Home / Recent Posts / News & Announcements / Nicole Nelson – “A Furry, One Ounce, Human?: Modeling Binge Drinking with Mice”


The Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST) at the University of Toronto is pleased to announce a

 Job Talk

 A Furry, One Ounce, Human?:  Modeling Binge Drinking with Mice”


Nicole Nelson

Date: Thursday, March 1, 2018
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon
Location: Alumni Hall (VC 112), 1st floor, Victoria College, 91 Charles Street West, University of Toronto

This talk will explore the apparent disconnect between researchers’ theories and practices by examining the development of a new mouse model of binge drinking. The model was developed by a group of researchers who were committed to the view that behaviors are complex, multifactorial phenomena; and yet the model resembled the type of reductionist, biomedical approach to understanding addiction that social theorists have critiqued for decades. I argue that this contradiction lessens when the “extrafactual” work taking place before and alongside the production of specific genetic findings is taken into account. Using ethnographic data, I trace out the ontological and epistemological commitments that drove the model’s development, and demonstrate how researchers gained non-genetic knowledge through working with the model. The insight gained from this ethnographic perspective has important implications for engaging in effective critical dialogue with those developing animal models of addiction.

Dr. Nicole Nelson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  In her research, Nelson uses ethnographic methods to study knowledge production in the life sciences, with a focus on scientific models and the changing status of scientific facts. This research connects with literatures in the history and philosophy of science on model organisms and historical epistemology, as well as with the tradition of laboratory studies and the more recent “ontological turn” in STS.  She is also a Collaborating Editor for the journal Social Studies of Science.