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Building a Center for Genetic Engineering and Society


The NCSU Chancellor announced a competition for interdisciplinary faculty cluster hires. Drs. Fred Gould, Bill Kinsella, Nora Haenn, Alun Lloyd and Nick Haddad wrote a proposal for hiring three new faculty members to help us expand from our NSF-funded Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program focus and institutionalize a Genetic Engineering and Society Center (GES Center). Of 72 proposals submitted, we were one of 12 that were funded. While our IGERT program focuses on the interdisciplinary study of genetically engineered pests and society, the GES Center will consider all engineered organisms from plants to microbes. The products of the new field of synthetic biology will be one focus of the GES Center. We have already hired a senior faculty member, Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, in the area of Science Policy and Society. She has formal training in molecular biology, is self-trained in governance of new technologies, and is respected by the biology and social sciences academic communities. She will co-direct the development of the GES Center. We are in the process of hiring a second faculty member with expertise in Science Policy and Society, and an additional faculty member in International Development Economics. These hires will fill gaps in the expertise at NCSU that we see as necessary for building the GES Center.

Additionally, we have worked with three colleges at North Carolina State University (NCSU) to gain commitments of $250K each over a five year period to help build the GES Center. This resulted in leveraging an additional $500K from the Provost over the five year period. The total internal university funding is therefore $1.25 Million. These funds will be used to grow the GES Center and to begin research projects that can compete for Federal and private foundation funding. The following is the vision statement for the GES Center: “We envision NCSU as a leading institution in genetic engineering and synthetic biology technologies, unique in using in-depth dialogue among the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and citizens to provide researchers and publics with rigorous, trustworthy analyses of how specific products of these technologies may impact society and the environment. The proposed Center will foster innovative research and education, while acting to connect the university to local and global communities.”

Address Goals

1) Cultivate a world-class, broadly inclusive science and engineering workforce and expand the scientific literacy of all citizens. We intend to build a world class GES Center that assists in the responsible development and assessment of genetic engineering technologies. This center will focus on the training of students in both the technical details and societal aspects of these technologies. We will involve local and global publics in our activities. 2) Foster research that will advance the frontiers of knowledge, emphasizing areas of greatest opportunity and potential benefit and establishing the U.S. as a global leader in fundamental transformational science and engineering. We believe that our GES Center’s emphasis on continuing rigorous dialogue and research across the biological science, social sciences, and humanities will fundamentally transform the way that our students and involved publics examine the science of genetic engineering and its products.