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Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)

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Dr Véra Ehrenstein

Research Theme: Growth

Véra holds a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from the Centre for the Sociology of Innovation, Ecole des mines de Paris. She joined UCL in 2018, first as an IAS Junior Research Fellow on the research theme of Turbulence and then as a Teaching Fellow in Geography. Her research is concerned with the interplay between science, politics and economics in the climate crisis. She has studied the development and contestation of carbon markets in the European Union and the United Nations climate negotiations. This led her to explore the reasonings, practices and tools that underpin carbon quantification. The work she did while at the IAS aimed to understand how the carbon stored in tropical forests is estimated, by whom, for what purpose and with what consequences, focusing on Central Africa. The relations between ecological science and climate policy in a postcolonial context continue to be one of her research interests.

As a Visiting Research Fellow, Véra will engage with the concept of Growth by carrying out a research project initiated with Dr Alice Rudge from the Department of Anthropology titled ‘Anthropocene Substitutions’ (supported through the 2021 Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences Dean’s Fund). This project explores the ways in which scientists – biochemical engineers, chemists and synthetic biologists – try to use microorganisms to develop sustainable bio-processes. The objective is to find replacements for petroleum-based chemicals as well as other substances deemed to be environmentally harmful (palm oil derivatives). Through interviews, we aim to study this engineering approach that seeks to harness the chemical and biological properties of the natural world to put mass consumption societies on a low carbon trajectory and fix the Anthropocene.