Science Market Update

Neuroscience and Law Dual Degree Program at UW-Madison Visionary

Posted by BCI Staff on Mon, Jun 20, 2011

The University of Wisconsin at Madison continues its fearless pursuit not only of knowledge, in the form of cutting-edge science research, but modern paradigms within which to conduct tomorrow's research and train tomorrow's scientists and thinkers.  Two weeks ago we reported on UW-Madison's reorganization of several of its basic science departments to keep up with new directions in research (read blog).  Now the Badgers are productively rearranging the field again with the announcement of a dual-degree Program in Neuroscience and Law, offering students the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience and a J.D. in law at the same time.

Neuroscience and Law? Indeed.  The path goes:

neuroscience>public health>public policy>law

The debate over the scientific use of stem cells in biomedical research is only one of the intersections of laboratory science and law.  Our understanding of the human brain continues to grow with technology like neural imaging, which has courts confronting questions such as whether to admit results from brain imaging as evidence of lying in a trial.

In 2005, UW-Madison formed the joint degree program in Neuroscience and Public Policy (UWM-NPP), which offers specialties in domestic or international policy.  Other universities do offer programs grappling with ethical and policy issues generated by neuroscience research, such as the University of Pennsylvania's Neuroscience and Society program, but Madison's Neuroscience and Law is the first (and therefore the only one) of its kind. The new dual degree will be administered by the NPP. 

neuroscience madisonDirector of both programs, Dr. Ronald Kalil, writes that "advances in neuroscience have raised important questions in a wide range of policy issues, domestically and globally, such as those affecting:

  • Neurotoxins and the environment
  • Mental health
  • Child development
  • Cognitive enhancement
  • Criminal responsibility
  • The safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals or medical devices
  • The ethics and regulation of emerging discoveries, e.g., those associated with stem cells and their applications."

It was only this past April 29 that the United States Court of Appeals vacated the preliminary injunction that was previously granted by the District Court in the case of Sherley v. Sebelius. (Read the article from Wisconsin Stem Cell Now.)  That injunction would have halted federal funding for embryonic stem cell research through the NIH.  While an appeal seems improbable in this particular case, there will be other challenges to scientific methods and important public discussions of their validity, ethicality, and legality.  Madison may be the first to offer training to bridge the fields of Law and Neuroscience, but watch for other universities to follow their lead.

If you are a supplier of research equipment or a research scientist yourself and would like to meet and network with others in the Madison life science research community, plan on attending one or both of the upcoming Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. tradeshow events in Madison this September 7-8, 2011:

Or see the 2011 national life science tradeshow schedule for participation in other active life science markets.  Or click the button to request more information.

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Tags: Midwest, Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin Madison, industry news

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