November 12, 2021

Dr. Aslihan Sanal presents, “In a Valley of Symptoms: Studying Scientists at a German Particle Accelerator.”  Also pleased to let you know thatProfessor Michael M.J. Fischer will join the session as a discussant.

Background: The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) has been founded in 1974 in Heidelberg, Germany as a research institution dedicated to understanding the molecular foundations of life. It had taken Sir John Kendrew several years after the foundation of EMBO in 1964 to convince scientists and governments of Europe that there was indeed a need for research laboratories in life sciences and not just a unifying intergovernmental body. In a meeting by the lake Konstanz in 1969, scientists finally agreed that instrumentation and high-tech developments would benefit molecular biology in a fundamental way. Following this meeting, in 1970, the first experiments in imaging were conducted to explore the uses of synchrotron radiation at the newly build beamlines at the German synchrotron DESY under the supervision of the EMBO member British biochemist Ken Holmes. These successful experiments would not only mark the beginnings of biological research at a synchrotron site but they also marked the coming together of a distinct culture of science in Europe during the Cold War. 

Aslihan Sanal, PhD: born and raised in Istanbul, Dr. Sanal is an anthropologist of science and medicine. She is currently a lecturer at the Global Health and Social Medicine Department at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Sanal has been affiliated with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) based at the German Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg where she has conducted oral histories with beamline scientists and molecular biologists. During her ten years residency in Hamburg, she has also been conducting fieldwork in a clinical setting on psychotherapeutic methods and integrative medical models which deal with war trauma and neurosis in Germany. She is the author of New Organs Within Us: Transplants and the Moral Economy (2011); a book on the changing meaning of death and dying in Turkey in a time of political and economic transformation.

Michael M.J. Fischer, PhD is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, and Professor of Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies at MIT, and Lecturer in Social Medicine in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School.  He trained at Johns Hopkins, the London School of Economics, and the University of Chicago.  He has taught at Chicago, Harvard, Rice, and MIT, serving as Director of the Center for Cultural Studies at Rice, and Director of the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT.  He has done fieldwork in the Caribbean, Iran, India, and currently in Southeast Asia on new initiatives in the biosciences and biotechnologies, university reform, and the arts as cultural critique.

The seminar takes place from 10am to 12pm ET, via Zoom.  This session will be recorded.

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