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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Pablo Schyfter

Pablo Schyfter
Dr Pablo Schyfter
Senior Lecturer
Science Technology and Innovation Studies School of Social and Political Science University of Edinburgh
3.32 Chisholm House High School Yards Edinburgh UK EH1 1LZ
+44 (0)131 650 4262
Research Interests
Sociology of knowledge, Science and technology studies, Gender, Feminist Theory, Engineering studies, Phenomenology, Philosophy of biology, Philosophy of technology


Pablo Schyfter in a Senior Lecturer in Science and Technology Studies (STS). His work covers many topics, including the sociology of knowledge, social theory, feminist STS, the philosophies of biology and technology and STS perspectives on art and theatre. What draws these together is a commitment to interdisciplinary investigation and thought.

Pablo is a native of Costa Rica, though Scotland has been his home since 2005. He graduated from Stanford University with undergraduate degrees in Science, Technology and Society and Drama, and earned an MSc. and a Ph.D. from the Science Studies Unit at the University of Edinburgh.

His doctoral work focused on social orders (gender, sexuality and age) and the ontological constitution of technological artefacts, subjects and bodies. His use of the Performative Theory of Social Institutions and of phenomenology has charaterised his research since then. After his doctoral studies, Pablo returned to Stanford University to serve as a postdoctoral scholar for the Synthetic Aesthetics project, during which he began his work on synthetic biology and engineering studies. In 2012, Pablo joined Science, Technology and Innovation Studies as a faculty member.

Currently, Pablo is the Admissions Advisor for STIS. He is the Pathway Convener for Science, Technology and Innovation Studies and Information and Communication Studies at the Graduate School of Social Science.


Research Interests

Sociology of knowledge, Science and technology studies, Gender, Feminist Theory, Engineering studies, Phenomenology, Philosophy of biology, Philosophy of technology

Research Overview

I have a background in science and technology studies (STS), but my work engages with other areas in sociology and philosophy. My empirical research has focused on gender and technological artefacts and professions, and the nascent biotechnological field of synthetic biology. Much of this work has aimed to identify and harness social theoretical and philosophical tools from a range of authors and make use of them for STS. These include post-structuralist theories of subjectivity, phenomenological writing on technology, and pragmatist conceptualisations of knowledge. This type of research reflects my interest in exploring relationships between STS and philosophical thought. Presently, I am conducting research on the character of engineering knowledge by looking at metrological tools and procedures in synthetic biology and control engineering. I am also conducting research on the ongoing construction of gender politics and identities in synthetic biology.

Current Projects

Completed Projects

Women and the Engineering of Biology (PI, funded by The Moray Endowment Fund), 2015.

Synthetic Aesthetics (PIs: Jane CalvertAlistair ElfickDrew Endy, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the National Science Foundation), 2010-2011.

Engineering Life (PI: Jane Calvert, funded by the European Research Council), 2014-2017.


Undergraduate Teaching

'Investigating Science in Society' (STIS08008
This course considers the social nature of science and scientific knowledge, as well as the relationship between science and wider society. Unit 1 (the anatomy of science) systematically explores important elements of scientific practice; for instance, observation, experimentation, theories and replication; and examines their fundamentally social character. In Unit 2 (Science Contextualised), students study the place of science in relation to, and as a central tool in shaping, other major social phenomena. Topics here include: Science and Politics; Science and the Environment; Science and the Law; Scientific Expertise in Society. The course studies science internally and externally using a variety of readings, including historical and sociological case studies from physics, biology and chemistry. The course will be intelligible to students of any disciplinary background.

'Science, Nature and Environment' (STIS08007)
This course considers the ways that science and technology shape the relationship between humans and the environment. We will examine a number of topical historical and contemporary cases and in the process reflect on the role played by science and technology in how societies understand nature and environment. Themes to be dealt with include science and cultural uses of natural resources; sociology of climate science; science, technology and international development; science and public understandings of environmental debates; science, knowledge and power; environmentalism. We will approach these themes by studying various environmental topics, often reflecting current events.

Postgraduate Teaching

'Advanced Theory in Science and Technology Studies' (PGSP11371)
This course gives postgraduate students the opportunity to pursue a more sophisticated understanding of key theoretical perspectives in science and technology studies (STS) and to explore the use of ideas from other, related fields. Focusing on a wide range of thinkers and writings, Advanced Theory in STS challenges students to master the details of theoretical tools central to STS, and to consider ways of taking that theory in new, innovative directions. The course explores David Bloor's, Barry Barnes' and Martin Kusch's work for the Edinburgh School in extensive detail. It also engages with theories developed by scholars such as Bruno Latour, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Ian Hacking, Michael Garfinkel, Giles Delezue and Annemarie Mol.

PhD Supervision

PhD Topics

- Sociology of knowledge - Gender, science and technology - Synthetic biology - Engineering studies - Poststructuralism and phenomenology - Philosophies of biology and technology

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

Francesa D'Andrea, 'Visualizing Reproduction: Neo-Materialism and Techno-Imaginary.' (with Niki Vermeulen)

Alice Spaccasassi, 'Public relations in STEM: An analysis of industry led knowledge translation and scientific marketing public engagement.' (with Catherine Lyall)

Completed PhD Students

Chris Mellingwood, 'Amphibious researchers: Working with laboratory automation in synthetic biology,' completed 2019. (with Jane Calvert)

Jacob Barber, 'Disciplinarity, epistemic friction, and the 'anthropocene', completed 2018. (with William Ginn)


Schyfter, P. (2020). “Gender in synthetic biology: Problems and potential.” EMBO Reports 21(6). doi: 10.15252/embr.201949049

Schyfter, P. (2020). “Standardisation and social order: A change of perspective.” Mètode Science Studies Journal. doi: 10.7203/metode.11.16013

Schyfter, P. (2020) “Science, gender and the ship in a bottle,” in F. Mackay, K. Menon, R. Govinda & R. Sen (eds.), Doing Feminisms in the Academy: Identity, Institutional Pedagogy and Critical Classrooms in India and the UK, New Delhi: Zubaan.

Schyfter, P. (2018). “Inaccurate ambitions and missing methodologies: Thoughts on Jeff Kochan and the sociology of scientific knowledge.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 7(8): 8-14.

Schyfter, P. (2018) “The place and power of discomfort in STS,” Engaging Science, Technology and Society 4: 346-351.

Mazanderani, F., I. Fletcher & P. Schyfter. (2018). “Introduction: Talking STS,” Engaging Science, Technology and Society 4: 179-182.

Schyfter, P. & D. MacKenzie. (2018). “STS and its challenging obligations: Pablo Schyfter talks with Donald MacKenzie,” Engaging Science, Technology and Society 4: 335-346.

Calvert, J. & P. Schyfter. (2017). “What can STS learn from art and design? Reflections on ‘Synthetic Aesthetics,’” Social Studies of Science 47(2): 195-215.

Schyfter, P. (2017). “Recognise your privilege,” in J. Robertson, A. Williams, D. Jones, L. Isbel & D. Loads (eds.), EqualBITE: Gender Equality in Higher Education (pp. 250-253), Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Balmer, A, J. Calvert, C. Marris, S. Molyneux-Hodgson, E. Frow, M. Kearnes, K. Bulpin, P. Schyfter, A. Mackenzie, & P. Martin. (2016). “Five rules of thumb for post-ELSI interdisciplinary collaborations,” Journal of Responsible Innovation 3(1): 73-80.

Schyfter, P. (2016). “Drawing out by drawing into: Representation and partnership in a design-science partnership,” Engaging Science, Technology and Society, 2: 294-311.

Schyfter, P. (2016). “A nature with their nature,” LA+, Fall 2016: 110-117.

Schyfter, P. (2016). “Function and finitism: A sociology of knowledge approach to proper technology function,” in M. Franssen, P.E. Vermaas, P. Kroes, A. Meijers (eds.), Philosophy of Technology After the Empirical Turn (pp. 305-325), London: Springer.

Balmer, A, J. Calvert, C. Marris, S. Molyneux-Hodgson, E. Frow, M. Kearnes, K. Bulpin, P. Schyfter, A. Mackenzie, & P. Martin. (2015). “Taking roles in interdisciplinary collaborations: Reflections on working in post-ELSI spaces in the UK synthetic biology community,” Science and Technology Studies 28(3): 3-25.

Schyfter, P. & J. Calvert. (2015). “Intentions, expectations and institutions: Engineering the future of synthetic biology in the US and the UK,” Science as Culture, 24(4): 359-383.

Schyfter, P. (2015). "Metrology and varieties of making in synthetic biology," in O. Schlaudt and L. Huber (eds.), Standardization in Measurement (pp. 25-38). London: Pickering & Chatto.

Schyfter, P. (2015). "Function by agreement," Social Epistemology, 29(2): 185-206.

Schyfter, P. (2014). “Function, functional status, and the primacy of the collective: A reply to Garson.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 3(7): 38-43.

Ginsberg, A.D., J. Calvert, P. Schyfter, A. Elfick, & D. Endy (2014). Synthetic Aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Schyfter, P. (2013). "How a 'drive to make' shapes synthetic biology," Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 44(4B): 632-640.

Schyfter, P., E. Frow, & J. Calvert (2013). "Synthetic biology: Making biology into an engineering discipline," Engineering Studies, 5(1): 1-5.

Schyfter, P. (2013). "Propellers and promoters: Emerging engineering knowledge in aeronautics and synthetic biology," Engineering Studies, 5(1): 6-25.

Schyfter, P. (2012). "Standing reserves of function: A Heideggerian reading of synthetic biology," Philosophy & Technology, 25(2):199-219.

Schyfter, P. (2012). "Technological biology? Things and kinds in synthetic biology," Biology & Philosophy, 27(1): 29-48.

Schyfter, P. (2010). "Género y tecnología," in H. Hiriart (Ed.), Mexico: Doscientos Años, Ochenta Voces, SEDENA.

Schyfter, P. (2009). "The bootstrapped artefact: A collectivist account of technology ontology, functions, and normativity," Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part A, 40(1): 102-111.

Schyfter, P. (2008). "Tackling the 'body inescapable' in sport: Body-artefact kinesthetics, embodied skill, and the community of practice in lacrosse masculinity," Body & Society, 14(3): 81-103.

Schyfter, P. (2001). "La intolerancia es intolerancia," in A. Facio (ed.), Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos: Textos y Commentarios Inusuales. ILANUD.