Thought Experiments – Genetics and Synthetic Biology, A Report

Image from the Infinity Box Theater

Image from the Infinity Box Theater

FOSEP members and other guests had a great time at the Thought Experiments with Infinity Box Theater. The four plays were:

  • Editors by Holly Arsenault, directed by Susanna Burney
  • Frivolous Natura by Kelly Mak, directed by Roy Arauz
  • Anomie by Courtney Meaker, directed by Teresa Thuman
  • Solace by Bryan Willis,  directed by Tyrone Brown

After the play, there was a lively discussion, followed by a Happy Hour and conversation at Schultzy’s Sausage. The plays touched on issues like whether it was better to intervene (scientifically and genetically) or let things develop “naturally” (using a metaphor of genetically engineered tomatoes that were efficient but didn’t taste good, and making and developing music); enhancement using genetic engineering and making / creating better people (which could result in “mistakes” for some people), security and biological hacking, and replacing bad genes using technologies like CRISPR in the near future to inject DNA into people (but only those who were more privileged).

In the discussions during the intermission with my seatmates and FOSEP members, I was pleased to see that not everyone in our group had the same interpretation of what we saw – we each layered our experience on top of what we saw.  I find I often want to know what something means *before* I attempt to interpret it, but that maybe I need to talk about how I respond to the art emotionally first. The purpose of the plays was for each of us to engage with the material in our own way – to have our own “thought experiments” with the material.

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Infinity Box Theatre Opening Night Happy Hour

Last night FOSEP was very happy to be able to co-host an opening night happy hour for the Infinity Box Theatre Project’s Thought Experiments on the Question of Being Human: Genetics and Synthetic Biology. Actors, scientists, and directors had a chance to discuss the intersection of art, science, and society with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. The District Lounge in the Deca Hotel provided a great backdrop for the discussion, and everyone left excited to see the actors delve into what it means to be human in the post-genomic era.

The shows will be running through the weekend, so don’t miss your chance to see this thought-provoking series. Tonight (Oct 16th) FOSEP will be in attendance to engage in a post-play discussion/late night happy hour. We hope to see you there!

Welcome back events for the 2015/2016 School year!

FOSEP Welcome / Happy Hour – Wednesday October 7th 5:00-7:00 PM at the College Inn Pub

We wanted to welcome back members to the 2015 / 2016 school year!  FOSEP will provide food (you need to provide your own drinks). The Happy Hour will be used to meet and greet other members, and  discuss plans for the his year.  We will discuss the story that made the national news about Seattle’s vaccination rates. Many of us want to work on our communication.  As scientists, we want to just give people the facts and statistics about vaccines, but should remember that the responses people have to vaccinations are emotional.  Sometimes we think giving facts will convince them to change their minds, but minds, but maybe it is better to pay attention to emotional responses in our communications, as this story illustrates.

Please fill out this survey so we can get an idea of what subjects you want us to cover this year, and so that we can know if you’re planning on coming to the Happy Hour. The next discussion meetings will be Wednesdays November 4th and December 2nd. 

“Thought Experiments” – A Festival of Short Plays About Genetics and Synthetic Biology at Infinity Box TheaterThurs October 15th 5:30 – 9:00 PM and Friday Oct 16th, 17th 7:30 -9:30 PM (also Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2:00 PM) at the Ethnic Cultural Theater

Thought Experiments Image

Promotional Image from “Thought Experiments” for the Infinity Box Theater

FOSEP is hosting a Happy Hour with Infinity Box Oct 15th at the District Lounge at 5:30 PM, and will help lead post-play discussion on October 16th –  come either day!

This year, the Infinity Box Theater will be presenting a festival  of original short plays examining how current developments in that field may impact how we answer the question of what it means to be human. They paired up scientists working in genetics and synthetic biology with local Seattle playwrights. Their collaborations have led to the creation of four intriguing short plays, each asking the question: “How might current and possible future innovations in the fields of genetics and synthetic biology change what it means to be human?

Each evening includes staged readings of the plays, followed by a scientist-led conversation, where the audience can explore the questions and issues raised by the plays.  Buy tickets here.  Student tickets are only $5!  You can also get them at the door if you want to avoid the service charge.

FOSEP and Infinity Box are officially teaming up in two ways –
1) FOSEP is hosting a pre-plays Happy Hour Thursday October 15th at the District Lounge in the Hotel DECA at 5:30 PM.  FOSEP will provide food.
2) FOSEP leaders will help lead the post-plays discussion Friday October 16th, most likely at the Pub at The College Inn.

Brandon Peecock, from the Young Naturalists was a great host for the 1000 Word Event this year.

Third Annual 1000 Word Event, 2015

FOSEP, the Young Naturalist’s Society, and the Burke Museum presented the 1000 word event on April 9th.  Brandon Peecock (pictured above) from the Young Naturalists did a great job of hosting.  Photograph copyright Sean Gilliland.

Audience members enjoying the event. © Sean Gilliland |

Audience members enjoying the event. © Sean Gilliland |

(I definitely need to get better at getting blog posts up more in a more timely fashion!  I apologize to those who participated on the amount of time this took).  That said, the event was a great success!

We used little chips to vote during the event. © Sean Gilliland |

We used little chips to vote during the event. © Sean Gilliland |

We had about 50 attendees, even with the changes this year to having a small fee for drinks. There were 21 people who entered, and 16 that competed.  This year, winners were chosen by popular vote.

Each entrant had a bag which participants put their chips into.

Each entrant had a bag which participants put their chips into. © Sean Gilliland |

The winners of the competition were: Dave Slager (Biology) in first place, Jennifer Day (Biology) in second place, and Jen Whiting (Pharmacology) in third place.  Thanks to all who chose to compete.  We look forward to seeing you next year.

FOSEP leaders helped entrants register during the event. © Sean Gilliland |

FOSEP leaders helped entrants register during the event. © Sean Gilliland |

See the winning entries after the jump – the 1000 word description is followed by the regular description.

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FASEB Report: Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has released a new report, Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences: A Framework for Discussion, detailing FASEB’s most recent analysis of the problems/issues facing the biomedical research enterprise.

From the executive summary: “FASEB….is concerned about the future of biological and medical research. Inconsistent investment policies, growing demands for research funding, and outdated policies are jeopardizing current and future progress in this important area of research. This is a serious problem for the nation, and requires immediate attention and action.”

Options for mitigating the multitude of problems discussed in the FASEB report include: 1: Maximize research funding; 2: Optimize funding mechanisms; and 3: Improve workforce utilization and training.

ScienceInsider writes, “Although it echoes previous reports, FASEB’s analysis breaks new ground for the society because it provides “a comprehensive view of the problem and recognizes that an increase in funding is not the way out of this dilemma,” says Howard Garrison, director of FASEB’s Office of Public Affairs. He said FASEB’s board now hopes to collect feedback from its membership.”