Alison Renna is a PhD candidate studying the history of ideas, with a focus on the relationship between the interpreter and what is being interpreted in the life sciences. In her dissertation “The Symbiotic Mind” she writes about the problems that traveled under the sign of “religion” in the development of “ecosystems” as structuring interpretive metaphors for understanding human thought and its relationship with reality, beginning with the Manhattan Project in the 1940s and ending with research into the human microbiome-brain connection in the 2010s. Alison’s dissertation is co-directed by Noreen Khawaja and Joanna Radin. As a 2024 Yale Institute for Social and Policy Studies Fellow, she also researches the legal potential for environmental protections contained in the U.S. Constitution’s articulation of its stakeholders.
Alison earned a Masters of Philosophy in Religious Studies at Yale in 2021, a Masters of Arts in the History of Science and Medicine at Yale in 2020, and a Bachelor of Arts in Science, Technology, and Society and Religious Studies from Franklin and Marshall College in 2018, summa cum laude. Her work at Yale has been funded by a Stephen and Clara A. Condict Fellowship and by the National Science Foundation.
At Yale College, Alison teaches about fundamental problems in thought that arise in science, religion, and the project of interpretation. She has taught courses with Yale faculty on the philosophy of science and religion, phenomenology in existentialist philosophy and science studies, the fate of metaphysics, Roman Catholicism, and the problem of the “neighbor” and the “other” in the history of philosophy. She has given talks on philosophy, religion, and science for environmental organizations, university science departments, and in diplomatic fora at the United Nations.
She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture and on the steering committee of the American Academy of Religion’s Science, Technology, and Society unit. She founded and co-leads the Undergraduate Science and Technology Studies reading group at Yale. In the past, she has served as chair of Facilities and Healthcare for the Yale Graduate Student Assembly. In that role, she successfully advocated for humanities and science stipends for graduate trainees to be made equal at Yale. She has also served as the head graduate affiliate of Pierson College.
“Fit and Form in Science and Religion” in American Religions, 5, no. 1 (2023): 161-171.
“Microbiomes” for the Machines in Between Project.