- I am interested in what human beings do day-to-day that gives new knowledge about and greater ability to intervene in the world. In particular, I am interested in how scientists use models in their everyday research activities and how our knowledge of various uses of models should inform our views about what good models are and what good science is.
- I am also interested in the foundations of evolutionary theory, particularly population genetics.
- I also do scientific research using models. Currently I am working with Michael Grabe on the model of pH regulation and ion homeostasis in lysosomes [Lab Website].
The Ecological Approach to Scientific Models
- I am developing an approach to a systematic study of uses of models in science that is based on the idea that to study how scientists use models is to study how scientists interact with parts of the environment in which they do research, that is, to engage in a kind of ecological inquiry.
Representational and Non-Representational Uses of Models
- I think there are uses of models that are best described as non-representational. But such uses are hard to notice unless "representational" is properly understood. I am thus developing conceptual resources that are powerful enough to recognize representational as well as non-representational uses of models.
Historical and Philosophical Analysis of the Genetic Maps in Seymour Benzer's Research on Genetic Fine Structure
- This is a project supported by a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from National Science Foundation [Award Abstract]. The project aims, among other things, to identify various uses of genetic maps (diagrammatic models) in the course of Benzer's research.
Stein's Conjecture: Realism, Instrumentalism, and Best Scientific Practice
- Howard Stein once suggested that if realism and instrumentalism become properly sophisticated by taking into account the features of best scientific practice, then there will be no difference between them that makes a difference. In other words, best science is both realist and instrumentalist. But what does this mean? I am trying to spell out Stein's conjecture in detail, using my study of various uses of models in everyday scientific research, and explore any difference that may exist between sophisticated realism and instrumentalism as well as new questions that arise if the conjecture is (or is not) born out by exemplary uses of models.
- I am trying to extend the idea that a model is good insofar as it serves the purpose at hand. This simple idea gets complicated once we appreciate that a model can be put to many different uses in the course of research. How should we evaluate the goodness of a model on the basis of what it does, if it does many different things? Should we devise a set of evaluative criteria that applies to all uses, or should we think that relevant criteria must change according to how a model is used?
Random Sampling, Offspring Distribution, and Genetic Drift
- This is a joint project with Alirio Rosales (UBC). We presented a paper-in-progress at POBAM 2012 (see Presentations).
Sewall Wright's Analysis of the Distribution of Flower Color in Linanthus parryae, 1941-1978
- This project reconstructs the details of Wright's research on Linanthus using his research notes, correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, and published works. So far I have analyzed Wright's resistance to the hardening of the Modern Synthesis, his uses of various models at different periods of research, and a radical shift in his assumption about the spatial distributions of evolutionary parameters of interest. I have presented tentative results of this project at two ISHPSSB meetings (see Presentations).