Erika Szymanski's profile

Dr Erika Szymanski


Research Fellow


Science Technology and Innovation Studies

E-Mail Telephone

+44 (0)131 650 4258


G.14 Chisholm House

High School Yards

Edinburgh, UK


I work with STS perspectives on science communication and rhetoric of science and, increasingly, in interdisciplinary microbe studies. At present, the majority of my work concerns how yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) has been and continues to be shaped as a research tool, in human-yeast relationships more broadly, and in how new biotechnologies may reshape the long trajectory of human co-working practices with this friendliest of microbes. 

I completed my PhD in science communication at the University of Otago on New Zealand's South Island, where I investigated rhetorical strategies for non-deficit model communication and how written science communication mediates relationships between researchers and winemakers and growers. Following an undergraduate degree in molecular biology, I completed an MS in microbiology and an MA in rhetoric and writing studies. My doctoral project and current work emerging from long-term interests in wine microbiology, and in how scientific knowledge is constructed and intersects with other forms of knowledge in written discourse. 

Alongside my academic work, I have written about wine science and technology for popular and industry audiences since 2010. In August 2018, I ended a three-year term as a representative for the Student Section of the Society for Social Studies of Science (6S). 

Research Interests

Synthetic biology yeast science communication rhetoric wine Interdisciplinary collaboration genomics

Research Overview

My work concerns yeast (Saccharomyces cereivisiae) as a research tool shaped through genomics and genetic biotechnologies (synthetic biology, metabolic engineering for industrial microbiology, but whose history as a microbial coworker-species is millennia old. I'm interested in how new biotechnologies sit in that long trajectory of human-yeast co-working, in how we understand relationships amongst humans and yeasts, and in how synthetic biology knowledge arises as the product of many people from diverse disciplines and multiple microbial and macrobial species working together. 

Current Projects

My research interests include human-microbe interactions, microorganismal multispecies studies, rhetorical tools for knowledge coproduction, and wine and fermentation in science and culture. I follow those interests largely through discursive and material semiotic perspectives.

Engineering Life

I'm a research fellow on the Engineering Life team led by Jane Calvert to investigate synthetic biology in broadly interdisciplinary ways. Within that project, my particular concern is Saccharomyces cerevisiae 2.0 or the "synthetic yeast project," an international effort to construct the first wholly synthetic eukaryotic genome Find more information about our team's work in synthetic biology on the project website

Medical Translation in the History of Modern Genomics (TRANSGENE) 

I'm also a research fellow on the TRANSGENE team led by Miguel García-Sancho, wherein I'm developing a history of yeast genome sequencing as part of a comparative project investigating how genome sequencing data was created and used through yeast, human, and pig case studies. Find more about the foci of that project on the project website

Postgraduate Teaching

I co-convenene (with Niki Vermeulen) Social Dimensions of Systems and Synthetic Biology, a required course for Masters students in synthetic and systems biology programs and an elective for MSc students in STIS. I also give occasional guest lectures about science communication, multispecies collaboration, and the history of yeast as a model organism.

Other Teaching Activities

In past positions, I have taught upper-division undergraduate courses in technical and professional communication as well as one-day workshops on science communication for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

PhD Topics

I am interested in supervising students in STS approaches to science communication, STS approaches to rhetoric of science, and multispecies studies particularly concerning microorganisms.

Find out more about the programmes that I am involved with:

PhD in Science and Technology Studies; MSc (R) Science and Technology Studies

Current PhD Students

Sophie Stone (with Jane Calvert

Szymanski, E. and Calvert, J. (2018). Designing with living systems in the synthetic yeast projectNature Communications 9 (2950), 1-6.

Szymanski, E. A. (2018). What is the terroir of synthetic yeast? Environmental Humanities, 10(1), 40-62. 

Szymanski, E. A. (2018). Remaking yeast: Metaphors as scientific tools in S. cerevisiae 2.0. BioSocieties. 

Szymanski, E. A. (2018). Who are the users of synthetic DNA? Using metaphors to activate microorganisms at the center of synthetic biologyLife Sciences, Society, and Policy. 14(15). doi:10.1186/s40504-018-0080-3

Szymanski, E. A. Synthesizing yeast in popular media accounts of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae 2.0 project. In Sarah Davies & Ulrike Felt (Eds.), Exploring science communication: A science and technology studies approach. Under contract with SAGE. 

Szymanski, E. A. (2016) Enacting multiple audiences: Science communication texts and research-industry relationships in the New Zealand wine industry. Science Communication, 38(6), 724-745.

Szymanski, E. A. (2016). Constructing relationships between science and practice in the written science communication of the Washington state wine industry. Written Communication, 33(2), 184-215.

De Olde, E. M., Moller, H., Marchand, F., … Szymanski, E. A.,… & Manhire, J. (2016). When experts disagree: The need to rethink indicator selection for assessing sustainability of agricultureEnvironment, Development, and Sustainability. doi:10.1007/s10668-016-9803-x.

Szymanski, E. A. (2016). Extension resource use among Washington State winemakers and growers: A case for focusing on relevance. Journal of Extension, 54(1), 1FEA2.

Szymanski, E. A., & Davis, L. (2015). Wine science in the Wild West: Information-seeking behaviors and attitudes among Washington state winemakers and growers. Journal of Wine Research, 26(4), 270-286.

Szymanski, E. A. (2014). Instructor feedback in upper-division biology courses: Moving from spelling and syntax to scientific discourse. Across the Disciplines, 11(2). Selected for The Best of the Independent Journals in Rhetoric and Composition 2015Parlor Press.

Szymanski, E. A. (2013). Synthesis notes: Working with sources to create a first draft. Writing Commons.

Jamburuthugoda VK, Skasko M, Operario DJ,Purohit V, Chugh P, Szymanski EA, Wedekind JE, Bambara RA, & Kim B. (2008). Reduced dNTP binding affinity of 3TC-resistant M184I HIV-1 reverse transcriptase variants responsible for viral infection failure to macrophage. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 283(14): 9206-16.

Sakai A, Koga T, Lim JH, Jono H, Harada K, Szymanski E, Xu H, Kai H, Li JD. (2007). The bacterium, nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae, enhances host antiviral response by inducing Toll-like receptor 7 expression: evidence for negative regulation of host anti-viral response by CYLD. FEBS Journal. 274(14): 3655-68.

Wine writing

I have blogged about wine science and technology, broadly, at The Wineoscope.

I currently write a column for the Australian Wine and Viticulture Journaland have written occasional pieces for the American trade publication Wine Business Monthly.

I wrote a regular column for Palate Press from 2010 through 2016. You can find (some of) my Palate Press articles here

Awards for my wine writing include the 2012 Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer of the Year, the 2012 Shafer Vineyards Fellowship at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, and the 2016 Born Digital Wine Award for "Best Investigative/Journalistic Story."