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Jacob Neal


  • Philosophy of the Molecular Life Sciences

  • History and Philosophy of Biology

  • Philosophy of Science



Postdoctoral Associate;
Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Western University

My primary research interests are in philosophy of the molecular life sciences. The molecular life sciences—biophysics, biochemistry, and structural and molecular biology—offer untapped potential for history and philosophy of science. My research examines epistemological, methodological, and historical questions that arise in these sciences, and it considers how debates from philosophy of science must be adapted to fit the molecular and often biomedical context of research in these fields.

My research has three major strands. The first examines explanatory practices in molecular and structural biology. I am particularly interested in the changes in explanations of protein function associated with the shift from static to dynamic representations of proteins in the late twentieth century. The second strand evaluates reduction, unification, and other strategies for dealing with the epistemic and methodological challenges posed by working at the intersection of biology, physics, and chemistry. The third considers conceptual issues in the evolution of proteins. It explores how new knowledge of protein dynamics poses a problem for existing accounts of biological function.

I received my PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021. Prior to joining Pitt HPS, I completed an MSc in Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics (LSE). I also have an MA in Philosophy from the University of Memphis, MS and BS degrees in Biochemistry and Structural Biology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and the University of Richmond, as well as a BA in Gender Studies from the University of Richmond.

Neal, Jacob P. (forthcoming) “The Evolutionary Origins of Cooperation in the Hominin Lineage: A Critique of Boyd and Richerson’s Cultural Group Selection Account” Philosophy of Science. [Preprint]

Allen, Colin and Neal, Jacob P. (2020) “Teleological Notions in Biology” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta, Editor

Neal, Jacob P. (2019) “When Causal Specificity Does Not Matter (Much): Insights from HIV Treatment.” Philosophy of Science 86 (5): 836–46. [Paper]

Neal, Jacob P. (2013). “Why We Shouldn’t All Be Eliminative Materialists (Yet): Understanding the Failure of Churchland’s Argument.” Rerum Causae: Journal of the LSE Philosophy Society, 4 (1): 7-13. [Paper]

Bailey J, Powell L, Sinanan L, Neal, J, Li M, Smith T, Bell E. (2011). A novel mechanism of V-type zinc inhibition of glutamate dehydrogenase results from disruption of subunit interactions necessary for efficient catalysis. FEBS 278 (17): 3140-3151. [Paper]