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Changing (In)Fertilities



My research focuses the relationship between bioscientific, biotechnological and societal change. My PhD dissertation (University of Cambridge, 2017) explored how laboratory scientists in Scotland and the United States respond to the translational medicine paradigm in the biosciences and specifically focused on the relationship between science, technology and society through an ethnographic analysis of a scientific model called “the stem cell niche”. My research has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

My book manuscript in progress, Making Organicist Biotechnology: Plasticity, Application & Collaboration, builds on the dissertation to examine how epigenetic, microbiome and postgenomic understandings of biology are involved in current reconceptualisations of biotechnology and applied science. Informed by ethnography and data collected in interdisciplinary collaborative projects, the book traces the circular relationships between scientific knowledge, biotechnological application and societal expectation.

At ReproSoc, I was the work package coordinator for Translational In/Fertilities of the Wellcome Trust-funded Changing In/Fertilities Project. I was also the chief executive producer for Dish Life: The Game, an interdisciplinary educational mobile game about stem cells in society.


Dish Life: The Game (2020) is a mobile game about stem cells in society and social justice, developed in collaboration with Pocket Sized Hands with funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Economic & Social Research Council.

Dish Life (2016) is an award-winning short film that explores stem cell scientists' affective relationship with the cells and was realised collaboratively with Chloe Thomas (director), Loriana Vitillo & Karen Jent (executive producers).

In collaboration with EuroStemCell, I co-organised Unfolding Organogenesis, an interactive walk-in exhibition about organ development, regenerative medicine and origami art at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, April 2016.

A full list of my public engagement activities is available on my personal website.


Key publications: 

Book manuscript in progress - Making Epibiotechnology: Plasticity, Application & Collaboration.

(2019) Stem Cell Niches in: Fieldsights – Theorizing the Contemporary. Published online by the Society for Cultural Anthropology (April 25).

(2018) Dish Lives, published on ReproSoc Blog (March 2).

(2016) Unfolding Organogenesis, published on ReproSoc Blog (May 5).

(2016) Reproducing the Magic: Uncertain Science and Reason+, published on (April 26).

(2015) Malignant – How Cancer Becomes Us, in: Medicine Anthropology Theory 2 (1), pp. 182-85.


Selected conference presentations

(2019) Across the Placental Barrier: The Ethics and Politics of Relational Biologies, Society for Social Studies of Science Annual Meeting, September.

(2018) The Stem Cell Niche: Biotechnological Control in Post-Genomic Science, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, November.

(2018) Ethnographic and Interdisciplinary Collaborations: Performance as Ethnography, Department of Gender Studies, Central European University, October.

(2018) Niche Biology in Translation: Biotechnological Control in Post-Genomic Stem Cell Science, Association of Social Anthropologists biannual meeting, University of Oxford, September.

(2018) Induction: A Novel Mode of Reproduction?, international conference “Remaking Reproduction”, University of Cambridge, June.

(2018) How to Make Niches for Stem Cells?, Copenhagen Bioscience Cluster conference “The Stem Cell Niche”, May.

(2017) Socialising with the Neighbours: Care in Stem Cell Science, Science Studies Ethnography Workshop, Department of Anthropology, New York University, October.

(2017) Biocircular Firefighters: Haematopoietic Stem Cell Donation after 9/11, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) Conference "Biocircularities: Lives, Times and Technologies," University of Cambridge, April.

(2016) The Magpie's Nest and the Stem Cell Niche: Reproduction and Induction of Stem Cell Microenvironments in Scotland, Royal Anthropological Institute Conference "Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change," London, May.

Gender Medicine at University of Zurich
 Karen  Jent
Not available for consultancy