Postdoctoral Researcher at the Rank of Instructor 2022-23
Melanie Jeske is a sociologist of science, medicine, and technology. Situated at the intersection of sociology and science and technology studies, her research examines the politics of biomedical knowledge production. Her work has been published in Science, Technology & Human Values, Social Science & Medicine, BioSocieties, PLOS One, Engaging Science, Technology and Society, as well as in edited collections and medical sociology textbooks.
Jeske’s current book project, Organs on Chips: Translation, Biomedical Models, and the Politics of Innovation, examines the political economy of novel biomedical technologies called “organ chips.” Organ chips are models of human organs that promise to transform pharmaceutical testing by introducing human cells at the earliest stages of pharmaceutical research, driven by concerns about the translational failures from animal to human models. Through ethnographic analysis, the book explores how organ chips, as technological artifacts, emerge as productive and valuable tools for solving the “translational crisis” in biomedicine, and traces how they are imagined and brought into fruition by a diverse set of actors. The book interrogates how scientific models come to be regarded as human enough to generate evidence about human responses through social negotiations and how notions of human difference are embedded in technological design.
In other areas of her research, Jeske examines scientific organizations and practices and the everyday experiences of chronic illness. In the former, her research examines the ways in which scientific institutions reflect broader inequalities in society, excavating the social processes through which inequalities in scientific labor manifest and their downstream consequences. Her research on this topic considers how particular practices in scientific spaces contribute to scientists’ sense of belonging in their professional environments and fulfillment in their work. In the latter, her work examines how people with chronic conditions navigate healthcare structures in the US and develop practices to manage their conditions. Her second book project, Endometrial Entanglements, offers an ontological analysis of endometriosis, a disease of the female reproductive system. Drawing on interviews with patients, clinicians, and researchers, as well as ethnography in laboratories studying endometriosis and clinics treating endometriosis, the book offers an ontological analysis of the condition, attending to stratified experiences of diagnosis and care. The book weaves together an analysis of the production of biomedical and clinical ("expert") knowledge about endometriosis alongside the experiences of people living with this illness ("lay expertise"), interrogating how endometriosis comes into being in and through particular contexts and communities.
She holds a PhD in Sociology from University of California, San Francisco. Most recently, she was a scholar in residence at Fondation Brocher in Switzerland.