25 Days of CoDI: Day 25

 On the final day of CoDI, Dr Haddow came to me, with her one-stop-body shop of animal transplants, mechanical implants and biofabricated organs…

Dr Gill Haddow: One-Stop-Human-Body Shop

 Gill Pig

What is your background?

Varied!  I have previously worked in a chip shop, in a hairdressers, and as a children’s shoe fitter, before heading to University in the nineties to pick up other qualifications.  I came to Edinburgh from Fife to study Sociology. I loved my under-graduate course so much I failed to notice that it was actually polite to leave (as the other under-grads had done). As no one pointed this out I just stayed until I gained my PhD in 2002. It was challenging but immensely rewarding doing the research for the thesis as I was interviewing bereaved relatives about the decision to donate organs.  These people were so generous in giving their time and sharing their stories with me in truly awful circumstances. 


Since then I have been based in Science, Technology and Innovations Studies doing what I do best. What does Gill do best you ask?  Well researching patient experiences and views of the public about new and emerging medical technologies, obviously (no wearing a pig head was not the answer). This has included telemedicine, DNA databases, xenotransplantation and, more recently implantable smart technologies.  As a sociologist I am really interested in how technology shapes our individual/social and bodies/life.  I currently have a Wellcome Trust award called ‘Animal, Mechanical and Me: The Search for Replaceable Hearts’. Additionally I am writing a book (no really!). It is titled ‘Embodiment and the Everyday Cyborgs: Technology of an Altered Life.’  More about the project is available at AnimalMechanicalandMe.com and folks can find me on twitter @gillhaddow.

What do you do now?

I am Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow based in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh.  I am based in High School Yards at Old Surgeon’s Hall. It is a lovely old building where, rumour has it, the nineteenth century body-snatchers Burke and Hare brought their wares.  They also found a couple of knights buried in the car park last year I think:  http://edinburghcentre.org/history.html

How does your CoDI talk fit with your research?

Well my ‘One-stop-Human-Body Shop’ pretty much summarises the alternatives that are currently possible to repair, replace or regenerate our bodies.  As more of us live longer (so the story goes) then more of us will need more in us due to the requirement to maintain our aging bodies.  So my question to the audience is this ‘If you had the choice would you choose a high risk human organ; a genetically modified pig organ; a totally artificial heart or a 3-D bioprinted one?’.  Some are further in development than others so it’s a hypothetical question sure. Nevertheless, I think the answers raise interesting questions about human beings, being human.

Why are you participating in CoDI 2016?

I am really excited about taking this question about repairing, replacing or regenerating the body out there if you like.  I strongly believe that academics in this ‘day and age’ we have a responsibility to get off out of the institution and engage folks with our ideas. 

Having said all that I can’t pretend I am not nervous however. Although there is no denying being on stage appeals to my inner drama queen or actress.

What are you looking forward to most from CoDI?

Learning & laughing; asking the audience questions they may not have ever thought about and getting back answers that I had never considered! 


Gill’s show takes place on Sunday 28th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/101/performance/1536/book-tickets

Gill Body Shop