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Emma Frow

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Asst Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5603
Assistant Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5603
Lincoln Professor of Bioengineering, Policy & Society
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5603

Emma Frow joined Arizona State University in 2015 and holds a joint appointment in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, and the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes. Her research focuses on standards and governance in contemporary life sciences, with a particular focus on synthetic biology. She is currently working with colleagues in the U.K. on a project called ‘Engineering Life’ (funded by the European Research Council), exploring the movement of ideas, promises and practices from engineering into the life sciences. Professor Frow is broadly interested in how biologists and engineers come to know the world and how they operate in it, and how the disciplines of biology and engineering are being challenged and reconfigured alongside the development of new technologies and practices.

She spent two years working as a subeditor for the journal Nature in London, and then re-trained in the social sciences, gaining an M.Sc. in Science & Technology Studies from the University of Edinburgh. She completed postdoctoral research at the ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum at the University of Edinburgh and at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and was an assistant professor in science, technology and innovation studies at the University of Edinburgh before moving to ASU.

  • PhD (Biochemistry), University of Cambridge, UK
  • MSc (Science & Technology Studies), University of Edinburgh, UK
  • BA, Natural Sciences (Neuroscience), University of Cambridge, UK
Research Interests

Science & technology studies; Sociology of Science; Engineering studies; synthetic biology; expertise and interdisciplinarity; values; representation in scientific practice


Research Group

Emma is currently part of the following research groups:

Engineering Life project (funded by the European Research Council):

Consortium for Promoting Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE)


Caplan, M. & Frow, E.K. (2016) ‘Work in Progress: Promoting career reflection among freshman biomedical engineering students,’ American Society for Engineering Education, Biomedical Engineering Division, New Orleans, 26-29 June

Balmer, A.S., Calvert, J., Marris, C., Molyneux-Hodgson, S., Frow, E., Kearnes, M., Bulpin, K., Schyfter, P., Mackenzie, A. & Martin, P. (2016) ‘Five rules of thumb for post-ELSI interdisciplinary collaborations.’ Journal of Responsible Innovation; doi:10.1080/23299460.2016.1177867

Balmer, A.S., Calvert, J., Marris, C., Molyneux-Hodgson, S., Frow, E., Kearnes, M., Bulpin, K., Schyfter, P., Mackenzie, A. & Martin, P. (2015) ‘Taking roles in interdisciplinary collaborations: Reflections on working in post-ELSI spaces in the UK synthetic biology community.’ Science and Technology Studies 3:

Evans, S.W. & Frow, E.K. (2015) ‘Taking care in synthetic biology.’ In Absence in Science, Security and Policy: From Research Agendas to Global Strategy, eds B. Rappert & B. Balmer. Palgrave Macmillan, pp.132-153

Calvert, J. & Frow, E. (2015) ‘The synthetic yeast project as a topic for social scientific investigation’. Macquairie Law Review Journal 15: 27-37.

Frow, E.K. (2015) ‘Rhetorics and practices of democratization in synthetic biology.’ In Knowing New Biotechnologies: Social Aspects of Technological Convergence, Weinroth, M. & Rodrigues, E. (eds). London: Routledge, 2015, pp.174-187.

Frow, E.K. (2014) ‘In images we trust? Objectivity in the digital age,’ New Representation in Scientific Practice, eds C. Coopmans, J. Vertesi, M. Lynch, S. Woolgar. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 249-268.

Calvert, J. & Frow, E.K. (2013) ‘Social dimensions of microbial synthetic biology,’ in Methods in Microbiology, Vol. 40, eds C. Harwood & A. Wipat. Burlington: Academic Press, pp. 69-86.

Frow, E.K. (2013) ‘Making big promises come true? Articulating and realizing the value of synthetic biology.’ BioSocieties 8: 432-448.

Davies, G. Frow, E.K. & Leonelli, S. (2013) ‘Bigger, faster, better? Rhetorics and practices of large-scale research in contemporary bioscience.’ BioSocieties Guest Editorial 8: 386-396.

Mackenzie, A., Waterton, C., Ellis, R., Frow, E.K., McNally, R., Busch, L. & Wynne, B. (2013) ‘Classifying, constructing, and identifying life: Standards as transformations of ‘the biological.’’ Science, Technology & Human Values 38: 701-722.

Frow, E. & Calvert, J. (2013) ‘The future(s) of synthetic biology.’ Futures 48: 32-43.

Frow, E. & Calvert, J. (2013) ‘Can simple biological systems be built from standardized interchangeable parts?’ Negotiating biology and engineering in synthetic biology. Engineering Studies 5(1): 42-58.

Schyfter, P., Frow, E. & Calvert, J. (2013) ‘Synthetic biology: Making biology into an engineering discipline.’ Engineering Studies Guest Editorial 5(1): 1-5.

Frow, E.K. (2012) ‘Drawing a line: Setting guidelines for image processing in scientific journal articles.’ Social Studies of Science 42(3): 369-392.

Wiek, A., Guston, D., Frow, E. & Calvert, J. (2012) ‘Sustainability and anticipatory governance in synthetic biology.’ IGI International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development 3(2): 25-38.

Frow, E. & Yearley, S. (2012) ‘People, Policy and Plant Genomics.’ In Principles and Practices of Plant Genomics - Volume 3: Advanced Genomics, eds C. Kole and A. Abbott (New Hampshire: Science Publishers, Inc.).

Frow, E.K. Ingram, D., Powell, W., Steer, D., Vogel, J. & Yearley, S. (2009) ‘The politics of plants.’ Food Security 1(1):17-23.

Frow, E.K., Reckless, J. & Grainger, D.J. (2004) ‘Tools for anti-inflammatory drug design: in vitro models of leukocyte migration.’ Medicinal Research Reviews 24(3): 276–298.

Grainger, D.J. & Frow, E.K. (2000) ‘Thrombospondin 1 does not activate transforming growth factor-b1 in a chemically defined system or in smooth-muscle-cell cultures.’ Biochemical Journal 350: 291–298.

Spring 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
BME 592Research
BME 599Thesis
BME 792Research
Fall 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
ASU 101-BMEThe ASU Experience
BME 394Special Topics
BME 492Honors Directed Study
BME 493Honors Thesis
FIS 498Pro-Seminar
BME 598Special Topics
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
BME 182Biomedical Prod Dsgn & Dev I
FIS 498Pro-Seminar
Fall 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
ASU 101-BMEThe ASU Experience
BME 492Honors Directed Study
FIS 498Pro-Seminar
BME 592Research
BME 593Applied Project
BME 598Special Topics
Spring 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
BME 182Biomedical Prod Dsgn & Dev I
Fall 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
ASU 101-BMEThe ASU Experience
BME 593Applied Project
BME 598Special Topics

Selected Invited Talks

‘Standards for Engineering Life?’ STS colloquium, University of Virginia, 7 April 2016

‘The Future of Life’, evening panel discussion (with K. Haynes), Barrett Honors College, ASU, 14 March 2016

‘Reframing the debate around CRISPR and genome editing,’ New Tools for Science Policy, CSPO - DC breakfast seminar series, 9 December 2015; available online at

‘CRISPR in context’, CSHL Summer School on Synthetic Biology, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 7 August 2015

‘A crisis of trust? Setting guidelines for image processing in scientific journals’, EMBL Forum Seminar on Science & Society, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany, 19 June 2015; available online at

‘Synthetic Biology in Context’, iBio online course on synthetic biology, 19 June 2015; available online at

‘The social life of standards’, seminar at Synthetic Biology in Action – EMBO Practical Course, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany, 18 June 2015

‘Standards and sustainability in synthetic biology’, Cell Factories and Biosustainability conference, hosted by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Copenhagen, Denmark 17-21 May 2015

‘Engineering Life,’ BME 591 graduate seminar, Arizona State University, 27 March 2015

‘Disciplining the social sciences in synthetic biology,’ Medicine and Environment: What Kind of Interdisciplinary Collaborations for Synthetic Biology? Paris, France, 23-24 June 2014

‘Transatlantic governance of synthetic biology,’ UK-Brazil workshop on Responsible Innovation, University of Campinas, Sao Paolo, Brazil, 19-21 March 2014

‘Differences in the transatlantic governance of synthetic biology,’ Edinburgh Synthetic and Systems Biology Centre Open Meeting, University of Edinburgh, UK, 21 November 2013

‘Shaping matters of (non-)concern in synthetic biology,’ Issues and Non-issues in Science and Medicine Symposium, University of Exeter, UK, 27-28 September 2013

‘The social life of standards,’ Sixth International Meeting on Synthetic Biology (SB6.0), Imperial College London, UK, 9-11 July 2013

Honors / Awards

ASU Lincoln Professor, ASU Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics 2015-

Elected to Young Academy of Scotland, 2013-2016

Professional Associations

Society for Social Studies of Science (4S); American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE); International Network for Engineering Studies (INES)


Judge and Human Practices Committee Member, international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, since 2009

Organizing Committee member, Sixth International Meeting on Synthetic Biology (SB6.0), Imperial College London, July 2013