Tuesday, September 4, 2012

AUT 12 Micro-course on Synthetic Biology in Question

Fall 2012
Synthetic Biology in Question
HUM 597A
1 CR (C/NC)

Designed for graduate students across the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and professions, this course aims to prepare students to engage with and reflect on a two-day conference on "Synthetic Biology in Question."

Celia Lowe, Anthropology and International Studies
Gaymon Bennett, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Course Meeting Dates and Times:
Mon, Oct 29, 9:30-11:20 am, CMU 202
 Mon, Nov 5, 9:30-11:20 am, CMU 202

Synthetic Biology Conference:
Tues, Nov 13, 9:00-6:00 pm, CMU 202
Wed, Nov 14, 9:00 am-1:00 pm, CMU 202
Mon, Nov 19, 9:30-11:20 am, CMU 202

Course description:
Over the last decade, engineers, social scientists, funders and the media have established synthetic biology as a prominent new brand of bio-engineering, one promising the routinized and standardized engineering of living systems. The brand's success has turned on its claims to technical novelty and a re-imagined future of health, wealth and security, as well as the fact that proponents offer a unified story to justify and draw together divergent research programs-from the modularization of genetic circuits to the production of biofuels. Crucially, synthetic biology's rise to prominence has been facilitated by the sustained engagement of scholars from the human and social sciences, who have helped make talk of ethics, openness, and security part of synthetic biology's self-definition.

This micro-seminar will examine synthetic biology's rise to prominence, and pose the question of the extent to which synthetic biology may be exemplary of the dynamics of new engineering and scientific subfields as well as the political, ethical and cultural conditions of their rise and stabilization. It will examine the ways in which social scientists, philosophers, anthropologists and others have involved themselves in synthetic biology's formation, and raise the question of the ethics of such attempts at collaboration.

"Synthetic Biology in Question" is part of Biological Futures in a Globalized World , a jointly sponsored project of the University of Washington and the Center for Biological Futures at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.