Works and Days

Notes from a Paris Biology Lab, Presidents Summer Fellowship

Maya with lab partners

This is the first of a series of blogs about the adventures of a Reed President's Summer Fellow. I am a student of philosophy learning the ropes of interdisciplinary studies for two months in Paris, France. I am focusing on the philosophic implications behind scientific research in a microbiology lab at ENS-Cachan led by Dr. Bianca Scalvi. The research at this lab is based on trying to understand the initiation of DNA replication.

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 offers me an advantage in the microbiology lab. 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 have only come 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 I try to approach each situation I find myself in with an open and philosophic mind.

My lab bench

My two-month long experiment has two goals: 1. To learn some microbiology by doing experiments in the lab in Cachan. This is similar to the work of Erik Fisher (ASU), and is an attempt 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 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, but as of now I hope to focus on the state of interdisciplinary studies both here in Paris and in Bianca's lab. That is the project! Wish me luck!

View from my room in the 8th arrondissement

-Maya Frodeman, Reed College ‘15

Tags: psf, biology, paris, lab, research, presidents summer fellowship