I am a philosopher of science and conceptual theoretical biologist working on conceptual questions in and about the life sciences. My main research interests are evolutionary theory, scientific explanations, classification in the sciences, natural kinds, connections between classification and nature conservation, and research ethics and responsibility. My research has been supported by grants from the German (DFG), French (ANR), and Flemish (FWO) research foundations, the German Federal Ministry of Education and research (BMBF), the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture (MWK), as well as the John Templeton Foundation and the VolkswagenStiftung.
Officially I am Professor of Philosophy of Science and Technology in the Institute of Philosophy and the Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences (CELLS) at Leibniz Universität Hannover. In addition I also am Associated Faculty in the Socially Engaged Philosophy of Science Group (SEPOS) at Michigan State University; an elected Fellow of The Linnean Society of London; Council Member of the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB); a founding member and current member of the Steering Committee of the German Society for the Philosophy of Science (Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftsphilosophie, GWP); one of three founders and Editors in Chief of the Springer book series History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences; and one of three Editors in Chief of the Journal for General Philosophy of Science.
I hold two Master's degrees (one in physics, based on laboratory research on the behavior of multilayered superconductors in tilted magnetic fields; the other in philosophy of science, based on research on Everett's interpretation of quantum theory) and a Doctorate (in philosophy of biology / theoretical biology, with a dissertation on the species problem in the philosophy of biology), all from Leiden University. I wrote my doctoral dissertation as a Research Assistant at the (meanwhile abolished) endowed Chair of Philosophy of Biology, which at the time was housed in the wonderful (but nonetheless also abolished) Theoretical Biology group in Leiden's Institute of Biology - an eclectic group of philosophers of biology, bioethicists, mathematical and computational biologists, methodologists, and phylogenetic systematists. While theoretical biology today is usually understood as being mainly/only mathematical and computational biology, in Leiden it was understood as also encompassing conceptual theoretical work. The journal Acta Biotheoretica, for which I did editorial work in various capacities for 15 years, still continues this tradition. Pursuing a doctorate in this environment not only provided me with a broad knowledge in the philosophy, methodology and theoretical foundations of the biological sciences, but also showed me the value of doing interdisciplinary research and of housing philosophers of science in science departments. It also convinced me that there is no - and that there should not be any - divide between the philosophy of a particular science and theoretical work in that science.
After having finished my dissertation work in Leiden I moved to Leibniz Universität Hannover, where I have gone through the sequence from Postdoc, Lecturer / Assistant Professor, Junior Professor to (Full) Professor. In between my second Master's and my PhD at Leiden I have been a trainee Policy Officer at the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), where I have worked on topics in GMO regulation and medical ethics. I have been a Visiting Fellow at the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science (University of Minnesota - Twin Cities) for the Fall Semester 2008 and again for the Fall Semester 2013, and a Visiting Fellow in the Center for Interdisciplinarity (C4I) at Michigan State University for the 2018-2019 academic year.
I am Editor in Chief (together with Philippe Huneman, Paris, and Charles Wolfe, Toulouse) of the Springer book series History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences (series homepage here). Contact me with any questions about the series, or if you're interested in publishing your book or edited collection with us.
I am also an Editorial Board member of the Springer book series Science: Philosophy, History and Education (see here).
I am Editor in Chief (together with Helmut Pulte, Bochum, and Guido Bacciagaluppi, Utrecht) of the Journal for General Philosophy of Science (see here). The JGPS is associated with the Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftsphilosophie (the German Society for the Philosophy of Science, of which I am a co-founder) and I am associate member of the society's Steering Committee as liaison officer between the Journal and the Society.
In 2011, together with six colleagues from other German universities I founded the German Society for the Philosophy of Science (Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftsphilosophie, GWP). I have served two terms as Treasurer on the GWP's Governing Board (2011-2016) and remain on the Steering Committee as Associate Board Member (liaison officer with the Journal for General Philosophy of Science).
At my university I'm a member of the Investigative Committee for Good Scientific Practice, as well as the Committee for Responsibility in Research. I am also Chair of the Admissions Committee as well as the Examination Committee of our M.A. Program in Philosophy of Science. I have served 4 years on the Education Committee of the Faculty of Humanities, as well as one term (2 years) as Chair and one term (2 years) as Deputy Chair of the Institute of Philosophy.