Photo of Professor Susan Molyneux-Hodgson

Professor Susan Molyneux-Hodgson

Professor of Sociology

I'm a sociologist of science, working in the field of science and technology studies (STS).  My overarching interest is in the everyday worlds of scientific work and how knowledge is produced through practices. I focus primarily on communities of natural scientists and engineers - although intersections between those communities and the biorealm are increasingly prevalent. I've received funding from ESRC, NERC, EPSRC, BBSRC and InnovateUK and research projects often include collaborations with scientists in academia and in industry. Earlier work on synthetic biology continues in two projects that explore ideas of 'responsibility' and 'sustainability' in the bioeconomy. Alongside, I am building on ESRC and EPSRC funded work to reinvigorate sociological attention to nuclear matter(s). 

My teaching focus is on the early stages of enabling students to become researchers, so I lead the undergraduate 2nd and 3rd year Core research skills modules (Into the Field and Dissertation). I have the pleasure of teaching students from multiple degree programmes (sociology, anthropology, criminology, liberal arts and combined honours) which means lots of interesting conversations on how research is enacted in different disciplines.

I am the Industrial Strategy Champion for the social sciences and work closely with colleagues in Innovation, Impact and Business (IIB) to ensure social sciences play a central role in all the University's work on industrial strategy, internally and externally. As Director of Research, I am responsible for supporting the Department towards the next REF (among many other things).

Research group links

Research interests

My research is in the field of science and technology studies and have an overarching concern with the everyday enactment of scientific work, particularly in natural/physical sciences and engineering. My current interests are focussed on two domains of scientific activity: 1) synthetic biology / industrial biotechnology and 2) radioactive waste management and disposal and radiation protection more generally.

I've been tracing the development of synthetic biology since ~ 2007 and through a series of projects have explored some of the ways the emergence of the field has been narrated; how different kinds of physical scientists and engineers have engaged with bioscientific work; and how new forms of bioscience come about through interdisciplinary practice. At present, I'm working on 2 funded projects (BBSRC and iUK) with academic and non-academic scientists to understand how ideas of responsible innovation and 'greenness' are mobilised in everyday practice. The ways in which 'society' appears in technical research practices is also of interest.

Since 2013 I've been developing a programme of work under the banner of 'Nuclear Societies'. This programme began as an ESRC-funded PhD initiative and now encompasses grants (ESRC; EPSRC; GCRF); collaborations with technical groups; and intriguing opportunities for ethnographic fieldwork. More information about the Nuclear Societies research can be found here. In the UK, current policies on nuclear re-build projects, the potential of small modular reactors, and the search for a geological disposal facility for the nation's nuclear waste, mean that attention to critical sociological research on radiological issues is imperative. I am Founding President of SHARE - a European network of social science and humanities researchers that aims to support SSH research on all aspects of ionisiing radiation.

 

Research supervision

I am keen to work with outstanding doctoral students in areas relating to my research interests and in the following areas more generally:

  • sociology of science and technology
  • engineering studies
  • responsible research and innovation
  • gender and science

Research students

Marika Hietala (ESRC) Making Distant Futures: implementing geological disposal of nuclear waste in the UK and Finland (now working at SCK-CEN, Belgium)

Florian Abraham (ESRC) Governing Uranium Mining in Greenland

Modules taught

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