Emily Parke

Dr Emily Parke is a Lecturer in Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts, The University of Auckland, and is part of the executive team at Te Ao Mārama – Centre for Fundamental Inquiry in the Faculty of Science. Emily grew up in the USA in Seattle, Washington, and acquired her Bachelor of Arts at Reed College in Oregon. She then spent four years in Italy working for a synthetic biology company, trying to create life from scratch. Dr Parke completed her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, dividing her time between the Philosophy Department and Paul Sniegowski’s laboratory in the Biology Department, where she studied the evolution of mutation rates in E. coli. Her research addresses philosophical questions about scientific inquiry and methodology, with a particular interest in conceptual and ethical issues arising in research areas that challenge our ideas about life and its simplest forms (like astrobiology, artificial life, synthetic biology, and research on the origin of life). Her projects span the philosophy of biology, philosophy of science, history of science, and applied ethics. Key research themes include critically examining the long-standing debate about the definition of “life” (or, the fundamental difference between living and non-living things); understanding how microbes and even simpler biological systems shape our knowledge of living things and of life itself; exploring how different scientific methodologies (for example, field experiments versus laboratory experiments versus mathematical models) work together to generate scientific knowledge; and investigating conceptual and ethical issues in invasion biology.