What I do now: I’m a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, part of the Engineering Life team in the Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies (STIS) unit, focusing specifically on Synthetic Yeast 2.0, a project to synthesize an entire Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome, reengineered to be more efficient and more useful for scientific studies, out of lab-constructed genetic parts. I’m interested in yeast, synthetic biology, and science and technology studies more broadly, but my current interests deal particularly with collaborations. How do social scientists and biologists and engineers (and even artists and designers) collaborate to do science? How do species of humans and species of yeast collaborate to do science? What does it mean to collaborate and co-evolve with yeast?
Find my CV and publications under the “CV” tab at the top of this page.
As a wine writer, I write primarily about wine science and wine social science, from new Saccharomyces strains to social justice. My work here and as the science columnist at Palate Press has been recognized with a Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer Award and a Born Digital Wine Award.
What I’ve done before: I’ve recently completed a PhD in science communication at the University of Otago, with dissertation research specifically about wine industry communication amongst scientists and winemakers and growers. I asked how the language we use for industry-oriented science communication creates relationships amongst scientific researchers and winemakers and wine growers, and what language tools we can use to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing amongst these communities. I find that even as we talk about collaboration and engagement, our rhetoric — our strategic language tools — often continue to make it hard to value and productively employ non-scientific, practical, experiential knowledge in the scientific process; moreover, our rhetoric can make it harder to make science relevant to practical winemaking and growing. I argue that we need to treat both scientific research and industry experience as forms of legitimate but limited local knowledge and work to draw lines between their respective locations that make them mutually relevant — which is to say mutually locatable — with respect to each other.
In previous lives, I’ve been a microbiologist, a teacher of college-level general and technical writing, and a science writing researcher. My masters degrees are in microbiology and English rhetoric and composition.
Now I’m something of a hybrid: part-scientist, part-humanist, some days reading about Zygosaccharomyces, some days about Foucault, some days about technical communication, and most days about a little of all three.
Where I am: Edinburgh, Scotland, which makes up for its lack of vineyards with some very fine ales and single malts.
Find my departmental page at the University of Otago here. (And expect this link to be replaced in reasonably short order with one pointing at a new departmental page at the University of Edinburgh.)
Contact me: erika(dot)szymanski(at)ed.ac.uk