Photo of Professor Susan Molyneux-Hodgson

Professor Susan Molyneux-Hodgson

Professor of Sociology, Director of Research

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. Currently, I am building on ESRC and EPSRC funded work to reinvigorate sociological attention to nuclear matter(s). In July 2019 I was elected President of SHARE, which is a new research platform for social science and humanities researchers that study all aspects of ionising radiation. Earlier empirical work on synthetic biology continues in two projects that explore ideas of 'responsibility' and 'sustainability' in the bioeconomy. 

My teaching focus is on the early stages of enabling students to develop as 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 for SPA, I am responsible for supporting all staff's research ambitions and the upcoming Research Excellence exercise (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 interests are focussed on two domains of scientific activity: 1) nuclear work, such as radioactive waste management and disposal; radioecology; radiation protection and 2) synthetic biology, industrial biotechnology and the bioeconomy.

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 elected President of SHARE - a European network of social science and humanities researchers that aims to support SSH research on all aspects of ionisiing radiation.

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. Two recent funded projects (BBSRC and iUK) involved collaborating 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.



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
  • science policy
  • 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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