PhD candidate, Rice University
Editor, Platypus, The CASTAC Blog
I am a PhD candidate in the department of anthropology at Rice University. My research focuses on petrochemical replacements made from sugarcane, including not only biofuels but sugar-based plastics, synthetic fabrics, solvents, specialty chemicals, and more. My project follows the technical practices of scientists, industry actors, and funding agents in São Paulo, Brazil within and beyond the lab as they reconfigure sugarcane molecularly, socially, and politically—asking to what extent these practices ultimately transform sugarcane from a crop with a violent history into a newly extractable feedstock for environmental and industrial futures. Prior to starting my doctoral studies, I worked as a research assistant in a molecular biology lab at the University of California, San Francisco.
Contributions to Platypus, The CASTAC Blog
Welcome to Platypus in 2023! We’re excited for another year of anthropological and social thinking around science and technology. Last year we had over forty-five posts on topics ranging from photoshopping desire to monstrous matter to human-tree relationships to anti-racism in anthropology, as well as several Platypod episodes on disability and toxicity, ableism in higher ed, and more. The blog had over seventy-six thousand visits in 2022 and maintains a readership from 187 different countries. We’re looking forward to another engaging year. We feel such gratitude to you, our readers; thanks for stopping by every week. And thank you to our authors and contributors. If you’re interested in writing or creating for Platypus this year, read on. (more…) (read more...)
In spring of 2020, thousands of scientific labs across several continents shut down. What was deemed “non-essential” research was ramped down and/or paused in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and in some cases direct resources to Covid-19 research instead. Speaking with scientist friends and interlocutors in both Brazil, where I was carrying out research, and the US, where I’m from and have worked in labs myself, there was much discussion about what work to do in the meantime to continue progressing theses, dissertations, and research projects—in other words, to maintain productivity. On Twitter, numerous threads under the hashtag #phdlife offered advice and encouragement to “scientists without a lab,” as one graphic put it: (more…) (read more...)
When now Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro promised during his campaign to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, putting development ahead of environmental protection, many in the agribusiness sector were decidedly optimistic. One agribusiness group, however, was not: sugarcane ethanol producers. Bolsonaro has since seemingly backtracked on his withdrawal promise, and ethanol producers are now the ones who are optimistic. While sugarcane cultivation is implicated in broader agricultural practices that have historically promoted deforestation in Brazil, sugarcane industrialists ultimately care about the climate accord because it bolsters support for renewable fuels like ethanol. Another group concerned with Bolsonaro’s potential policies was scientific researchers, who worried about the continuation of recent cuts to scientific funding. Nonetheless, it should be noted that for some of these researchers the ethanol industry is also at stake in their work. Sugarcane has increasingly become a focus of scientific inquiry as new biotechnologies expand the potential scale (read more...)