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Beckett Sterner

Beckett Sterner

Assistant Professor, School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


School of Life Sciences
Arizona State University
PO Box 874501
Tempe, AZ 85287-4501


  • Senior Global Futures Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory
  • Assistant Professor, School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Program Lead for Big Data and Biodiversity, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation
  • Affiliated Faculty, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation


Beckett Sterner studies how mathematics is transforming biology, including biodiversity data aggregation, evolution of biological individuality, evolutionary tempo and mode, and methodology in systematic biology. He came to ASU in 2016 as an assistant professor in the Biology and Society Program and affiliated faculty in philosophy.

He started his career working in a computational biology lab studying protein function during college at Massachuseets Institute of Technology, and then switched to doing history and philosophy of science for his doctorate at the University of Chicago. He was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Field Museum in Chicago (2012-2014) and a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Michigan Society of Fellows (2014-2016).


  • PhD, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Chicago, 2012
  • MS, Statistics, University of Chicago, 2011
  • MA, Philosophy, University of Chicago, 2009
  • BS, Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006


External Links

Journal Articles


Franz, N. and B. Sterner. 2018. To increase trust, change the social design behind aggregated biodiversity data. Database 2018(1): bax100. DOI: 10.1093/database/bax100.

Sterner, B. and S. Lidgard. 2018. Moving past the systematic wars. Journal of the History of Biology 51(1):31-67. DOI: 10.1007/s10739-017-9471-1. (link )


Sterner, B. 2017. Individuating population lineages: A new genealogical criterion. Biology & Philosophy 32(5):683-703. DOI: 10.1007/s10539-017-9580-4. (link )

Sterner, B. and N. M. Franz. 2017. Taxonomy for humans or computers? Cognitive pragmatics for big data. Biological Theory 12(2):99-111. DOI: 10.1007/s13752-017-0259-5. (link )


Sterner, B. 2015. Pathways to pluralism about biological individuality. Biology & Philosophy 30(5):609-628. DOI: 10.1007/s10539-015-9494-y. (link )


Sterner, B. 2014. The practical value of biological information for research. Philosophy of Science 81(2):175-194. DOI: 10.1086/675679. (link )

Sterner, B. and S. Lidgard. 2014. The normative structure of mathematization in systematic biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 46(Jun):44-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsc.2014.03.001. (link )


Sterner, B. 2009. Object spaces: An organizing strategy for biological theorizing. Biological Theory 4(3):280-286. DOI: 10.1162/biot.2009.4.3.280. (link )


Zhao, F., S. Li, B. W. Sterner and J. Xu. 2008. Discriminative learning for protein conformation sampling. Proteins 73(1):228-240. DOI: 10.1002/prot.22057 . (link )


Sterner, B., R. Singh and B. Berger. 2007. Prediction and annotating catalytic residues: An information theoretic approach. Journal of Computatlonal Biology 14(8):1058-1073. DOI: 10.1089/cmb.2007.0042. (link )

Book Chapters

In Press

Sterner, B. The epistemology of causal selection: Insights from systems biology. In: Hanley, B., C. K. Waters and J. Woodward eds., Causal Reasoing in Biology. Universty of Minnesota Press.


Sterner, B. 2017. Individuality and the control of life cycles. Pp. Chapter 3 In: Lidgard, S. and L. K. Nyhart eds., Biological Individuality: Integrating Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Perspectives. University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 9780226446455.


Sterner, B. 2014. Well-structured biology: Numerical taxonomy's epistemic vision for systematics. Pp. 213-244 In: Hamilton, A. ed., The Evolution of Phylogenetic Sysematics. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA. ISBN: 978-0520276581.