About Me

Director of the Society, Technology, & Policy Program,
Assistant Professor, Social Science & Policy Studies at
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

Prof. Stapleton

My research focuses broadly on how governments regulate scientific advancements and the ethical challenges that often present themselves as new technologies develop. Within this frame, my work has more specifically focused 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 core of my doctoral research, which included fieldwork in France. That research project has, in turn, provided a solid foundation for continued inquiries into food safety and food security issues. Some of my work has continued to explore how regulatory differences in risk assessment and management have led to policy divergence in regulatory standards on either side of the Atlantic, which creates obstacles in US-EU trade negotiations. I have also begun to look more closely at food security issues at a domestic level (responses to food deserts), as well as at a global level (food security as a human right). I have parlayed my research in these issue areas into developing courses at WPI, like 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 history 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 publications: the Biopolitics and Utopia volume and chapters in Margaret Atwood’s Apocalypses and The Age of Dystopia. 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 have presented research on my use of role-playing and simulation activities for the American Political Science Association’s Teaching and Learning Conference, and I have written about those experiences for Active Learning in Political Science.