Kosal funded for biotechnology and security curricula development work

INTA Assistant Professor Margaret E. Kosal, along Professor Robert Butera from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, were funded under the new Georgia Tech Fund for Innovation in Research and Education (GT FIRE) on a project entitled "Educating a Biotechnology Policy & Security Workforce" for the development of new educational approaches at the intersection of biotechnology, policy, and security.

The fields of biotechnology and the life sciences, including biochemistry and chemical sciences, have advanced significantly over the last fifty years. Advances in molecular biology and genetic engineering have revolutionized our understanding of pathogenic diseases and have greatly improved the fields of drug design and therapeutics, vaccines, and disease prevention. As these fields have evolved, the potential for inadvertent negligence or purposeful misuse has also emerged. At the intersection of new and emerging technology in the life sciences and security pressing needs for the national and international security workforce of today and tomorrow.

Ultimately, the capacity to meet these challenges will rest on the recruitment of a new generation of talented, creative, and globally-aware professionals and decision-makers who possess an integrated understanding of the life and physical sciences and related security policies. Success on this front is not obvious, however, given the specialization of education within current technical, public policy, and social science curricula. Prevailing assumptions about solutions and relevant metrics for addressing the panoply of issues at the nexus of technology relevant to chemical and biological agents and security differ across academic, technical, and policy divides. The growth of biotechnology, including synthetic biology, and other analogous emerging technologies worldwide requires that engineers and scientists can no longer ignore policy decisions but must become active participants in the process.

This project aims to enable the development of an education program to broaden and deepen interdisciplinary education, training, and scholarly research to address contemporary science and technology relevant to biological threats and security issues. The focus will be on leveraging diverse expertise across Georgia Tech, the University system, the nation, and globally 1) to develop, deliver, and sustain an academic curriculum via a “certificate program” on biotechnology and security; 2) to foster creative inter-generational, international, and interdisciplinary synergies among academics, professionals, and students working in related fields; and 3) to provide national and international “on-the-job-training” at national labs, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private firms. The PI’s also intend to use this program as a lever to engage leading-edge faculty in bio-, nano-, and chemical technologies into discussions on key security policy issues.