Dr. Allison M. Macfarlane, Chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Honorable Allison M. Macfarlane was sworn in as chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission July 9, 2012. She was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to a term expiring June 30, 2013. On July 1, 2013, Dr. Macfarlane was reconfirmed for a 5-year term.

Dr. Macfarlane, an expert on nuclear waste issues, holds a doctorate in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s of science degree in geology from the University of Rochester. Prior to beginning her term as the NRC’s 15th chairman, Dr. Macfarlane was an associate professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Her research has focused on environmental policy and international security issues associated with nuclear energy, especially the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle. In 2006, MIT Press published a book she co-edited, Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste, which explored technical issues at the proposed waste disposal facility at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

 

 

 

 

Dr. John Durant, Director of MIT Museum and Professor in the MIT STS Program.

John Durant received his BA in Natural Sciences from Queens’ College, Cambridge in 1972 and went on to take a PhD in History and Philosophy of Science, also at Cambridge, in 1977. After more than a decade in University Continuing Education (first, at the University of Swansea in Wales, and then at the University of Oxford), in 1989 he was appointed Assistant Director and Head of Science Communication at the Science Museum, London and Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Imperial College, London. In 2000, he was appointed Chief Executive of At-Bristol, a new independent science centre in the West of England. He came to MIT in July 2005, to take up a joint appointment as an Adjunct Professor in the STS Program and Director of the MIT Museum.

His earlier research was in the history of evolutionary and behavioral biology, with special reference to debates about animal nature and human nature in the late-19th and 20th centuries. More recently, however, he has undertaken sociological research on the public dimensions of science and technology. He is especially interested in public perceptions of the life sciences and biotechnology, in the role of public consultation in science and technology policy-making, and in the role of informal media (especially museums) in facilitating public engagement with science and technology.

 

 

Daniel Grushkin, Cofounder of Genspace

Mr. Grushkin is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he researches the emergent field of synthetic biology. He is also an Emerging Leader in Biosecurity at the UPMC Center of Health Security. In 2010, Grushkin cofounded Genspace in Brooklyn, NY, the world’s first community laboratory. Genspace functions as a neighborhood space for creative innovation and education in biotechnology. It democratizes access to science, giving students and laypeople the opportunity to learn about and use the latest tools of molecular and synthetic biology. In 2014, Fast Company ranked Genspace 4th among the world’s top 10 most innovative education companies.

Mr. Grushkin spoke about the foundations of the Do-It-Yourself Biology (DIYbio) movement that emerged in the mid-2000s and about its potential future. DIYbio seeks to spread the tools of biotechnology to the public with the hope that greater access and understanding will lead to faster and new sorts of innovation. The movement has the potential to increase public science education and awareness, but also bears risks uniquely associated with biotechnology. Mr. Grushkin discussed how the movement has evolved to address these issues, where the movement is heading, and how its existence may help shape public science engagement.