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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


PhD student

College: Downing College

Supervisor: Tim Lewens and Marta Halina

Thesis topic: Philosophy of Astrobiology. 

Tentative title: Life in the Shadows: The N = 1 Problem in Astrobiology.

Thesis outline: My research project is on the philosophical foundations of astrobiology, that is, the study of life in the universe. Astrobiology aims to answer fundamental questions about life: Under what kind of environmental conditions can life originate? What kinds of life can possibly exist? What is it about our universe that makes it hospitable for life? Any answer to these questions must grapple with the fact that the only instance of life in the universe available to us is life on Earth. In the academic literature, this predicament has been dubbed the 'N = 1 problem’. The objective of my doctoral research is to clarify the nature of this problem. Philosophers and scientists alike agree that the N = 1 problem is a significant epistemic challenge, but philosophers have explored the roots and implications of the problem itself only to a very small extent. My dissertation analyzes, evaluates and refines existing explanations for this problem. I argue that there are a plurality of valid ways to conceive of life on Earth as an exemplary instance of life in the universe. Depending on the characteristics of life we are interested in, what we can learn about life outside of Earth varies to a great extent. I argue that we are able to trust our existing scientific knowledge of life to a much greater extent than claimed in the recent philosophical literature. Thus, in my dissertation I defend an optimistic view of our present ability to answer some of the fundamental questions about life in the universe pursued by astrobiologists. 

Research interests: Philosophy of astrobiology, habitability, extinction sciences, scientific pessimism, existential risk, and the long-term future of science.


Conferences & Talks 

2023 – ‘Explaining Life’, BSPS Annual Conference, University of Bristol.

2023 – ‘What Are Unconceived Alternatives?’ Workshop on Phil. of Orig. of Life Research, University of Cambridge.

2023 – ‘What Is an Anomaly?’, LCLU Coffee Series, University of Cambridge.

2023 – ‘Macropower’, Workshop on Pluralism in Existential Risk., University of Oxford.

2023 – ‘Realism for Existential Risk’, Workshop for Pluralism in Existential Risk., University of Oxford.

2023 – ‘Molecular Shadows’, Biennial European Astrobiology Conf., European Astrobiology Institute.

2023 – ‘Molecular Biases’, LCLU Science Day, University of Cambridge.

2022 – ‘The Long-term Future of Science', HPS Doctoral Workshop, University of Cambridge.

2022 – 'Against Biological Solipsism', presentation at the 'CHESS' seminar series on the philosophy of space science, University of Durham. 

2020 – 'What is Unavailable Evidence?', presentation at the virtual conference 'Lakatos' Undone Work', London School of Economics. 



2023 – HPS Part II Paper 4: Philosophy of Biology, University of Cambridge.

2023 – HPS Part II Paper 4: Ethics and Politics of Technology, University of Cambridge.

2022 – HPS Part II Paper 4: Philosophy of Economics

2021/22 – HPS Part II Paper 6: Ethics and Politics of Science and Medicine. 


Prior Education 

2020 – London School of Economics: M.Sc. in Philosophy and Public Policy, Distinction. 

2019 – University College London: M.Sc. in History & Philosophy of Science, Distinction. 

2013 – University of the Arts Bern: B.A. in Fine Arts. 

Non-Academic Background  

2017/18 – Zurich University of the Arts, School of Commons: Board Member & Programme Manager. 

2015/18 – Zurich University of the Arts, Dept. of Cultural Analysis: Publishing Assistant.

2017 – documenta 14: Educator. 

2016 – Manifesta 11: Educator.

2013/15 – Vice Magazine Switzerland: Editor.


2020 – Doctoral Scholarship, The British Society for the Philosophy of Science. 

2019 – STS Best Dissertation Prize for the best history and philosophy of science dissertation, University College London. 

2019 – STS Alumni Prize for outstanding contribution to life in the department, University College London. 

2017 – Critic in Residence fellowship, Studio Das Weisse Haus, Vienna. 


2021/2023: Course programmer & facilitator at Effective Altruism Cambridge.  

2018/19 – Student representative, dept. of Science & Technology Studies STS, University College London. 

2015 – Swiss Ambassador for the Surprise Magazine to the European Homeless Cup in Berlin. 






Contact Details

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