Past Event

The Ethics of Scientific Research

Café Society is excited to be hosting guest speakers on this week’s topic in all of our Chicago locations as part of Chicago Science in the City 2007!

Experimentation on animals for cosmetic research; biological and chemical weapons research; medical experimentation with human subjects; cloning; and stem cell research–these areas of scientific research fuel the ethical debate surrounding the pursuit of scientific research and progress. Will living things be harmed in the course of the research? How is harm defined? What is the value of an individual life measured against the potential value to the common good? If public safety could be threatened, should research be allowed? If a field of research offends a percentage of the population based on its religious beliefs, should that research be allowed or publicly funded? Many questions concerning ethics and science have spanned centuries; others have developed in response to new fields such as genetics and nanotechnology.

Some scholars contend that the First Amendment protects scientific research. They interpret the Free Speech Clause to include the notion of inquiry. Freedom of scientific inquiry (or research) is then defined as a fundamental right. Some perceive science and ethics as inherently separate fields, while others argue that they are inextricably bound together.

Should science and scientists be able to pursue any avenue of research and inquiry? Are ethics and science mutually exclusive of one another or should ethical questions always inform scientific research? Should researchers be allowed to follow their own ethical imperatives and convictions, or are there limits to what is researched and how research is conducted? Who should define the limits? Is scientific freedom essential to democracy?

Suggested Readings:

About the Guest Speakers:

Cele Abad-Zapatero, Ph.D , was born in Northern Spain.Following graduate work in Biology at the University of Salamanca, came to the U.S. in 1972, sponsored by a Fullbright Scholarship to complete a Ph.D. in Biophysics at the University of Texas at Austin. He was part of the Purdue University team that solved one of the first virus crystal structures. He is currently professor adjunct at the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of C rystals and Life: A Personal Journey (IUL, 2002) and numerous essays on science and the humanities. His interests are related to the interconnection between the sciences and the arts. His next project is torevise and stage a play entitled Picasso Learns Crystallography.

Oye Ajifolokun, Ph.D, earned his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. His education focused on animal health and husbandry. Dr. Ajifolokun has extensive direct teaching and animal care experience and has been an adjunct professor of Biology for the City Colleges of Chicago. He has worked for various sectors of the animal health industry including animal production, technical sales, and as a public health officer.

Tanya Berger-Wolf, Ph.D, is an assistant professor at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research is in developing computational solutions to problems in population biology. Born in Vilnius, Lithuania, Dr. Berger-Wolf has received her B.Sc. in Computer Science and Mathematics from Hebrew University (Jerusalem, Israel) in 1995 and her Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2002. After three years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of New Mexico and Princeton, working on computational phylogenetics and epidemiology, she has joined the University of Illinois-Chicago Campus faculty in 2005.

Jan P. Hessler, Ph.D, received hisdoctorate in Physics from Michigan State University and completed a post-doctoral appointment at the University of Chicago in the Department of Chemistry and Enrico Fermi Institute. He was a lecturer and research associate at Queen’s University, Kingston Ontario, Canada, in the Department of Physics and was a Research Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory for over 30 years. While at Argonne he worked in Heavy Element Chemistry, Atomic and Molecular Physics, Chemical Physics, and X-ray Science. Dr. Hessler retired this year and one of his goals is to share his relatively broad experience as a research scientist with the general public on issues such as global warming and ethics.

Kenya Thomas serves as an Extension Educator in Food Science and Human Nutrition. Prior to Extension, she provided education in proper dietary guidelines as a lab technician, medical technician, and clinical dietetic technician. Thomas earned both her master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences and her bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

John VanHorn serves as an Extension Educator for Science and Technology. Prior to this he has worked as a Health Physicist for Excelon Nuclear Power, served as a consultant in emergency response to nuclear incidents for industry and municipalities, and has taught in public schools, college, and industry. He received his Bachelors in Physics from Drury University and Masters in Instructional Technology from Northern Illinois University.

For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.