Author: Dina Ziganshina
In July 2019, a number of Biology and Society doctoral students and faculty members travelled to Oslo, Norway, for the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB) biennial meeting. Faculty members Matthew Chew, Richard Creath, Jane Maienschein, Jason Robert, and Beckett Sterner all presented talks at the meeting, for example. For students, this was a great opportunity to present their research ideas in front of a large audience and network with world class experts in their fields. Below are the experiences of some of our participants:
Steve Elliott, Center for Biology and Society graduate and affiliated faculty member Steve presented a paper "Research Projects and Rationales." The paper was part of a double symposium at ISHPSSB that Elliot organized with philosopher William Bausman and historian Caterina Schürch called "Stability and migration of research strategies within and across different levels of scientific organization."
In addition to papers by Elliott, Schürch, and Bausman, the symposium also featured papers by historian Katharina Steiner, sociologist Niccoló Tempini, and an extended commentary on all of the papers by historian and philosopher Hans-Jörg Rheinberger. The symposium was chaired by Sabina Leonelli and former Center for Biology and Society postdoc Nathan Crowe, and Steve received feedback on his ideas and on the session generally.
Christian Ross, Center for Biology and Society PhD Candidate:
At ISHPSSB, Christian presented his research on discussions about the use of emerging gene drive technology to control invasive species through gene editing and how differing epistemic and ontological approaches matter for what it means to control life. For Christian, presenting his work, while partly performative, was also an exercise in reforming and sharpening his ideas, another iteration in the process of developing as a scholar.
One of the most worthwhile parts of the conference for Christian was interacting with other scholars in closely related, but distinctly separate disciplines from himself. Being able to get contrasting yet collaborative perspectives on shared topics of interest was a helpful display of what interdisciplinarity can be in practice. It also helped Christian see the kinds of professional and academic niches that exist and how one might pursue such careers.
Kelle Dhein, Center for Biology and Society PhD Candidate:
This was Kelle’s first time attending and presenting at ISHPSSB, and he gave a talk that combined philosophical and historical research. Kelle also listened to some great presentations dealing with the history and philosophy of biology and enjoyed seeing so many of his peers from the Center present their research. Oslo gets a lot of daylight in the summer, and with the packed itinerary that comes with big international conferences, it felt like there was always something to see or someone to meet. Kelle hopes to attend more conferences like ISHPSSB in the future.
Anna Guerrero, Center for Biology and Society PhD Candidate:
ISHPSSB was Anna’s first academic conference. There, she gave a talk titled “How Images Shape the Concept of Regeneration in Microbial Communities” as part of a larger panel about Regeneration Across the Scales of Complex Living Systems. Anna’s goal was to convince the audience that a microbiologist’s concept of regeneration will influence how and when they use images in their research, and that the images they make will in turn influence their concepts of regeneration as it pertains to microbial communities. To quote one attendee, Anna was “entertaining and said something interesting.”
Due to her jazzy wielding of a pointer, it was unclear to some audience members if Anna was a historian of microbiology or a majorette. Anna has since promised to adopt a more professional presentation manner, which she looks forward to practicing after her wonderful experience at ISHPSSB. Anna is particularly grateful for the input and support from the more senior students Christian and Kelle, Center for Biology and Society faculty member Dr. Beckett Sterner, and her advisor, Dr. Jane Maienschein.
Overall, the students had a wonderful time in Oslo and learned so much about academic research and the connections between different disciplines. The students thank ASU and the Center for Biology and Society in particular for supporting their travel to ISHPSSB.