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Science and Ethics of Biotechnology


Block 1: Ralph Bertrand

Block 2: Lori Driscoll

This Course fulfills the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World requirement.

The first block of this course will cover issues in contemporary genetics from conceptual and laboratory-based approaches that foster critical thinking, laboratory skills and quantitative reasoning. Students will discuss the ethical and moral dilemmas associated with contemporary genetics (social, legal, and medical) using their newly acquired knowledge of the science. Students will develop communication skills through oral presentations, use of the library, and a writing assignment that includes a synopsis of a scientific article.  The course also contains a laboratory component that allows students to participate in several genetic experiments.

In the second block of the course, we will specifically examine the scientific, social, and ethical issues associated with the research and implementation of "enhancement" technologies in neuroscience, such as brain-machine interfaces, pharmacological enhancements, and genetic technologies not covered in the previous FYE block. We will cover background material in neuroanatomy and neuropharmacology, and we will use this knowledge to critically evaluate popular books and primary scientific articles on current and future neural enhancement technologies. We will also design and conduct a behavioral experiment and write a report of our findings in scientific format.

A two-block course with a unique instructor each block; each block will receive a separate grade.


• Course involves occasional laboratory exercises

• No prior scientific experience necessary