Areas of Research: History of Biology, Science & Technology Studies, Women & Gender Studies
Sophia Roosth is the Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professor in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. Her research focuses on the twentieth and twenty-first century life sciences, examining how biology is changing at a moment when researchers build new biological systems in order to investigate how biology works.
Roosth was the 2016 Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow of the American Academy in Berlin and in 2013-2014 she was the Joy Foundation Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University and a predoctoral fellow of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. She earned her PhD in 2010 in the Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Roosth has published widely in journals including Critical Inquiry, Representations, Differences, American Anthropologist, Science, and Grey Room.
In her first book, Synthetic: How Life Got Made (forthcoming 2017), Roosth asks what happens to “life” as a conceptual category when experimentation and fabrication converge. Grounded in an ethnographic study of synthetic biologists, she documents the profound shifts biology has undergone in the post-genomic age.
In her second book project, The Quick and the Dead, Roosth asks: At what pace must life proceed in order to count as life? How do qualities such as speed, slowness, time, and temperature shape the ways in which we think about life as form, pattern, or process? What is the place of latency in the life sciences and allied disciplines? Roosth interrogates these questions historically and anthropologically by attending to a variety of scientific communities, among them geobiologists and micropaleontologists seeking ancient microbial life-forms fossilized in stone; resurrection scientists seeking to insert ancient proteins into living cells; and researchers at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which stores samples of the world’s seeds for post-apocalyptic renewal. In her study, Roosth seeks to upset some of the assumptions that define life by privileging process over substance and form over matter.
"Life, Not Itself: Inanimacy and the Limits of Biology," 2014, Grey Room 57(2)
"The Godfather, Part II. Review of Life at the Speed of Light by J. Craig Venter." Science Vol. 342, No. 6156, (2013), pp. 312-313.
"Biobricks and Crocheted Coral: Dispatches from the Life Sciences in the Age of Fabrication" Science in Context Vol.26, March (2013), pp. 153-171.
"Of Foams and Formalisms: Scientific Expertise and Craft Practice in Molecular Gastronomy" American Anthropologist, Vol. 115, No. 1, (2013) pp. 4–16
"Evolutionary Yarns in Seahorse Valley: Living Tissues, Wooly Textiles, Theoretical Biologies" Differences, Volume 23, Number 3. (2012), pp. 9-41.
“Life Forms: A Keyword Entry” With Stefan Helmreich, Representations vol. 112, no. 2 (2010): 27-53.
“Screaming Yeast: Sonocytology, Cytoplasmic Milieus, and Cellular Subjectivities.” Critical Inquiry vol. 35, no. 2 (2009): 332-350.
"Biological Time Travel," Harvard Magazine, March-April 2014
Photo courtesy of Annette Hornischer.