Bioethics Forums Timeline

Explore the timeline below to learn why and how we developed our forums. Copies of the forums themselves can be found at the bottom of this page.

On June 26, we participated in the Museum of Science's "Building with Biology" event. At this event, we assisted in guiding a forum discussion that was open to members of the public. The topic of the forum was on using gene drives to genetically engineer malaria-causing mosquitoes and control their population. The forum consisted of a short presentation, followed by members of the public getting broken into groups of five to ten. From there, they discussed if and how genetically engineered mosquitoes should be implemented, using a set of pre-written questions to guide their discussion. With our team mediating the discussion, members of the public were able to learn key principles in synthetic biology, as well as consider the applications and ethical implications of the field. This experience taught us that forums could act as a tool to make synthetic biology interesting and accessible to the public.

In July, we volunteered to host a program called Summer Pathways which introduces high school students to STEM fields at Boston University. We were asked to design a workshop with interactive activities to introduce them to the synthetic biology field. We remembered how useful the forum from Building with Biology at the Museum of Science was in introducing synthetic biology to the public, so we decided to write our own forum for the students. We chose to write our forum, from scratch, on Martian Colonization. This subject incorporates many applications of synthetic biology and is an exciting topic; therefore, we thought it was the best subject to introduce synthetic biology to the Summer Pathways group. As a team, we managed to write a forum that created a lively bioethics discussion. The combined positive feedback and joy we had writing our own forum led us to pursue writing more bioethics forums in order to facilitate bidirectional learning with an audience in our age range.

We designed two distinct forums for our Integrated Human Practices. The first, “Martian Colonization,” focused on terraforming the Red Planet to make it hospitable for human life. The second forum, “Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes”, is focused on the ethical implications of modifying mosquitoes carrying malaria. We wanted to have our forums consist of information of the highest quality so we reached out to experts in the field. While it was difficult to find an expert for “Martian Colonization” (and those we could find were on sabbatical), we did consult an expert on “Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes.” That expert was Andie Smidler, a PhD student of Dr. George Church and Dr. Flaminia Catteruccia. We met with her in person so she could review our work and ensure the scientific integrity of the research while also presenting the material in an approachable way.

On September 14th, we tested our forums on biomedical engineering students at Boston University taking Cellular and Molecular Biology. To pair with their molecular cell biology curriculum, we administered our “Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes” forum. We were able to generate a wonderful discussion about the long term effects of genetically engineering organisms and the ecological disruptions that could potentially arise. We were also able to begin generating discussions about CRISPR and its ownership, a contemporary hot topic in the field of synthetic biology. Additionally, we were approached by Boston Arts Academy to administer our forums to their biology honors students in the coming weeks.

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Coming Soon! (Pending final editing and field testing)

Coming Soon! (Pending final editing and field testing)