Synthetic biology: Modelling joys and fears brick by brick

Carmen McLeod, Stevienna de Saille and I recently published an article in which we used findings from a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop to show that scientists’ (synthetic biologists’) views of risk and responsibility are much more ‘societal’ than one might expect. This means, involving them in a new form of science governance (RRI), which itself involves new …

Bacteria, metaphors and responsible language use

A lot has been written about the war on bacteria, especially in the context of antimicrobial resistance. Some articles reflect on the metaphor of war in medicine and in microbiology more generally, others deal with the metaphors of bacterial communication and communities. A few papers look more closely at the way bacteria are anthropomorphised in the …

Fermenting hope; fermenting hype?

When I first became involved with the Synthetic Biology Research Centre here at the University of Nottingham in 2014, I wrote a blog post in which I pointed to fermentation as one of its historical and intellectual roots. I called it ‘Fermenting thought’. Now, four years later, I have come across an article in The …

Catching a metaphor on the fly: ‘Greenfield genome design’

A week ago, something interesting washed up in my twitter stream, something a metaphor collector like me had to pick up and inspect. Andrew Hanson, an expert in metabolic engineering working at the University Florida, tweeted: “Excellent short 2016 piece from @claudiaevickers on #synbio platforms & the future of the microbial cell factory industry. Coins …

Social scientist needed to collaborate with synthetic biologists!

 It’s that time of year again when we send out a call to undergraduates to become part of an exciting team adventure that ends in a big jamboree in Boston in November 2018 (see featured image). We especially need a social science undergraduate to take part (law, sociology, politics, etc.), with an interest in interdisciplinary …

Turning bacteria into passwords

A few days ago, I had the pleasure to meet two enthusiastic members of the first Nottingham iGEM team: Vikram Chhapwale, who specialises in computer science and AI, and Chris Graham, an emerging expert in biochemistry and genetics. Both are undergraduates studying at the University of Nottingham. Chris and Vikram are part of a seven-member …

Bacteria, scientists and stewardship

Bacteria have fascinated scientists for centuries and still do. One of the first to see bacteria under the microscope was “probably the Dutch naturalist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who in 1683 described some animalcules, as they were then called, in water, saliva, and other substances” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). A modern understanding of bacteria developed in the 19th century. Ferdinand …

SBRC symposium: Synbio, metaphors and responsibility

On Monday this week (22 May, 2017) our Synthetic Biology Research Centre symposium on metaphors, synthetic biology and responsibility took place at the East Midlands Conference Centre at the University of Nottingham. The weather was marvellous and showed off University Park in all is spring glory. We started with a pre-conference dinner which, in a way, …