In the three-story Austrian apartment building where Sigmund Freud once saw patients, a Trinity College alumna will soon pursue her own analysis.

Sarah Durkee ’24 won a Fulbright Combined Award for Austria to perform research, take classes, and teach English in Vienna, the city where the famous neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis worked and lived much of his life.

Durkee is already familiar with the city’s Sigmund Freud Museum and the Library on Psychoanalysis, which occupies the top floor of the museum, because they were the site of her junior year internship.

“The museum is flooded with light from the large windows and his smoking room, evoking a distinct un-museum like quality,” said Durkee. “This is precisely the intent of the museum—you are not meant to feel like you are touring a museum, but rather taking a step inside Freud’s life at this apartment.”

“My favorite part of the museum quickly became this library, as it is where I would set up and do my work, surrounded by the bookshelves and the light streaming in from the windows,” Durkee noted.

While Freud is renowned for his theories about human relationships, not a lot is known about his thoughts on mankind’s relationship with technology. Through journals and correspondence, Durkee hopes to understand Freud’s philosophy on the technology growth of the 20th century—the adoption of electricity and automobiles, the discovery of nuclear fission, and the development of the nuclear bomb—and use it in context of today’s emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.

“The work of this time demonstrates the possibility to wield an instrument of human invention as a tool to both enhance and destroy human life,” noted Durkee. “Due to his lasting impact on our understanding of the human psychical apparatus, the work of Sigmund Freud is intertwined with my examination of technology.”

The Fulbright research is a marriage between Durkee’s two areas of study: philosophy and computer science. Durkee, who double majored in philosophy and interdisciplinary computing with philosophy and earned her B.A. summa cum laude with honors in both majors, plans to start her Ph.D. in philosophy at Boston University after the Fulbright.

The timing of her research seems prescient given the current attention on the proliferation of AI and its implications for a variety of fields. But that was not always Durkee’s focus.

When Durkee arrived at Trinity College from Newburyport, Massachusetts, she wanted to study computer science. Then, during the spring semester of her first year, she took a philosophy course and began imagining another lens into her technology interest. “I started to adjust my goals,” she said.

During her junior year internship in Vienna, Durkee translated from German to English a set of letters between two of Freud’s grandchildren: Anton Walter and Miriam Sophie. Later, she translated an academic paper that was presented by Helmut Dahmer, a German sociologist. The first project provided a better understanding of the historical details surrounding Freud’s life, the second helped with reading his theory, she said.

Back at Trinity, Durkee served as a teaching assistant for Erik Vogt’s course on media philosophy. “She admirably utilized her knowledge of both Freudian psychoanalysis and contemporary philosophical theories of technology,” said Vogt, Gwendolyn Miles Smith Professor of Philosophy, who is Austrian and teaches at the University of Vienna on behalf of Trinity. “Moreover, she also exhibited great talent in conveying rather difficult material to her fellow students.”

During her senior year, Durkee completed a thesis on the philosophy of technology titled “Humanity Amid Innovation: Exploring Our Relationship to Technology.”

Sarah Durkee ’24 at the University of Vienna.

This summer, she plans to prepare for her time abroad by identifying the texts she wants to read. The Library on Psychoanalysis includes Freud’s works in first editions and his pre-analytic works—some of them in the form of original offprints with signed dedications by the author. Books from Freud’s private library, which have been acquired through donations or purchases, are also in the collection.

Beyond her research, Durkee will teach English to secondary school students and take classes at the University of Vienna, where Freud earned his degree in medicine.

Teaching, research, and classes is the same balance of work that Durkee will experience at Boston University in fall 2025. “This year kind of feels like a way for me to dip my toe in the water,” she said.