & Policy, 128, 256-263.

Bakermans, M., LeChasseur, K., Pfeifer, G., San Martín, W. (2022). Who Writes and Who Responds? Gender and Race-based Differences in Open Annotations. Journal of Multicultural Education. 16, 5, 508-521.

San Martín, W. (2021). Unequal Knowledge: Justice, Colonialism, and Expertise in Global Environmental Research. Global Environment, 14(2), 423-430.

San Martín, William, Alexandra Vlachos, and Graeme Wynn. 2020. Epidemics & Ecologies. Reading in the Time of COVID-19, ICEHO – International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations.

San Martín, W. (2020). Global Nitrogen in Sustainable Development: Four Challenges at the Interface of Science and Policy. In: Leal Filho, W., Azul, A.M., Brandli, L., Lange Salvia, A., Wall, T. (eds) Life on Land. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer, Cham.

Professional Highlights & Honors
Research Fellow, Earth Systems Governance Project, 2022

Carson Fellow, Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, German Ministry of Education & Research, 2021

Co-PI, Enhancing STEM Curriculum with Latin American and Caribbean Studies, U.S. Department of Education, International Studies and Foreign Language Program, 2020 - 2023

Global Lab Fellowship, Global Lab, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2019

Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, 2016 - 2017

Dean’s Doctoral Fellowship for Excellence Award, University of California, Davis, Division of Social Sciences, 2016

Dissertation Improvement Grant, University of California, Davis, Institute for the Social Sciences (ISS), 2015

Fulbright Scholar, 2011 - 2015