In Summer 2011 the Nanotechnology and Society Research Group and the newly formed NU Ethics Institute initiated a fellowship program to support the study of social and ethical issues associated with the development, dissemination, regulation, and use of emerging technologies. The program, which embodies Northeastern University’s commitment to being a leader in responsible technological innovation, brought a group of six advanced graduate students and early-career researchers to campus for ten weeks to work on a diverse range of research projects.
Among the topics the fellows studied were geoengineering to address global climate change, the use of genetic testing in employment decisions, the use of reproductive technologies to select the sex of one’s children, the justification for property rights over digital goods, the use of genetic ancestor profiling in criminal justice contexts, and the testing of cognitive enhancement technologies on non-human animals. In addition to conducting cutting edge research in these areas, fellows were encouraged to develop their work in ways that are accessible to non-specialists and that effectively communicate the importance of the ethical issues raised by emerging technologies. Fellows worked closely with one another and with Northeastern University faculty in an interdisciplinary setting to execute their projects.
Two fellows, John Basl and Valentina Urbanek, are former Northeastern undergraduate students who recently received their Ph.D.’s in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and MIT, respectively. Urbanek is currently a lecturer in philosophy at Tufts University and Basl begins this fall as an assistant professor of philosophy at Bowling Green State University. This year’s summer fellowship program was funded through a National Science Foundation award (Grant No. SES-0609078). More information about this summer’s research fellows and their projects can be found here.