I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Social Studies of Medicine Department at McGill University. My research investigates the social dimensions of biomedical knowledge production, especially genetic knowledge. I am interested in the way that genetic explanations for human diseases and disorders are investigated, materialized, and circulated in different institutional and sociocultural settings. I employ mainly ethnographic and qualitative methods to explore the practices of doing genetic research and the meanings that scientists and clinicians give to this research—from the day-to-day frustrations of running experiments or clinical trials to future predictions about how molecular information might be used in the clinic. I am currently pursuing these interests in two main areas:
- Animal models of human behavioral disorders My dissertation research at Cornell University's Department of Science & Technology Studies explored how animal behavior geneticists use mouse models to produce genetic information about alcoholism and anxiety. I investigated the way that researchers set up and troubleshoot their experimental systems, manage the excess of uncertainty that they associate with studying behavioral disorders, and conceptualize the action of genes in producing behaviors. With this project, I am interested in studying the specific ways that researchers relate animals to humans and genes to behaviors; and the way that the past history of controversy in the behavior genetics field shapes how researchers make claims about their work.
- Introduction of molecular techniques into oncology In this collaborative project with Alberto Cambrosio and Peter Keating, we are investigating the ways that genetic tools and techniques are being introduced into various areas of oncology, such as pathology, cancer research, and clinical decision-making. I am particularly interested in efforts to “translate” molecular analysis from a research activity into a clinical service. I plan to study several sites that are introducing genetic analysis of tumor samples into routine practice comparatively in order to analyze the different ways that these programs are embedded into existing institutional structures, developed with particular patient groups in mind, and based on different technological choices.