Engineering biology? Exploring rhetoric, practice, constraints and collaborations within a synthetic biology research centre

TitleEngineering biology? Exploring rhetoric, practice, constraints and collaborations within a synthetic biology research centre
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsFinlay, SClaire
JournalEngineering Studies
Volume5
Pagination26-41
Date Published2013/04/01
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number1937-8629
AbstractDrawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork within a UK academic synthetic biology research centre, and 22 interviews with its inhabitants, this paper explores the ways in which the application of an engineering approach to biology is understood, spoken about, and enacted by a group of synthetic biologists. Motivated by the idea of producing 'interesting', 'useful', and above all, 'industrialisable' biological products, these synthetic biologists are attempting to adhere to a rational design cycle of work while embracing ideas and concepts drawn from an idealised notion of engineering. In this paper, I show that attempting to bring engineers and biologists together in order to take an ?engineering approach? to biology has impacted on the way these collective synthetic biologists speak about biology (as something that can be engineered) and undertake their day-to-day work, affecting the questions they ask, the experiments they conduct, the models they produce, and the data they collect. However, as this paper discusses, their collaborative approach to working comes with both compromises and constraints.
URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19378629.2013.763811
DOI10.1080/19378629.2013.763811

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