University of Wisconsin–Madison

Nicole C. Nelson

Assistant Professor


Office: 4105 Mosse Humanitites
Mailbox: 4029 Mosse Humanities
Curriculum Vitae (pdf) | Website
Office Hours: Wednesdays 3:00-5:00

Nicole Nelson


My research examines the history of the recent life sciences; in particular, the way that genetic understandings of human diseases and disorders are investigated, materialized, and circulated in different institutional and sociocultural settings. I am currently working on two main projects: The first is a book project (tentatively titled Model Behavior) on animal behavior genetics research that uses ethnographic methods to explore how scientists develop and deploy animal models to produce molecular knowledge about human alcoholism and anxiety. The second project, conducted in collaboration with Alberto Cambrosio (McGill University) and Peter Keating (UQAM) and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, examines the recent history of oncology research and the introduction of molecular analysis techniques into clinical trials and clinical practice. I also worked on the history of the development and commercialization of the biolistic gene gun, a technology used to generate some of the first genetically modified agricultural plants. I have previously held positions as a postdoctoral fellow in the Social Studies of Medicine department at McGill University and as the Reviews Editor for Social Studies of Science, and is currently a Collaborating Editor for Social Studies of Science.


Ph.D., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, Science and Technology Studies, 2011
M.A., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, Science and Technology Studies, 2007
B.Sc., University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Genetics and Social and Political Thought, 2004

Selected Publications

  • Model Behavior: Animal Experiments, Complexity, and the Genetics of Psychiatric Disorders. Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press.
  • “Model Homes for Model Organisms: Intersections of Animal Welfare and Behavioral Neuroscience around the Environment of the Laboratory Mouse.” BioSocieties 11:1 (2016), 46–66.
  • “A Knockout Experiment: Disciplinary Divides and Experimental Skill in Animal Behavior Genetics,” Medical History 59:3 (2015), 465–485.
  • Nelson, Nicole C., Peter Keating, Alberto Cambrosio, Adriana Aguilar-Mahecha, and Mark Basik, “Testing Devices or Experimental Systems? Cancer Clinical Trials Take the Genomic Turn,” Social Science and Medicine 111 (2014), 74-83.
  • “Modeling Mouse, Human, and Discipline: Epistemic Scaffolds in Animal Behavior Genetics,” Social Studies of Science 43:1 (2013), 3-29.
  • Nelson, Nicole C., Peter Keating, and Alberto Cambrosio, “On being ‘Actionable’: Clinical Sequencing and the Emerging Contours of Genomic Medicine in Oncology,” New Genetics and Society 32:4 (2013), 405-428.
  • “Shooting Genes, Distributing Credit: Narrating the Development of the Biolistic Gene Gun,” Science as Culture 21:2 (2012), 205-232.

Courses Taught: