The Biotechnological Revolution.
Our Bioengineered Future.
The New Digital Revolution.
These phrases surrounded me growing up. The promises of these headlines: lab-grown organs, custom-designed proteins, and effective gene therapy, tantalized and inspired my high school self. They did so to the point at which I decided that I would commit my career to see these headlines become reality.
Four years later and I am about to start a Ph.D. program in Boston University’s Biomedical Engineering department. Although I have the same goal in mind, four years can make a lot of difference. Having worked in a few labs, I have become acquainted, first-hand, with the slow, painful process of biological research. I have seen how hyped headlines have decayed into piles of complicated scientific, let alone, ethical unknowns. The same optimism and belief that there is much good to be gained from further developments in bioengineering fuels me, but has been tempered with an exposure to the field as an undergrad.
While much of the hype around developments in this field is fluff, there are real, difficult questions that both scientists and engineers as well as policy makers and the public must ask about what is coming out of these labs. In talking to friends and family (i.e. lay people), I have come to realize that public knowledge and fear about many fields in bioengineering is misguided; there is fear around things that have been proven to be harmless and there is no knowledge of areas which have gone through major developments and are asking tough questions.
It is with these thoughts that I embark both on the journey of my Ph.D. and of this blog. I hope to use this blog to chronicle my graduate school course, namely my transition from overeager and optimistic aspiring bioengineer to a bitter and exhausted expert on a niche sub-problem of a sub-problem of a problem in a small field. At the same time, and as to not turn this into an online journal, I aim to keep the focus of the blog wider, commenting on developments in the field and how they effect the field itself, the future of our healthcare systems, and our species.
I also want to spend some time exploring what it means to be training as a bioengineer in 2017. If with great power comes great responsibility and knowledge is power, then with great knowledge (i.e. a Ph.D.) comes great responsibility and I want to explore and consider what those responsibilities are as part of my training. As a member of a society with a capitalist economy (and potentially an aspiring entrepreneur), what obligations do I have to create value and jobs out of the resources at my disposal? As a member of a democracy whose success is predicated on an informed and active citizenry, what obligations do I have to speak out and take stands on issues to which I can offer informed perspectives?
I have no idea who is going to read one of these posts let alone follow along the blog nor do I know how often I will post (the first one is up to you all and the second will be figured out once I have a better understanding of how busy I will be in grad school), but I invite you all to join me on this journey.