Experimenting with Ethics Labs

Ethics labs are now in their second year, but for some this will be the first time hearing about them. Labs are a new element in the SOLS Life Science Ethics Program, which aims to introduce all SOLS students to ethics as part of their studies in the school.  This integration consists of a variety of different approaches, conceptualized and actualized by Karin EllisonBen HurlbutJason Robert, and Ben Minteer.  Undergraduates encounter ethics through microinsertion of ethics content into the introductory biology classes and co-curricular activities, one-credit ethics labs, interacting with visiting scholars, and regular three-credit courses.  The first ethics lab was the Neurobiology Ethics Lab, held in Fall semester of 2015.        

Neurobiology Ethics Lab has been a resounding success thus far.  History and Philosophy of Science Ph.D. candidate Jonathan (J.J.) LaTourelle designed this lab to build on students’ encounters with ethics in their science courses by extending and deepening the conversation. He modeled the Ethics Lab after history of science courses where students recreate classic experiments to better understand the logic and the methods behind them. Students can pair labs with related upper division science courses, such as BIO 467 Neurobiology, to engage the subject from broader perspectives. The Ethics Lab creates a forum for students to delve into the ethical issues in the field of neurobiology through readings and discussion. Megan Cadigan, a former Neurobiology Ethics lab student, shared her thoughts on the class:

"Taking Neurobioethics was an excellent way to integrate hard science with philosophy. I feel that (as a science major), we rarely take the time to question why we have rules and regulations in place when we do research. This course allowed me to expand my knowledge of research methods while linking it back to the ever-present moral question: is it OK to do this? I highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in science, neuroscience, law, ethics, medicine, philosophy, or those who simply want to experience a true interdisciplinary class. The small size and discussion-based structure make it easy to learn and get one-on-one contact with the professor. I have personally found that this course has been integral to my development as a STEM major at ASU and has taught me to be more conscious and open to new ideas when faced with the unknown."

In addition to providing a course opportunity for undergraduates, the Ethics Lab engages SOLS graduate students with ethics and curriculum development.  SOLS graduate students design and teach the labs under the direction of Karin Ellison, the Director of SOLS Life Science Ethics Program.

Next year undergraduate students will have a new Ethics Lab opportunity.  Ethical Controversies in Ecology and Conservation (BIO498 #29994) will be taught by and Michelle Sullivan (Spring 2017) and Chris Rojas (Fall 2017).  The course will focus on ethical and sociocultural topics in conservation biology and ecology.  It will be taught parallel to Conservation Biology.

If you are interested in Neurobiology or Ecology and Conservation, come check out these Ethics Labs!