Ruth Müller

Of Rats and Women: Gender, and Knowledge in Environmental Epigenetics

Environmental epigenetics is the study of how environmental signals affect gene expression. Within this growing field of molecular biology, experiments on the epigenetic effects of maternal care on offspring health have received much scientific and public attention and are often called upon to showcase how environmental epigenetics will create a new understanding of life as inherently biosocial. While this research is exciting and offers possible opportunities for collaboration between molecular biology and the social sciences, it is also necessary to consider its political dimensions; for example how commonsense assumptions about sex and gender, but also race and class are present in the design, interpretation and dissemination of experiments on the epigenetic effects of maternal care mostly conducted in rodents. A critical analysis of these dimensions can be a fruitful starting point for a imagining a new form of biosocial knowledge production that includes researchers from the biological and the social sciences.

Research Areas

Interactions of research policy, institutional values and academic knowledge cultures; Norms and practices of academic career development and their epistemic consequences; Sociology and epistemology of the life sciences; Gender, diversity and feminist technoscience studies


Ruth Müller is Assistant Professor of Science & Technology Policy at the Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS) at the TU München. She is a researcher in the interdisciplinary field of Science & Technology Studies (STS), with a background in molecular biology (MSc) and sociology (PhD). Her work explores the interactions between society, policy and scientific knowledge production, with a focus on the life sciences and biomedicine.


Müller, Ruth and Kenney, Martha. forthcoming. „Of Rats and Women: Narratives of Motherhood in Environmental Epigenetics“. BioSocieties.
Müller, Ruth. forthcoming. „Der epigenetische Körper. Zwischen biosozialer Komplexität und Umweltdeterminismus“. In: Villa, Paula-Irene, Wustmann, Julia, Loick Molina, Steffen und Meßmer, Anna-Katharina. Hrsg. „Cut’n Paste The Body. Bodies, Genders, Technologies.“
Müller, Ruth, Pickersgill, Martyn, Niewöhner, Jörg, Martin, Paul and Cunningham-Burley, Sarah. 2013. „Mapping the New Molecular Landscape: Social and Ethical Aspects of Epigenetics“. New Genetics & Society 32,4. 429–447. DOI.


Prof. Dr. Ruth Müller
Assistant Professor for Science & Technology Policy
Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS)
TU München
Augustenstr. 44-46
D – 80333 München
Tel.: +49 (0)89-289-29214


Technische Universität München