Newcastle University Academic Track Fellowships NUAcT

Carmen McLeod

Dr Carmen McLeod

I am an interdisciplinary social science scholar, with a particular interest in exploring multispecies relations in the context of emerging biotechnology applications. My NUAcT Fellowship is based in the Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment (HBBE), and using ethnographic methods, I will be tracing the embodied and everyday practices that arise when architects, designers, microbiologists and engineers work with ‘living materials’ to create novel products and habitats.

 My research aims to reconsider understandings of humanity in light of new knowledge about the profound intimacy and entanglements between humans and microbes. I am especially interested in the ambivalent ways in which microbes are discursively constructed as: wild/mutant; natural/artificial; biological/cultural; and friend/enemy. How are encounters between humans and microbes changing through bioengineering experiments in the built environment and what multispecies ethics might need to be considered as a result of these activities?  

 Prior to moving to Newcastle, I worked in the University of Nottingham’s Synthetic Biology Research Centre (July 2015 – January 2020), where I facilitated embedding a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) framework within the activities of the Centre. My research also included consideration of the complex ways that language is used in describing human-microbe interactions in relation to three different areas (synthetic biology, Faecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT), and responsible innovation). During this period, I also held a short-term post at University of Oxford (June 2017 – April 2018) contributing to the ‘Good Germs, Bad Germs’ project and the ‘Oxford Interdisciplinary Microbiome Project’ (IMP).  From February 2013 to June 2015, I was employed on the Leverhulme Trust Programme: 'Making Science Public: Challenges and Opportunities', working on the project: 'Animals and the Making of Scientific Knowledge'. I began my academic career in New Zealand at the University of Otago, where my PhD investigated the environmental, ethical and cultural dimensions of duck hunting and associated wetland conservation activities.