Exploring the crossroads of genetics and policy at Princeton

Shirley M. Tilghman, President of Princeton University, and Keith Wailoo, the Townsend Martin Professor of History and Public Affairs, are co-teaching a course called “Modern Genetics and Public Policy for the first time this semester. Together, they possess a wealth of knowledge to explore the topic. Tilghman, a professor of molecular biology, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on genetics; Wailoo draws upon insights gained from his work on several award-winning books on genetics and society, and many years teaching across the disciplines of health, race and public policy.

Tilghman said the students are opening her eyes to new issues. “The statement I made toward the end of the last class — that they are the first generation to expose themselves to public scrutiny in social media and yet many of them seem highly sensitive to genetic privacy issues seems, on its surface, to be a contradiction,” she said. “Yet as they explained it, they think they are controlling what is available online about their lives — I’m not at all confident that they have as much control as they think they do — while genetic information may reveal things about themselves that they either do not know, or do not want to know.”

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