I did my PhD at the UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies in 2007 under the supervision of Professor Donald Gillies and Dr Michela Massimi. My research project involved studying causation in medicine. Despite the reliance of medicine on causal arguments for both practice (for example, diagnosis depends on finding the cause(s) of symptoms) and research (for instance, finding the cause(s) of disease) the nature of causal processes is poorly understood. As part of this project, I studied the development of causal arguments from the general medical literature. The diseases that I studied are two early examples of viral oncogenesis – Burkitt's lymphoma (caused by the Epstein Barr virus) and cervical cancer (caused by the Human Papilloma virus). They are interesting, from the perspective of the philosophy of science at least, as their discovery led to significant changes in the nature of causal arguments used in medicine.
As a counterpoint to the study of causation in the general medical literature, I also investigated more specialist work on causation arising from medical epidemiology. In many ways these writings are a parallel literature on causation to that of philosophy. What is interesting, to me at least, is that despite many similarity of ideas about cause, the medical and philosophical literatures rarely intersect. The third strand of my research is therefore based in the philosophical literature on causation, and in particular to attempt to develop a broadly 'philosophical' analysis of medical causation.