UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies is an interdisciplinary centre for the integrated study of science's history, philosophy, sociology, communication and policy, located in the heart of London. Founded in 1921. Award winning for teaching and research, plus for our public engagement programme. Rated as outstanding by students at every level.

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Staff books include:

Miller - The Chemical Cosmos spacerAthena Swan Bronze Award

Serpente, Norberto

STS Honorary Research Associate (email)


Serpente, Norberto. 2011. Cells from Icons to Symbols: Molecularising Cell Biology in the 1980s. PhD thesis. University College London. (link)


Serpente, Norberto. 2011. Cells from icons to symbols: molecularizing cell biology in the 1980s. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 12/2011; 42(4):403-11.

Serpente, Norberto. 2011. Beyond a pedagogical tool: 30 years of Molecular Biology of the Cell. Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 14, 120-125 (February 2013) | doi:10.1038/nrm3513.

Research interests

My interest resides in cultures of image creation for the production of knowledge in the biosciences, with special emphasis on the visual embodiment of the process of molecularisation of biology. I completed a PhD dissertation (October 2011) on the changing visualities of cell biology during the ‘molecular revolution’ of the 1970s 1980s . My studies are framed by current debates about the historical dimension of objectivity and representation in science as well as the specificity of scientific selves for the existence of different epistemic cultures in cell biology such as the microscopical and the molecular. I engaged my findings on cell biology textbooks imagery with semiotics and simulation theory to propose a change of modality from iconic to symbolic and the existence of a self-referencial system in the discipline. I am interested in deepening my studies on the different visual forms of molecular imagery as the visual embodiment of the process of molecularisation, more specifically at its conditions of emergence and sustainability. I am also interested on the tensions between the ‘intelligible’ and the ‘practical’ for the production of images in biology, especially during its making and in their relation with the philosophical distinction between discovery and justification. I am keen in developing a visual catalogue from ‘sketch to final form’ of the pictorial work of two key figures of the process of visual molecularisation of cell biology Keith Roberts and David Goodsell. 

Page last modified on 29 jul 13 11:49 by Joe Cain

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