CURRENT STUDENTS

Jennifer Baltzegar

Jennifer Baltzegar, PhD candidatePh.D. Candidate | Genetics | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
2014 IGERT Cohort | Agricultural Pests
1549 Thomas Hall | Email: jfbaltze@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “A well-rounded and inclusive approach to disentangling complicated problems results in better solutions.”

IGERT Involvement

Baltzegar joined the 2014 IGERT Cohort, which focuses on agricultural pests. The cohort traveled to Mexico during the summer of 2014 to learn about the social and biological implications of genetic engineering in the country, particularly as that relates to the cultural importance of maize. The experience was eye-opening with respect to how complicated and nuanced the subject of genetic engineering is. More recently, she has worked with her cohort to write a paper geared toward an interdisciplinary audience titled Anticipating Complexity in the Deployment of Gene Drive Insects in Agriculture.

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Along with other cohort members, she contributed to a correspondence in EMBO Reports titled CRISPR-based Gene Drive in Agriculture Will Face Technical and Governance Challenges. Both publications highlight the complex landscape that must be considered if and when gene drives are deployed for control of agricultural pests. Besides the benefits gained from cohort specific work, she has taken advantage of many of the extra opportunities offered through the program. In 2014 she participated in the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) where her team won the Best Policy & Practices Project award. The following spring she was honored to present at When Science and Citizens Connect: Public Engagement on Genetically Modified Organisms at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. Then, she competed, along with fellow IGERT members, in the student debates at the 2015 Entomological Society Association Annual Meeting and the 2016 International Congress of Entomology where they won the Best Overall Debate Team award both years. In addition to attending conferences, she has participated in several workshops hosted by the GES Center: Graduate Professional Development Workshop: Intersections of Genetics and Society, USDA Stakeholder Workshop on Coexistence, and the Roadmap to Gene Drives: A Deliberative Workshop to Develop Frameworks for Research and Governance, and Cultivating Cultures of Ethics Workshop. Baltzegar enjoys engaging with researchers from all disciplines and is thankful for the many professional development opportunities that the IGERT and the GES Center have provided, including support for intensive international research in Mexico and Peru. In the future, she will continue incorporating interdisciplinary approaches in her research as she believes that a well-rounded and inclusive approach to disentangling complicated problems results in better solutions.

About

Jennifer Baltzegar was born in Georgia, where she grew up with a strong appreciation for biology and the natural world. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston. She then worked as a technician for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources at the Marine Resource Research Institute before returning to the College of Charleston to earn a Master of Science in Marine Biology. Following completion of her master’s degree Baltzegar accepted a job as a Research Analyst at Duke University. Ultimately ennui set in and she entered the Graduate Program in Genetics at North Carolina State University to embark on a new challenge. Aside from activities associated with the IGERT, her current work focuses on the population genetics of the insect pest species Aedes aegypti (Yellow Fever Mosquito) and Sitophilus zeamais (Maize Weevil).

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Jessica Cavin Barnes

Jessica Cavin Barnes, PhD candidatePh.D. Candidate | Forestry and Environmental Resources | College of Natural Resources
2014 IGERT Cohort | Agricultural Pests
Email: jcavinbarnes@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Bringing an integrated and long-term perspective to questions about the governance of natural resources.”

IGERT Involvement

Jessica is a member of the third IGERT cohort, which focuses on the genetic management of insect pests in agriculture. For the past two years, she has worked with her cohort to examine the many dimensions of the release of engineered pests, including the potential release of those with gene drives, in various socio-ecological systems. In summer 2014, she traveled with her cohort to Mexico City and the headquarters of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). There, she gained an applied understanding of the complexity of natural resource and biotechnology governance, particularly in regions characterized by important centers of biological and cultural diversity.

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That understanding has been expanded through her participation in workshops hosted by the GES Center on the nexus of genetics and society, coexistence in agricultural systems, and the state of genetic engineering research. Jessica’s research on American chestnut considers many of the same complexities that pertain to the development of engineered pests, as both projects are characterized by a great deal of uncertainty in what it might mean — politically, socially, ecologically, and evolutionarily — to release self-sustaining populations of engineered organisms into shared environments. Jessica has presented papers on this work at annual meetings of the Society for Social Studies of Science and the American Association of Geographers, as well as a symposium within NC State’s College of Natural Resources and the Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy. She has also participated in efforts engage public audiences with these topics through Building with Biology events at the Museum of Life and Science.

About

Jessica Cavin Barnes is a Ph.D. student in Forestry and Environmental Resources. She holds bachelor’s degrees in biology and sociology from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. Jessica took the scenic route to doctoral study at NC State, traveling first through graduate work in Marine Science and Conservation, a master’s degree in environmental public health, a job performing micro-dissections in a physiology lab, and a brief stint as a middle school science teacher. Drawing on these various experiences and diverse interests, she aims to bring an integrated and long-term perspective to questions about the governance of natural resources. Jessica’s dissertation research more specifically considers the politics and the evolutionary ecology of genetically engineered forest trees, primarily through the case of the American chestnut.

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S. Kathleen (Katie) Barnhill-Dilling

Ph.D. Candidate | Forestry and Environmental Resources | College of Natural Resources
1 Year IGERT Fellow
Email: katie@barnhill-dilling.com

What IGERT means to me: “Offering ongoing and dynamic inter- and transdisciplinary spaces, where important experience working in and communicating with a variety of expertise in social and natural sciences can be gained.”

IGERT Involvement

Katie was a 1 Year IGERT Fellow from 2016-2017, but has worked with the Genetic Engineering & Society Center throughout her doctoral studies. She has been a facilitator and participant in A Roadmap to Gene Drives: A Deliberative Workshop to Develop Frameworks for Research and Governance and the USDA Stakeholder Workshop on Coexistence, both incredible opportunities to develop further engagement and facilitation experience. Katie was also a 2016 NSF Graduate Fellow in the Cultivating Cultures of Ethics in STEM project, facilitating focus groups to explore how a variety of stakeholders make sense of responsible innovation.

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Broadly, the IGERT program has offered ongoing and dynamic inter- and transdisciplinary spaces, where Katie has gained important experience working in and communicating with a variety of expertise in social and natural sciences. These experiences have shaped meaningfully her work on understanding scientists’ perception of the public, a dissertation chapter which she presented (“Scientists Branching Out? Public Engagement & Genetically Modified Trees”) at the 2017 annual convention of the Society of American Foresters. The GES Center and IGERT Program have been formative spaces for Katie’s approach to research and engagement, and she continues to value these opportunities.

About

Katie Barnhill-Dilling was born and raised in North Carolina, and developed an early excitement for travel and exploring different cultural perspectives. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with an Environmental Studies minor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, she has alternated between working a variety of jobs – outdoor environmental educator, science and nature museum educator, and high school environmental science teacher – and more formal educational pursuits. Katie has a Higher Diploma in World Heritage Management from University College Dublin, and a masters in Environmental Science & Policy from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She continues to be drawn to the ways in which environmental questions bring together an incredible range of values, worldviews, and knowledge bases. In the Fall of 2014, Katie began her doctoral studies in the Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University, where she investigates how public engagement can foster meaningful inclusion of diverse groups in complex issues, with a particular focus on genetically modified trees.

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Johanna Elsensohn

Johanna Elsensohn, PhD candidatePh.D. Candidate | Entomology | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
2014 IGERT Cohort | Agricultural Pests
1545 Thomas Hall | Email: jeelsens@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “A better ability to examine and understand the complexities involved not only in emerging technology research, but also in sustainable agriculture and entomology.”

IGERT Involvement

The IGERT program has allowed Johanna to broaden her scope of disciplinary research, putting it within a larger perspective. Insects, technologies, and agriculture do not exist in isolation, but are integral parts of all societies. Societal values and concerns significantly impact agriculture, from how food is raised (e.g., antibiotic-free) to how it is sold (e.g., GMO labeling). Accordingly, her work aims to reflect both the goals of sustainability and those of local communities. An iterative, transparent process of engaging experts, technology adopters (e.g., growers), and communities about the associated risks and suitability of emerging pest control technologies is needed. 

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Such an approach will allow researchers the chance to minimize or mitigate specific risks during the technology development phase. Beyond her dissertation work, Johanna has been actively involved in many GES Center activities since beginning the IGERT program. She has helped to organize and take leadership roles in several biotechnology workshops, including a USDA-sponsored workshop on coexistence between organic and non-organic crops, an international workshop on emerging governance issues of gene drive technology, and a university-wide symposium on the future of genetic engineering technology at NC State. Johanna regularly participates with outreach on genetic engineering, educating the general public at museum events in both Raleigh and Durham. She authored a GES Center issue brief about the use of synthetic microorganisms in improving agricultural production, and was also a team member on the award-winning 2014 NCSU iGEM team. Johanna is grateful for the many opportunities the IGERT program has provided to further its students’ training as interdisciplinary scholars. These experiences have led to a better ability to examine and understand the complexities involved not only in emerging technology research, but also in sustainable agriculture and entomology more generally.

About

Originally from New England, Johanna is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at NC State, with minors in Genetic Engineering and Society, and Biotechnology. She received a joint B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and M.S. in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology from the University of Connecticut in 2012. Johanna has a passion for sustainable agriculture and has spent the last ten years working in food systems in different capacities, including helping growers transition to more sustainable farming practices, conducting basic and applied invasive pest research, and navigating local, regional and national grocery distribution networks. Her dissertation work investigates how insect behavior is influenced by a variety of ecological factors. This research will help inform the development of sustainable control strategies for the globally invasive fruit pest, Drosophila suzukii. Her interests expand beyond agriculture, and while at NC State, she has taken part in activities surrounding emerging technologies, science policy, outreach, science communication, and public engagement. In her spare time, Johanna enjoys exploring all that North Carolina has to offer, from the mountains to the sea and everywhere in between.

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Nicole Gutzmann

Nicole Gutzmann, PhD CandidatePh.D. Candidate | Entomology | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
2014 IGERT Cohort | Agricultural Pests
Email: negutzma@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Bringing together the cultures of diverse academic disciplines so that broader insights about global challenges can be gained.”

IGERT Involvement

Nicole Gutzmann is an interdisciplinary student currently working on a Doctorate of Philosophy in Entomology with a minor in Genetic Engineering and Society. She is a member of the Insect Genetic Technologies Research Coordination Network, Entomological Society of America, Genetic Engineering and Society Center, and the National Corn Growers Association. She has previously held positions as a student coordinator for a biotechnology seminar series, a public outreach coordinator for the Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA), and a fellow on the interdisciplinary grant, NSF IGERT.

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IGERT fellows use combined expertise to consider how engineered gene drives might fit into complex socio-ecological landscapes. By bringing together the cultures of diverse academic disciplines, broader insights about global challenges can be gained. In September 2016, Nicole competed alongside Sophia Webster, Jennifer Baltzegar, and Johanna Elsensohn in the student debates at the International Congress of Entomology where they won first place in their debate and first place overall. She has also been involved with many GES Center events such as the 2014 GES-Keck Workshop “Intersections of Genetics” and the 2015 GES-CALS Genetic Engineering Symposium. She also created a public outreach activity on CRISPR gene editing technology for the Genetic Engineering and You: GE Day at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. She was also a student moderator at the 2016 workshop “A Roadmap to Gene Drives: A Deliberative Workshop to Develop Frameworks for Research and Governance“.

In her own research, Nicole blends approaches from the natural and social sciences to analyze pest management technologies and their development. As a social scientist, she uses stakeholder focus groups, surveys, and interviews to explore conceptions of responsible innovation in the context of biotechnologies for agricultural pest management. As a natural scientist, she uses various gene editing techniques to engineer insect pests. Previously in the lab she established the gene editing system CRISPR/Cas9 in the stored grain pest and insect model, Tribolium castaneum. The goal of her current research is to continue optimizing the CRISPR/Cas9 system, and subsequently use it to explore the mechanism of Bt toxicity in beetles. A better understanding of Bt mode of action will inform the engineering of modified Bt toxins to counter insecticide resistance, and an optimized CRISPR system will provide scaffolding for future genetic strategies in other agricultural pests. Her goal upon graduating is to gain entry in a bench work position at an agricultural biotechnologies company, with the intention of working towards an industry position in regulatory affairs.

About

Nicole Gutzmann began her undergraduate studies at Riverside City College, where she was a STEM tutor and first developed an ability to communicate effectively with people from diverse academic backgrounds. After completing her B.S. in Biology at the University of California, Riverside she continued to explore the field of Entomology working as a lab technician. Her desire to pursue a job in the agricultural biotechnology industry is born from the value judgement that biotechnology is a powerful tool that can be used to foster food security and production competitiveness in America. To prepare for a position concerned with biotechnologies in the global marketplace, she has sought training experiences that combine her passion for entomology and enthusiasm for working on teams. These values inspired her to pursue a Doctorate of Philosophy in Entomology at North Carolina State University (NCSU), with a social science minor in Genetic Engineering and Society. She is currently in the lab of Dr. Marce Lorenzen, where she uses CRIPSR-Cas9 as a gene editing system to investigate insecticide resistance in a global pest of stored grains.

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Mike Jones

Mike Jones, PhD candidatePh.D. Candidate | Agricultural and Resource Economics | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
2014 IGERT Cohort | Agricultural Pests
Email: msjones2@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Providing a valuable window into the complexity of ‘improved’ varietal adoption and context to understand the controversy of genetically modified (GM) crop introduction.”

IGERT Involvement

Mike is part of the 2014 IGERT cohort focusing on agricultural insect pests. His current research interests include post-harvest crop management and biotechnology possibilities to improve smallholder agriculture in the developing world. The IGERT cohort trip to rural southern Mexico, with a heavily indigenous population of small- and medium-scale producers, provided a valuable window into the complexity of ‘improved’ varietal adoption and context to understand the controversy of genetically modified (GM) crop introduction. This perspective has informed current research on GM crop impacts for small farmers in East Asia.

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Further, lessons and contacts from the cohort trip facilitated a GES-sponsored return to Mexico with an insect geneticist for an interdisciplinary examination of smallholder post-harvest practices, maize losses, and maize weevil genetic diversity. Several other research pursuits have been facilitated via interdisciplinary collaboration through the GES center. With a molecular biologist and insect geneticist in the cohort, he is attempting to model GM crop and GM agricultural insect pest interactions on farm economic output. From conversations with contacts in economics and sociology at the GES center workshop A Roadmap to Gene Drives: A Deliberative Workshop to Develop Frameworks for Research and Governance, he is supporting an investigation of public opinion and potential consumer demand impacts of gene drive use in agricultural pests. After graduation he hopes to enter academia or work internationally through institutions dedicated to agricultural or economic development.

About

Mike Jones is a third year doctoral student in Agricultural and Resource Economics from Tallahassee, Florida. He discovered the field of agricultural development during undergraduate summer research with potato farmers in the Peruvian Andes. After two following summers in the Middle East working with the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas on promotion of low-irrigation cash crops, Mike decided to pursue this field as a career. He has a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University and undergraduate degrees in Food and Resource Economics and Political Science from the University of Florida. His research and professional work have taken him to Afghanistan, Burundi, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, Rwanda, and Syria.

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Caroline Leitschuh

Caroline Leitschuh, PhD candidatePh.D. Candidate | Biological Sciences | College of Sciences
2013 IGERT Cohort | Invasive Rodents and Biodiversity Conservation
137 David Clark Labs | Email: cleitsc@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Developing skills communicating science as well as creating more opportunities for graduate students to participate in outreach and communication.”

IGERT Involvement

Caroline is a doctoral student in the Zoology program at NCSU, as well as a member of the 2013 IGERT cohort. Her cohort examines how genetic engineering can be used to eradicate invasive house mice from islands. As a member of this cohort, Caroline studies aspects of why house mice are able to adapt to new environments easily and quickly. In 2014, the cohort published a website titled Conserving Island Biodiversity, which focuses on the history of invasive house mice and current options for eradication.

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Caroline was also a member of the planning board and a featured speaker at A Roadmap to Gene Drives: A Deliberative to Develop Frameworks for Research and Governance, an event hosted by NCSU’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center. She spoke about invasive rodents on islands and potential solutions from genetic engineering. Her cohort has also written a paper out of the workshop on the same topics. In addition to her biological focus, Caroline also does a lot of work developing her own skills communicating science as well as creating more opportunities for other graduate students to participate in outreach and communication. In addition to participating in several outreach events at local museums, including the Building with Biology events and Brain Awareness Night, Caroline also coordinated her own outreach event at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in the Spring of 2016 titled GE Day: Genetic Engineering and You. Additionally, Caroline co-founded and co-chairs a graduate student organization at NCSU dedicated to offering training and outreach opportunities for science communication to other graduate students.

About

Caroline Leitschuh grew up in Minnesota. Her whole family loves the nature and the outdoors, and Caroline was no exception. She completed a Bachelor of Science at Beloit College in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavioral Biology. Though Caroline was especially interested in the reproductive behavior of mammals as an undergraduate, after a stint with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa she realized she wanted to focus more on conservation. Caroline applied to N.C. State University (NCSU) specifically because of the IGERT program. Her current work compares the anxiety-related behavior between wild and domestic mice. She also does a lot of science communication work.

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Pat Roberts

John Patrick (Pat) Roberts, PhD candidatePh.D. Candidate | Public Administration | College of Humanities and Social Sciences
1 Year IGERT Fellow
Email: jprober2@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Working with scholars from various disciplines in the natural sciences and engineering to broaden the scope of the doctoral research undertaken.”

IGERT Involvement

Pat Roberts is an interdisciplinary student currently working on a Doctorate of Philosophy in Public Administration with a minor in Genetic Engineering and Society. As a 1 Year IGERT Fellow, Pat has been able to work with scholars from various disciplines in the natural sciences and engineering, and broaden the scope of the doctoral research undertaken. Pat primarily works at the intersection of politics, policy, and emerging biotechnologies, with current dissertation research exploring issues at the boundaries between different sectors in biotechnology research and innovation.

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Pat’s primary work with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center has been on the project Comparing Cultures of Responsible Innovation across Bioengineering Communities. Within this project, the Responsible Research and Innovation Framework is used to explore how different sectors involved in the processes of research and innovation conceptualize responsibility. Pat has presented work at the Annual Conference on Governance of Emerging Technologies. In January of 2018 Pat attended the Winter School on Responsible Innovation and Social Studies of Emerging Technologies hosted by the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure. In addition, Pat’s work has been greatly influenced by attending various workshops and conferences hosted by the GES Center.

About

Pat grew up in Charlotte, NC, and received a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Appalachian State University. During this time, Pat became interested in political theory and the politics of science and technology. Pat began doctoral studies in Public Administration in the fall of 2015 and has pursued interdisciplinary research interest at North Carolina State University’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center.

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Megan Serr

Megan Serr, PhD candidatePh.D. Candidate | Biological Sciences | College of Sciences
2013 IGERT Cohort | Invasive Rodents and Biodiversity Conservation
Email: meserr@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Helping to expand conservation research knowledge areas into urban biodiversity diversity.”

IGERT Involvement

Megan is a member of the invasive mouse cohort that focuses on eradicating invasive rodents from islands. In 2013, the cohort traveled around the Farallon islands, which is also where Megan and Dr. Lisa McGraw collected live wild mice for behavioral research purposes. Megan considers the experiences of the Farallon islands a reminder as to the importance of conservation biology as an interdisciplinary field. The cohort’s focus is on exploring the potential for a genetic technique that would create a male biased-population, hence causing the population to die off.

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As a cohort, they created a website that describes thoughts and ideas surrounding the topic. Megan also had the opportunity to co-teach a course with fellow cohort member, Elizabeth Pitts. The course, Ethics of Biotechnical Communication, spent several weeks exploring genetic pest management strategies and included several members of the genetic engineering and society center as guest speakers. Megan likes to take every opportunity lent to her and has presented at several workshops and conferences. In addition, she likes to use her teaching knowledge to perform public outreach at local events including brain awareness and the NC Science and Tech expo. Megan is an active member of several organizations including the North Carolina Herpetological Society, Research Triangle Graduate Women in Science, and the Triangle Science Communication working group. She is grateful for the opportunities and training that she has received through IGERT and she credits IGERT with helping her to expand her area of knowledge into urban biodiversity diversity. For the past two springs she has been enrolled in an interdisciplinary course that focuses on conservation in metropolitan areas. Megan plans to continue teaching and performing conservation research in an interdisciplinary manner. She is currently teaching an undergraduate course for the Spring 2018 semester entitled Conservation on Islands.

About

Megan Serr grew up in Southern California where she developed a love for nature and conservation, particularly towards amphibians. She earned her Bachelor of Science in biology as well as her teaching licensure from California State University San Bernardino. After graduation she began teaching biology and environmental science at the high school level. Then while continuing to teach high school she earned her master of science in biology from the University of Nebraska. With her masters she then expanded into teaching at the university level as well as working at NCSU as a laboratory-teaching technician. With a strong desire to perform both research and teaching Megan entered the IGERT program in 2013. Her current work focuses on invasive mice and conservation biology.

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Jayce Sudweeks

Jayce Sudweeks, PhD candidatePh.D. Candidate | Public Administration | College of Humanities and Social Sciences
2014 IGERT Cohort | Agricultural Pests
Email: jdsudwee@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Identifying the complex and conflicting milieu in which important biotechnology policy decisions are made and how differing coalitions can come to agreement on important technologies that will better the life of mankind.”

IGERT Involvement

Jayce is part of the 2014 NCSU IGERT cohort, which focuses on the implications of genetic modification in agriculturally important pests. As part of their training, his cohort spent three weeks in Mexico in 2014 studying the cultural, social and biological implications of genetic engineering with a special focus on maize. More recently, Jayce co-authored, with his cohort, an interdisciplinary article, One Drive Does Not Fit All: Visualizing the Complexity of Gene Drive Deployment Using Adaptive Landscapes.

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The paper’s main objective was to help identify the complex and interrelated issues that arise when a gene drive mechanism is considered to help control an agriculturally important pest. This paper has been accepted for publication with revision. In addition to cohort specific work, the IGERT program has provided Jayce with the opportunities to be involved in other activities that focus on the intersection of genetic engineering and society. In 2014 he participated in the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) where his team won the Best Policy & Practices Project award. He has participated in several workshops hosted by the GES Center including: Graduate Professional Development Workshop: Intersections of Genetics and Society, USDA Stakeholder Workshop on Coexistence, and the Roadmap to Gene Drives: A Deliberative Workshop to Develop Frameworks for Research and Governance. Jayce is an assistant editor for the special edition of the Journal of Responsible Innovation that will publish peer-reviewed articles from the Roadmap to Gene Drives workshop. Jayce’s experiences in the IGERT program has helped identify for him the complex and conflicting milieu in which important biotechnology policy decisions are made and how difficult this can be. His current and future research will attempt to understand how this complexity is generated and how differing coalitions can come to agreement on important technologies that will better the life of mankind. Jayce is extremely grateful to be a member of the IGERT program and for the mentoring and experiences that have broadened his understanding of the intersection of genetic engineering and society.

About

Jayce Sudweeks was raised in Twin Falls, Idaho. He spent two year in Costa Rica and Panama on a Spanish speaking mission. Jayce graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Molecular Biology. His research focused on mapping the genes that caused the mouse form of Multiple Sclerosis. During this time he was an author on nine peer-reviewed publications, including a first author publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. After graduation Jayce spent seventeen years in private industry in a variety of jobs focused on business process engineering, program and project management, and computer systems analysis. Most recently, Jayce worked as an IT production support manager for a global supply chain company. The potential that science and technology had to improve lives and relieve suffering never strayed far from Jayce’s mind, and when the opportunity presented itself he enrolled in the Public Administration PhD program at North Carolina State University. His goal was to understand how bureaucracy, policy and politics influence the deployment and regulation of biotechnology. Jayce’s research interests focus on the public policy process and how the narratives created by various groups supporting or opposing biotechnology influence policy decisions.

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Rene Xavier Valdez

Rene Xavier Valdez, PhD candidatePh.D. Candidate | Forestry and Environmental Resources | College of Natural Resources
2013 IGERT Cohort | Invasive Rodents and Biodiversity Conservation
Email: rxvaldez@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Examining a wide array of topics including climate change literacy, invasive species management, and the emerging field of de-extinction.”

IGERT Involvement

Rene is a part of the 2013 IGERT cohort, focusing on the potential use of genetic engineering techniques for biodiversity conservation. The cohort’s trip across California provided a multitude of perspectives on the challenges of conservation in both wild and urban places. That experience has informed Rene’s research and motivated his engagement in interdisciplinary pursuits. His dissertation research examines various topics including climate change literacy, invasive species management, and the emerging field of de-extinction.

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Along with 2012 and 2014 IGERT fellows, he participated in the 2014 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, where the NC State team won first place in the Policy and Practices Track for developing a tool for responsible innovation. In the spring of 2016 he presented at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences for the museum’s annual Darwin Day, discussing the challenges for conserving biodiversity on the world’s islands. Following his IGERT fellowship, Rene became a Global Climate Change Fellow with the Southeast Climate Science Center, developing research on climate change education and stakeholder outreach for the co-management of wildlife. He currently serves as the graduate student mentor for the Doris Dukes Conservation Scholars Program, a multi-university collaborative, helping undergraduate students of under-represented communities become conservation researchers. He successfully defended his dissertation in the fall of 2017 and will graduate in May of 2018. He plans to continue his interdisciplinary research in science communication, public engagement, and natural resource management.

About

Rene Xavier Valdez received his Bachelors of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University in December 2009. He began pursuing interdisciplinary interests as an undergraduate, completing a minor in Rhetoric while at Texas A&M. In July of 2013 he began his doctoral studies in the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology program at North Carolina State University. Rene is an interdisciplinary scholar, drawing on research methods from the social sciences and communication to inform biodiversity conservation and promote environmental engagement.

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Michael Vella

Ph.D. Candidate | Biomathematics | College of Sciences
1 Year IGERT Fellow
Email: mrvella@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Expanding areas of study to include a broad range of topics; exploring and understanding concepts from social science, policy, and ethics.”

IGERT Involvement

As an IGERT fellow, Michael has enjoyed expanding his areas of study to include a broad range of topics. Exploring and understanding concepts from social science, policy, and ethics has been important to shape and enhance his dissertation research. Michael has also taken advantage of opportunities to gain experience applying such concepts by becoming involved with events at NCSU as part of the GES center. Michael has participated in workshops hosted by the GES center, such as A Roadmap to Gene Drives: A Deliberative Workshop to Develop Frameworks for Research and Governance.

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He has also been involved in other projects such as serving as a focus group moderator as part of the Cultivating Cultures of Ethics in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math grant. In his free time, he has volunteered at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences as an assistant in a hands-on education lab, and he frequently participates in outreach events to share research through the NCSU College of Sciences.

About

Michael grew up in Minneapolis, MN. He attended the University of Notre Dame and received a Bachelor of Science in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics with a Concentration in Biology. During that time, his research included modeling of bacterial swarming, neural networks, and E. coli transmission in cattle. He decided to pursue research involving modeling of infectious diseases further at NCSU. His research involves modeling the population genetics of genetically modified organisms, such as mosquitoes that cannot transmit disease.

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Sophia Webster

sophia websterPh.D. Candidate | Entomology | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
2012 IGERT Cohort | Mosquitoes and Human Health
1549 Thomas Hall | Email: shwebster@ncsu.edu

What IGERT means to me: “Developing extremely valuable interdisciplinary research and communication skills for a successful scientific career.”

IGERT Involvement

Sophia is part of the 2012 IGERT cohort whose focus is mosquitoes and human health. The first IGERT course took place in Lima and Iquitos, Peru where the cohort attended tropical medicine symposiums, visited health clinics and several farms to speak with farmers. The cohort also shadowed NAMRU workers door to door in in Iquitos as the workers completed their household mosquito checks and surveys. Additionally, the cohort conducted household experiments on the density dependent effects of mosquito larvae in household containers.

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These initial experiences assisted in and inspired the IGERT group to write a book chapter, which was published in January 2016, titled Transgenic Pests and Human Health: A Short Overview of Social, Cultural, and Scientific Considerations in the textbook Genetic Control of Malaria and Dengue. In addition to the work with her cohort, Sophia has participated in a number of other interdisciplinary opportunities. In 2014 she attended a two week summer program, Science Outside the Lab (SOtL), hosted by Arizona State University’s Center for Science and Policy Outcomes in Washington, DC. In the Fall of 2014 she participated in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition where her team won first place in the Policy and Practices Track for developing a tool for responsible innovation. In January of 2015, she attended a National Academy of Science (NAS) Workshop: Public Interfaces of the Life Sciences: When Science and Citizens Connect Public Engagement on Genetically Modified Organisms and participated as a case presenter for a breakout session on genetically modified mosquitoes. In November of 2015, at the Entomological Society of America (ESA) annual conference, Sophia and a team of IGERT students participated in the student debates on the ethics of species eradication and won their debate as well as the overall winning debate team. Once again in September 2016 the debate team won the International Congress of Entomology (ICE) conference student debates as well as the overall winning debate team on the topic “the single best strategy to reduce dengue fever virus incidence worldwide”. Sophia has also participated in workshops hosted by the Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) center including: A Roadmap to Gene Drives: A Deliberative Workshop to Develop Frameworks for Research and Governance. She has also volunteered at events at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, such as Genetic Engineering and You: GE Day 2016, where she has the opportunity to engage with the public on topics encompassing genetic engineering and society. Sophia is grateful for the many interdisciplinary opportunities and experiences that have been available through IGERT and the GES Center. The interdisciplinary research and communication skills she has developed are extremely valuable and she will continue to use them after graduating and for the rest of her scientific career.

About

Sophia Webster was born and raised in Arlington, VA. While growing up she spent her free time outdoors and acquired an interest in insect life and their interactions with humans. In college Sophia began studying Physics, but changed course after pursuing several undergraduate research and TA positions in Entomology. These experiences ultimately led to her desire to pursue Medical Entomology in her graduate studies. In May of 2012 she received her Bachelor of Science in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Entomology from Virginia Tech. In June of 2012 she began her graduate studies as a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University. Sophia works with the zika and dengue vector mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Her research is in creating a gene drive system, Killer-Rescue, for mosquito population replacement.

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Alumni

Tim Antonelli, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor | Mathematics | Worcester State University
2012 IGERT Cohort | Mosquitoes and Human Health

What IGERT means to me: “Connecting with students of diverse backgrounds and better communicating the variety of real-world applications that mathematics has to offer.”

IGERT Involvement

During his time at NC State, Tim participated in the 2012 IGERT cohort whose focus on genetic pest management aligned with his research interests. IGERT provided many singular graduate experiences, such as the opportunity to travel to Peru to study the feasibility and public perception of genetic pest management among health workers, government officials, students, and citizens in areas affected by dengue. The personal connections that IGERT helped establish allowed Tim to return to collect data and estimate parameters for models of the growth of Ae. aegypti larvae in field containers in Iquitos, Peru.

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The international experience and focus on interdisciplinarity broadened his horizons, as he soon found himself immersed in a foreign culture, learning Spanish, and eventually returning to guest lecture on math models at a Peruvian university. IGERT classes and discussions at NC State provided unique experiences in examining the non-mathematical aspects of predictive models, such as public communication and the ethics of genetic engineering. This unique background has allowed him to connect with students of diverse backgrounds and better communicate the variety of real-world applications that mathematics has to offer.

About

Tim Antonelli grew up in Wilmington, NC. Thinking to combine his interests in math and biology, he chose to study biomedical engineering at Duke University. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he worked as an engineer for several years but ultimately felt distant from his original passions. Thus, he decided to attend the biomathematics doctoral program at NC State. There, under the advisement of Drs. Alun Lloyd and Fred Gould, he developed mathematical models for novel control strategies of the dengue vector Aedes aegypti, such as releasing mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, a bacterium that can spread through a population of Ae. aegypti and has been shown to block transmission of dengue virus. He successfully defended his dissertation in August 2015 and now works as an assistant professor of statistics and probability at Worcester State University.

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Gregory Backus, Ph.D.

Post-doctoral Fellow | Environmental Science and Policy | University of California, Davis
2013 IGERT Cohort | Invasive Rodents and Biodiversity Conservation

What IGERT means to me: “Communicating about sensitive and controversial issues while coordinating between a great variety of people from different backgrounds.”

IGERT Involvement

Greg was a member of the 2013 IGERT cohort that focused on the application of genetic engineering for conservation. With the rest of the cohort, Greg visited California where he learned about eradication of invasive species to protect threatened island ecosystems. At the several destinations they visited, including Santa Catalina Island, Santa Cruz Island, Angel Island, and the Farallon Islands, they were introduced to the complicated ecological, social, and regulatory issues related to invasive species eradication.

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Within the next year, the cohort combined and melded their knowledge to create a website explaining the complexities of eradicating invasive mice from islands with genetic engineering. The website was made to be accessible to the general public, but it was particularly aimed at stakeholders that could be described as “an open-minded skeptic with agency”. With other members of his cohort, Greg presented about this interdisciplinary experience of creating this website at a meeting for the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research (INGroup) in 2014. More insight from the interdisciplinary experience was shared during a presentation with other cohort members at the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM) in 2015. Greg also attended the Roadmap to Gene Drives: A Deliberative Workshop to Develop Frameworks for Research and Governance where he participated in several collaborative discussions and was a co-author to a contributed paper from the workshop. Because of his participation in IGERT, Greg is a member of the Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodent (GBIRd) program that is exploring the possibility of using gene drive rodents for eradication. With this group, he contributes mathematical models of rodent eradication to advise for the ecological safety of this developing technology. After graduating, Greg has continued to work with his cohort and collaborators from NC State and beyond, adding his mathematically-driven ideas to the ongoing conversation about the use of genetic technologies drives for conservation. Because of his work with IGERT and the GES Center at NC State, Greg has plenty of experience communicating about sensitive and controversial issues while coordinating between a great variety of people from different backgrounds. These skills have already been helpful during his postdoctoral research, and they should pave the way for an exciting interdisciplinary career in the future.

About

Gregory Backus was born in Washington, though he also grew up in both Newfoundland and Alabama. He was always interested in science and math, and he combined them during his undergraduate degree at Bard College in upstate New York. Greg completed a senior project on modeling successional dynamics in an experimentally fragmented ecosystem and received a B.A. in 2011. Next, Greg was accepted to the North Carolina State University Biomathematics Graduate Program where he received an M.BMA. in 2014. Following this, Greg completed PhD in Biomathematics and Zoology at NC State, where he developed and analyzed mathematical models of rodent eradication with gene drives. He especially focused on potential ecological impacts of these new gene drive techniques and the possible evolution of mate choice in response to releasing engineered rodents. Today, Greg is continuing to study controversial ideas in conservation as he models the managed relocation of species that are threatened by climate change. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis.

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Molly Hartzog, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor | English and Foreign Languages | Frostburg State University
2012 IGERT Cohort | Mosquitoes and Human Health

What IGERT means to me: “Exploring the nexus of rhetorical invention and scientific invention in the context of genetic engineering and disease control.”

IGERT Involvement

Dr. Molly Hartzog completed her PhD in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media in May 2016. Her dissertation, “Inventing Mosquitoes: Digital Organisms as Rhetorical Boundary Objects in Genetic Pest Management for Dengue and Malaria Control,” won the 2016 College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dissertation Award. That fall, she joined Frostburg State University as Assistant Professor in the department of English and Foreign Languages, where she teaches professional writing.

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Her research continues to the work she began as part of the 2012 IGERT cohort, exploring the nexus of rhetorical invention and scientific invention in the context of genetic engineering and disease control.

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Arina Loghin, M.S.

Meditative Dancer | Dance Home
2012 IGERT Cohort Associate | Mosquitoes and Human Health
Email: danceauthenticlife@gmail.com

What IGERT means to me: “Understanding of the mutually transforming relationships among people, nature and technology.”

IGERT Involvement

Arina was the Cultural Anthropology Master’s student completing the GES Graduate Minor with the first cohort. The knowledge she gathered from GES courses and activities contributed to her Master’s thesis, Who is an actor? Analyzing Agency in a Lab’s Social World. As part of IGERT, she was also a panelist at the 2013 Fulbright Global Food Security Seminar in Raleigh. For her thesis, Arina conducted an ethnographic study of scientists’ interactions with mechanical and biological tools in a Drosophila genetics laboratory at NC State University. She explored the journey of the fruit fly in the lab from insect to data point during the course of a genetics research project.

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This project enriched Arina’s critical understanding of the mutually transforming relationships among people, nature and technology.

About

Originally from Romania, Arina studied history, cultural studies and cultural anthropology in Europe and the US. Her professional experience includes educational research, teaching and website development in the Netherlands, integral research on sustainable development in Nepal and organic farming in Belgium. Now she’s living her life’s passion, dancing and learning how her body interacts with space-time and the whole world. She focuses on expanding awareness and balancing energy exchange in our complex reality.

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Elizabeth Pitts, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor | English | University of Pittsburgh
2013 IGERT Cohort | Invasive Rodents and Biodiversity Conservation

What IGERT means to me: “Contributing to scholarly conversations in organizational and environmental communication by exploring how negotiations of meaning influence the organizing of genetic engineering governance systems.”

IGERT Involvement

Elizabeth’s interdisciplinary IGERT collaborations have enabled her to develop a thorough understanding of genetic technologies, focusing on case studies including the release of genetically engineered mosquitoes to control the Zika virus, malaria, and dengue fever, and the potential application of genetic engineering for conservation purposes. She has also developed substantial experience as a facilitator of public outreach, having participated in or helped to organize programs at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the Durham Museum of Life and Science, and the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, California.

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In January 2017, she served as a primary organizer of a US Department of Energy forum that invited citizens to deliberate about how to dispose of nuclear waste. Elizabeth then served as a postdoctoral researcher with NC State’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center, contributing to scholarly conversations in organizational and environmental communication by exploring how negotiations of meaning influence the organizing of genetic engineering governance systems. Drawing on content analysis of a series of meetings that brought together individuals from multiple academic fields as well as non-governmental organizations and government agencies, the publications resulting from this study will trace areas of agreement as well as conflicts and contradictions in defining what genetically modified organisms are, and accordingly, how they should be governed. In addition to advancing theories of organizational conflict, this work speaks to ongoing policy negotiations in the United States and other countries.

About

Elizabeth A. Pitts is an assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her PhD in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media from North Carolina State University with a minor in Genetic Engineering and Society, and she also holds a BA and MA in English from Georgetown UniversityElizabeth’s research blends rhetorical theory, organizational studies, and science studies to examine how technologies influence the nature of professional work and professional identity. Her current book project offers insights into a movement to make the coding of DNA as the coding of software. By drawing parallels between the composition of genetically engineered organisms and the composition of persuasive speech and writing, the book facilitates humanistic inquiry into the material practices undertaken in biotechnology laboratories. Elizabeth enjoys interdisciplinary collaboration and has co-authored research with geneticists, ecologists, and policy scholars, among others. Her work, which is supported by multiple grants from the US National Science Foundation, is informed by her decade of experience as a professional writer and speechwriter at the White House, the US Department of Education, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Amanda (Clayton) Walsh, Ph.D.

Senior Economist | RTI International | Research Triangle Park, NC
2012 IGERT Cohort | Mosquitoes and Human Health

What IGERT means to me: “Communicating academic research to diverse audiences and developing robust analytical skills through interdisciplinary and policy-oriented research.”

IGERT Involvement

Amanda’s graduate research focused on using insights from applied microeconomics to study the impacts and control of mosquito-borne disease. Her GES collaborations studying the potential use of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat dengue fever culminated in the co-authorship of the introductory chapter of the text, Genetic Control of Malaria and Dengue, edited by Zach Adelman. She was selected among her GES peers to present their work to academics as well as government and industry representatives at the Second Annual Conference on Governance of Emerging Technologies.

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Her dissertation, conducted under the direction of Melinda Morrill and Walter Thurman, was an outgrowth of her GES program research. She analyzed household data from Peru to better understand economic considerations in mosquito-borne disease management. Her research was also informed by fieldwork carried out in Lima and Iquitos, Peru, and facilitated by the GES program. She participated in the collection of household, clinical, and entomological surveys, and practiced methods of conducting both quantitative and qualitative research. Amanda completed her PhD in May 2016 and is now working as a Senior Economist in the Innovation Economics group at RTI International. In her role, she analyzes the benefits and costs of public policy initiatives relating to innovation, technology, and infrastructure improvements, as well as education and workforce training. Her work applies theories and insights gained throughout her involvement in the GES program. In particular, she is well-practiced at communicating academic research to diverse audiences and has developed robust analytical skills through her interdisciplinary and policy-oriented research experience.

About

Amanda (Clayton) Walsh grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. She received her bachelor’s degree in Economics from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2010, graduating Summa Cum Laude and with research honors. She entered the Economics PhD program at N.C. State that fall, with the intention of studying development economics. Her passion for carrying out policy-relevant economic research through cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration lead her to take master’s level coursework in cultural anthropology, and eventually to join the IGERT-funded GES program.

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