PhD studentship on the Sociology of Genomics and Biobanking in Asia


Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Project Description: Biobanks are a growing phenomenon in global biomedicine, as they are a key tool of precision medicine initiatives. National biobanks, however, collect data and biological material from populations in specific regions, and the knowledge that national biobanks yield can impact understandings of identity, origins, and belonging. The ultimate goal of this kind of large-scale genetic database projects is to bridge individual molecular-genetic readings with clinical diagnostics. The knowledge that biobanks can afford is thought to reveal how the diverse genetic makeup of populations relates to individuals’ varying responses to treatments. Consequently, massive databases are being established, collating family genealogies, disease histories, drug sensitivities, and genomic data, in integrated systems. We are thus seeing the development of genetics into a large-scale operation with massive scaling up of the amount of data and the rate at which it can be analyzed.

The student will investigate the relationships between global biobanking trends, precision medicine initiatives, national scientific development goals, and ethnic and national identity. How is biobanking part of the development of a network of ‘global science? How does the genomic analysis of ethnic populations challenge or promote the understanding of the nation as a natural or biological cohort? How is economic value condensed in genomic data? And how can these questions help theorize the relationships between global market values and ethnic identity in the 21st century?

The successful candidate will hold a bachelors or masters degree in the social sciences, preferably STS, sociology, anthropology, or a closely related discipline.

PhD studentship on the Comparative Sociology of Innovation in Israel and Singapore

Project Description: Israel has been noted for the emergence of its ‘start-up’ culture by virtue of the large numbers of entrepreneurs and successful innovative ventures it has produced. Senor and Singer (2009:i) ask the “trillion-dollar question” of “[h]ow is it that Israel—a country of 7.1 million people, only sixty years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its foundation, with no natural resources—produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom?” They address the sociological factors that have conditioned the fabric of Israeli society and incubated this culture of entrepreneurship. They attribute Israel’s success to several things: one is the loose hierarchical structure that Israelis learn in their mandatory military service. Another is the high degree of technical training that is included in the special programs that the military provides. Moreover, the experience of military service leaves Israelis with a close network of friends and colleagues with whom ventures are typically launched. Singapore is similar to Israel in many regards and it too has been lauded as an innovation success, ranking alongside much larger and older countries in R&D indexes and in patent registrations. Singapore also faces similar challenges to Israel: a long-term potable water supply; affordable housing; infrastructure development; and the balance of talent acquisition/talent migration.

This research project problematizes the notion of innovation best practices and investigates the relationship between innovation practices and the broader historical, cultural, and social contexts of Singapore and Israel. What is the relative risk aversion in the respective contexts? What is the role of social network in determining the success of start-up ventures? What is the relationship to institutional structure and authority? How is innovation part of a state-led development plan? How can these questions help better clarify the relationships between national context and global innovation trends?

The student will use ethnographic and quantitative methods to investigate the relationships between innovation trends and the broader national context.

The successful candidate will hold a bachelors or masters degree in the social sciences, preferably STS, sociology, anthropology, or a closely related discipline.

Deadline: November 15

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