Remaking yeast: Metaphors as scientific tools in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 2.0

Erika Amethyst Szymanski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synthetic biology appears to be moving toward engineering whole living organisms. This article addresses how Saccharomyces cerevisiae 2.0, a whole-genome construction project, presents an argument for a route toward that end through discursive tools it employs to construct “synthetic yeast.” I analyze metaphors in recent peer-reviewed literature associated with the synthetic yeast project, asking how these metaphors shape the nature of synthetic yeast and relate the yeast to its parts and to its engineers. While chromosomes and other genome components are handled with metaphors emphasizing scientific control, the absence of these metaphors’ extension to the whole organism leaves space for the synthetic yeast itself to have unpredicted and surprising emergent characteristics. I argue that examining metaphors as instruments of scientific construction in disciplinary discourse, independent of their use in science communication to lay audiences, contributes to conversations about how and what scientists construct in their movements toward ‘engineering life.’
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416–437
Number of pages22
Issue number3
Early online date21 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019


  • synthetic biology
  • yeast
  • genomes
  • metaphors
  • discourse analysis


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