A Practicum in the Philosophical Implications behind Scientific Research

Hello! This is the first of a series of blogs to come about the adventures of a young student of philosophy in Paris, France. In the attempt to learn the ropes of interdisciplinary studies I am conducting an experiment for two months here in Paris. I will be studying the philosophic implications behind scientific research. I am working at a microbiology lab at ENS-Cachan led by Dr. Bianca Scalvi. The research at this lab is based on trying to understand how DNA replication initiates.

I am neither a scientist, nor a philosopher. I am simply someone who wants to understand the way our society works. I have a background in chemistry, and spent a summer synthesizing organic compounds in a lab directed by Dr. Youngblood at UNT. That experience gives me an advantage in the microbiology lab here at ENS-Cachan. I am familiar with the environment of a laboratory and I am able to understand the basics of the research without too much trouble. My background in philosophy seems to have been with me since I was a child, yet I only came to realize how much I enjoy the discipline when I started at Reed College two years ago. I have taken some courses in philosophy at Reed, and other than that I try to approach each situation I find myself in with an open and philosophic mind.

My two-month long experiment has two goals:
1. To learn some microbiology and run an experiment in the lab in Cachan. This is following the work of Erik Fisher (ASU) in attempting to be an ‘embedded humanist’. The idea is that as a student of philosophy I will be able to view the lab experience with a different lens than the scientists. This will allow me to have a first hand experience of how the scientists work in the lab and it will hopefully allow me to make connections that the scientists are not trained to see.
2. To create a report on one of the many philosophic aspects behind scientific research. This could be epistemological, ethical, sociological, political or cultural. So far I have encountered too many directions to take this project and I am trying to narrow the scope to just one of these areas of study.
So that is the project! Wish me luck!


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