I am a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. I have a B.A. in History and a B.A. in Philosophy from North Carolina State University. I have a M.A. in History and Philosophy of Science from Florida State University and a Certificate in Museum Studies. I am trained in Paleontology through education and experience and worked as the Paleontology Technician for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
My doctoral research concerns the history of paleontology and more specifically the development of ancient DNA research. Ancient DNA research, the search and recovery of genetic material from fossil plants and animals, is an outgrowth of years of scientific and technological achievements and an even longer history of conceptual evolvements. The prospect that DNA could be preserved in some of our most ancient creatures was a cause of excitement for the public, yet a source of controversy among scientists.
My M.A. Thesis – “The Search for Ancient DNA, the Meaning of Fossils, and Paleontology in the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis” – documented the early history of ancient DNA research from 1984 to 1999 with specific regard to the implications of this new approach to fossil studies for the field of paleontology. My doctoral research will expand on this work and will explore the public perception of ancient DNA research in compare and contrast to the reality of the science itself.
Currently, my review of this history is portrayed almost entirely through the science itself as evidenced through scholarly scientific articles. I plan to examine media sources such as newspaper reports, journal articles, popular programs, as well as books and movies like Jurassic Park that have influenced the public image of ancient DNA study. I also plan to include personal interviews with scientific researchers and media reporters.
Overall, I hope this project will be an example of the relationship – and sometimes disconnect – between scholarly research on science and media portrayals of science. As a historian, it is my objective to present a careful synthesis of ancient DNA research and a thoughtful analysis of its consequences for scientific development and public engagement. I hope this will be a story for all involved in the endeavor – or excitement – to recreate the past.