PhD student Vera makes project about tears

Watery embodiment. This is what Vera Weetzel at Tema G makes their PhD project about. They have a background in biology and biomedical sciences and are interested in connecting the human body with nature.

– Tears are gendered. They seem to be connected to the thought of not being professional, Vera Weetzel says.

They see themselves as an emotional person who cries easily. Because of binary gender stereotypes they struggle to be seen as professional and rational enough, despite this.

PhD student Vera Weetzel Vera Weetzel, PhD student at Gender studies Photo credit: Melinda Reyes Hiltunen – This is very much a feminist Gender Studies project, they describe their work. I want to look at the power dynamics in for instance fish and tears that are the central points in my research. They bring up points that are explicitly about gender relations, like these different ideas about crying.

– I’m interested in developing ways of getting to know watery bodies in ways that are less hierarchical, without separating humans from nature.

Vera Weetzel has a bachelor’s degree in biology and two master’s degrees
– one in biomedical sciences and one in gender studies. Before they became a PhD student at Linköping University they studied in Utrecht University, the Netherlands. They really wanted to study at Tema G, so Linköping University was the only university they applied for during the finishing times of their master’s.

And the application apparently was a success. Vera Weetzel is now on their second year as a PhD student and loves the university, even though they are used to bigger cities than Linköping.

– There are so many inspiring, super supportive people here in the Tema environment, they say. 
– Working with The Posthumanities Hub at Tema G has been a dream.

In the middle of December 2017 Vera Weetzel is going to the biotechnology/bio art workshop “Merry CRISPR”, organized by The Bioartsociety at Biofilia, Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. Vera Weetzel, Professor Cecilia Åsberg and Postdoctor Marietta Radomska are going together as representatives for The Posthumanities Hub. They are planning to speak about the somewhat controversial technology CRISPR from a Gender Studies perspective. 

– Right now I’m preparing for the workshop, and aside from that I’m trying to read a lot that is relevant for my project.

Vera Weetzel describes the PhD phase they are in as a creative process in developing the project. And since they are thinking about making it in the field of bioart, they might also be inspired in Helsinki.

– Bio art is an art practice where artists make use of biological materials and biotechnologies, Vera Weetzel explains.

They emphasize that they do not want their art project to be hierarchical, for example if zebrafish are going to be practically involved. Then it has to be well thought out how they are handled in relation to human beings. The idea is to work in a collaborative way with the fish, instead of seeing them only as research or art objects.

Vera Weetzel has worked with zebrafish before, when they did an internship at a research group at the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, during their biomedical sciences master’s. Using bioart in their PhD project, Vera Weetzel wants to work with the fish in a more creative way. 

– I think it’s important that Tema G includes work on natural science topics from a transdisciplinary gender perspective, because the humanities and the natural sciences shouldn’t be separate, Vera Weetzel says.

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