Engineering Life

Ideas, Practices and Promises

Principal Investigator:

Jane Calvert

Research Team:

Emma Frow, Pablo Schyfter, Deborah Scott, Erika Szymanski, Dominic Berry, Rob Smith, Valentina Marcheselli, Chris Mellingwood, Annie Hammang.


This project is funded by the European Research Council.


The emerging field of synthetic biology promises to engineer the living world. Its proponents argue that it will deliver new fuels, medicines and materials that will drive the next industrial revolution. A field of such potentially huge significance requires informed social scientific attention. And because of synthetic biology’s bold ambitions and disruptive potential, scholars from the social sciences and humanities have become enrolled into synthetic biology research projects in a manner that is unprecedented.

The Engineering Life project will study both the engineering of biology and the role of social scientists within this. Its two objectives are:

  • to investigate the movement of ideas, practices and promises from engineering into the life sciences;
  • to examine the ways in which social scientists and other groups are being mobilised as part of this endeavour.

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