Engineering Life
Emma Frow, University of Edinburgh

Thursday, April 3, 2014
2:30-3:30 p.m.
Biodesign Auditorium (BDB 105) [map]

Abstract
Synthetic biologists are striving to make biology easier, cheaper and more reliable to engineer. Engineers and biologists share the hope that engineering principles and practices like standardization, modularization and abstraction will prove as useful for ‘building with biology’ as they do for designing non-living systems. This presentation explores how knowledge from biology and engineering is being negotiated in synthetic biology, focusing in particular on standards development. As well as being important technical instruments for achieving reliability, predictability and control in engineered systems, standards can help to coordinate activities across disparate groups. But by codifying specific ways of knowing the world and of acting in it, standards are inevitably bound up with social concerns around power, accountability, and trust. Standards development is thus central to both discipline-building and governance in synthetic biology (and science and engineering more broadly), and has implications that reach far beyond daily laboratory practices.

Biography
Emma Frow is a lecturer in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on standards and governance in biological engineering. She is currently a co-PI for a European Commission research consortium on standardization in synthetic biology, and co-chair of Policy & Practices for the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. She also served on the program committee for the 6th international meeting on synthetic biology (SB6.0) in 2013.

Frow holds a B.A. in neuroscience and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge, and an M.Sc. in Science and Technology Studies from the University of Edinburgh. She worked as a subeditor for the journal Nature before joining the Genomics Policy & Research Forum at the University of Edinburgh as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2006.

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