Talking gender with synbio students

This week we feature a brief report from Pablo Schyfter on his ongoing research into synbio and gender, which he was recently invited to explain at an event organised by synbio students themselves.

On 7 October, I delivered a lecture to and participated in a discussion with, the Edinburgh University Synthetic Biology Society, an undergraduate student organisation. My talk was based on a pilot study I carried out earlier this year on the developing gender politics of this emerging field. The presentation was actually my very first chance to share my findings with an audience, and it was wonderful to do so with a group of student as enthusiastic and engaged as these.

Broadly, my talk discussed the continuing gender inequities in science and engineering, and the potential to make synthetic biology a new, better type of engineering. As a field that brings together a science with comparatively high numbers of women practitioners (biology), and a series of professions with abysmally low number of women (engineering), synthetic biology offers a unique chance to examine gender politics in-the-making. As synthetic biologists import principles and practices from engineering, will they also import the gender politics of those fields?

Synthetic biologists are engaged in finding the best tools and procedures to build with biology. They could also set out to identify the best ways to build a discipline. Synthetic biology has a chance to be not just a new engineering, but also a *better* engineering.

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