I am a PhD student in the department of anthropology at Rice University. My research focuses on petrochemical replacements made from sugarcane and other plant sources. I’m working with scientists and industry actors in Brazil who are researching new biotechnologies to expand the scope and scale of sugar-based alternatives to petrochemicals. While much attention has been given to the issue of replacing petroleum-based fuels, less has been given to replacing petroleum-based materials. My interlocutors, building on Brazil’s history with sugarcane ethanol, a fuel replacement, are now turning to potential replacements for the wide array of everyday materials and items that are also, but less obviously so, made with petrochemicals. From plastics to synthetic clothing, cosmetic fragrances to even toothpaste, they and I are interested in how petrochemicals function as an invisible ingredient in many late industrial material lives, and what it would mean to start replacing them with sugar-based alternatives. My project is thus exploring various threads including ordinary materialities, the imaginaries of planetary transitions, substitutability and replaceability, the vitalities of scientific objects, and the enduring, uneven social and political relations enacted through the chemical compounds we call sugar.
My research is supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. At Rice I am a co-coordinator of the Ethnography Studio
and a predoctoral fellow at the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS). I received my BA in Anthropology and Biology from Haverford College. Prior to starting my doctoral studies at Rice, I worked as a research assistant in a molecular biology lab at the University of California San Francisco.