Nicholas Shapiro is a Matter, Materials and Culture Fellow at the Science History Institute. His work tracks the way that industrialized nations attempt to evacuate common toxins from the atmosphere. He grounds this topic in formaldehyde, the most common indoor air toxicant, and its precursor methane, a hyperpotent greenhouse gas. For his doctoral work he tracked the quasi-legal resale of 150,000 former emergency housing units (FEMA trailers) as they were resold across the country using a medley of ethnography, analytical chemistry, and GIS mapping. During a postdoctorate at Goldsmiths, University of London, he helped develop a participatory design project aimed at monitoring the air-quality impacts of unconventional natural gas extraction in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

In his current book project Shapiro argues that the established avenues for detoxification (litigation, regulation, science, remediation, and event-based reform) are integral to our inability to achieve escape velocity from the desires, practices, and materials that coproduce the abrasive atmospheres of the durative present. Nick’s work on the chemicals that compose and corrode late industrial worlds moves between the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the arts.

Shapiro is also an Open Air fellow at the environmental monitoring nonprofit Public Lab and a collaborator on Tomas Saraceno’s utopic art project called the Aerocene.