Director of the Society, Technology, and Policy Program and
Assistant Professor, Social Science & Policy Studies at
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
My research focuses on biotechnology regulation, both in food production and in reproductive medicine. My interest in agricultural biotechnology regulation and the differences between the American and European approaches to risk assessment and management regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was the foundation of my doctoral research. I have continued to study food safety and food security issues, particularly the development of new food production technologies, in the United States, the European Union, and its member states, in addition to expanding my geographic focus to the development of regulatory frameworks for biotechnology in Sub-Saharan Africa. My research in these issue areas serves as the foundation for several of my classes at WPI, including The Politics of Food and Environmental and Risk Communication.
I also explore regulatory issues in reproductive medicine, with a focus on genetic testing procedures used during in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. Biopolitics and Utopia, a collection that I co-edited with Professor Andrew Byers, includes my research on the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis in IVF treatments performed in the United States. This part of my research agenda also includes an examination of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its implications for the delivery of reproductive health services. My research interests in the regulation of genetic engineering for humans, plants, and animals inform a number of the environmental studies courses that I teach at WPI, such as: Introduction to Environmental Studies, Environmental Policy and Law, and International Environmental Policy. I also advise WPI students working on projects related to the fields of food safety, food security, and public health.
In addition, I have incorporated my interest in literary studies with those of political science and policy. My work in utopian studies examines the utopian drive in biopolitical interventions by the state, as well as how science fiction reflects political and cultural fears about biotechnology. My course Politics of Literature: A New World Order showcased some of these themes, as do some of my recent publications: Biopolitics and Utopia and chapters in Margaret Atwood’s Apocalypses and The Age of Dystopia (forthcoming). I have also developed a class, The Politics of Plague, that examines state responses to epidemic. The course uses pop culture and zombie apocalypse content to introduce students to pandemics, before turning to specific, historical case studies to teach students about local, national, and international policy responses.
Building links between research and courses is important, as it helps to strengthen my classes by providing students with up-to-date content. I employ active learning techniques in my classroom to keep students engaged and to meet learning objectives for the course. I write about my use of role-playing and simulation activities for the American Political Science Association’s Teaching and Learning Conference, as well as for this blog and the site Active Learning in Political Science.