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Reproductive Sociology Research Group

Studying at Cambridge


Dr. Karen Jent

Dr. Karen Jent

Research Associate


My research focuses the relationship between bioscientific, biotechnological and societal change with an emphasis on reproduction and the body. My PhD dissertation (University of Cambridge, 2017) explored how laboratory scientists in Scotland and the United States respond to the translational medicine paradigm in the biosciences and specifically focused on the relationship between science, technology and society through an ethnographic analysis of a scientific model called “the stem cell niche”. My research has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

My book manuscript in progress, Making Stem Cell Niches: An Ethnography of Plasticity and Biotechnological Control, builds on the dissertation to examine how epigenetic, microbiome and postgenomic understandings of biology are becoming increasingly influential in stem cell science. Focused on laboratory scientists’ perspectives and on data collected in interdisciplinary collaborative projects, the book traces the complex circular relationships between scientific knowledge, its biotechnological application and societal norms in the post-truth moment.

Currently, I develop a new research project on post-genomic relational biologies, which explores placenta research and the ways the placenta is considered as a relational tissue between mother and foetus in the reproductive sciences, and between science and policy in contemporary discussions about embryo research in the United Kingdom.

At ReproSoc, I am the work package coordinator for Translational In/Fertilities of the Wellcome Trust-funded Changing In/Fertilities Project. I am also the chief executive producer for Dish Life: The Game, an interdisciplinary educational mobile game about stem cells in society currently in production. In addition, I coordinate the Life in Translation and Biocircularities initiatives.



Dish Life: The Game (in progress) is an interdisciplinary educational mobile game about stem cells in society, developed with funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Economic & Social Research Council.

Dish Life (2016) is an award-winning short film that explores stem cell scientists' affective relationship with the cells in their care and was realised collaboratively with Chloe Thomas (director), Loriana Vitillo & Karen Jent (executive producers). Watch Dish life here.

In collaboration with EuroStemCell, I co-organised Unfolding Organogenesis, an interactive walk-in exhibition about organ development, regenerative medicine and origami art at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, April 2016.

A full list of my public engagement activities is available on my personal website.



I am lecturing and supervising on the sociology and medical anthropology sections of the Health, Medicine and Society MPhil.

Key Publications

Book manuscript in progress - Making Stem Cell Niches: An Ethnography of Plasticity and Biotechnological Control.

(2018) Dish Lives, published on ReproSoc Blog (March 2, 2018).

(2016) Unfolding Organogenesis, published on ReproSoc Blog (May 5, 2016).

(2016) Reproducing the Magic: Uncertain Science and Reason+, published on (April 26, 2016).

(2015) Malignant – How Cancer Becomes Us, in: Medicine Anthropology Theory 2 (1), pp. 182-85.

(2012) Tick tock goes the clock: Laboratory modes of anticipation, published on (February 20, 2012).


Selected conference presentations

(2018) The Stem Cell Niche: Biotechnological Control in Post-Genomic Science, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, November.

(2018) Ethnographic and Interdisciplinary Collaborations: Performance as Ethnography, Department of Gender Studies, Central European University, October.

(2018) Niche Biology in Translation: Biotechnological Control in Post-Genomic Stem Cell Science, Association of Social Anthropologists biannual meeting, University of Oxford, September.

(2018) Induction: A Novel Mode of Reproduction?, international conference “Remaking Reproduction”, University of Cambridge, June.

(2018) How to Make Niches for Stem Cells?, Copenhagen Bioscience Cluster conference “The Stem Cell Niche”, May.

(2017) Socialising with the Neighbours: Care in Stem Cell Science, Science Studies Ethnography Workshop, Department of Anthropology, New York University, October.

(2017) Biocircular Firefighters: Haematopoietic Stem Cell Donation after 9/11, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) Conference "Biocircularities: Lives, Times and Technologies," University of Cambridge, April.

(2016) The Magpie's Nest and the Stem Cell Niche: Reproduction and Induction of Stem Cell Microenvironments in Scotland, Royal Anthropological Institute Conference "Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change," London, May.