By Noori Srivastava
Wednesday, April 15th – The Kennedy Institute of Ethics (KIE) held the first annual Undergraduate Bioethics Research Showcase in Georgetown’s historic Bioethics Research Library. A grant from Mary Elizabeth Groff Surgical Medical Research and Education Charitable Trust funded the event “In virtue of being embodied creatures, and the specific kind of biological creatures we are, we face particular kinds of moral challenges,” stated Maggie Little, director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, “We use technology – and culture – to shape our own biology, extend our life, challenge our biological limits, manipulate our bodies and our planets. All of these generate ethical questions…”
Student presentations embodied this sentiment, and after months of research, the undergraduates attempted to tackle these questions through Academic Papers, Business Plans, Journalism Articles, Multimedia and Performing Arts, Literary or Literary Analyses, Policy Proposals, Posters, and Videos. A panel of judges from the KIE evaluated the presentations and awarded First Place ($500), Second Place ($250), and Third Place ($100) to submissions within each category.
Some students saw their projects come to fruition with the help of faculty advisors. The Showcase not only sparked discussion among students, faculty, and KIE researchers but also allowed presenters to share their knowledge with peers in an engaging and personalized way. The Showcase welcomed visitors with a pamphlet that served as a guide through the eight categories of submissions. Guests could freely walk through the exhibit, with presentations placed artfully about the quiet study space, so they could explore and fully appreciate the depths of the students’ work.
“I discussed my idea with my Bioethics professor, presented my argument to the researchers of KIE, and did independent research to write the policy paper,” said Janelle Spira NHS ’18 about writing her policy paper Death Row Inmates Should be Permitted to Donate Organs.
The KIE provided three workshops to help students hone their skills and perfect their medium of communication. Dr. Mark Rom, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the McCourt School of Public Policy, led the Writing Ethical and Effective Policy Proposals workshop. He taught students effective statement of an argument, conveying evidence to support a position, and writing recommendations.
The Methods and Non-Traditional Scholarship in the Humanities workshop, headed by Professor Colva Weissenstien, made connections between humanities and non-traditional scholarship. Christine Slobogin COL ’16 incorporated such techniques in her First Prize winning Academic Paper, The Pregnant Female in Jan Van Riemsdyk’s Art and William Hunter’s Science.
Martina Darragh, the Deputy Director of Reference Services at the Bioethics Research Library (BRL), and Roxie France-Nuriddin, the BRL’s Reference and Program Specialist, led the Resources and Tools for Research workshop. Students could acquire knowledge of different search tools and resources to assist in the research for their projects.
Visitors could conclude their exploration of the exhibits with the Generate Gallery: An Exploration of Personal Genomics through Art, sponsored by Georgetown’s EthicsLab cohort “The XX”. Art pieces pertaining to the Personal Genomics comprised the submissions for the Generate Gallery. Personal Genomics, or the sequencing of individual genomes to develop personalized medicine, has grown in relevance within the field of genomics with the advent of the Precision Medicine Institute, announced by the Obama Administration. The Generate Gallery made the complex topic of Personal Genomics engaging and intuitive to grasp by viewers. The Bioethics Research Showcase encouraged undergraduate students to think out of the box and creatively study and share their knowledge of bioethical topics with their peers.