The MIT Museum, with support from the Boston Globe, is launching a monthly series of evening presentations on critical research. Each presentation will be followed by a participatory, salon-style conversation with the audience.
The "Soap Box" series will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 15, with a discussion on the societal implications of new genetic research.
Dr. David Altshuler, director of the program in medical and population genetics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, will lead the discussion, to be held in the MIT Museum's Robotics Gallery at 6 p.m.
Altshuler is a lead investigator in the international HapMap project, an effort to develop a comprehensive catalog of the genetic diversity in the human genome sequence across human populations.
Topics likely to be discussed are:
â€¢ What would it mean for society's perceptions of diseases such as schizophrenia, depression or obesity, if we were to discover specific genes predispose individuals to these conditions?
â€¢ What would it mean for our understanding of free will if we were to discover genes that predispose individuals to particular types of behavior, such as criminality or gambling?
â€¢ What will it mean for health-care delivery if it becomes possible to tailor drugs to the genetic characteristics of individual patients?
A profile of Altshuler's work is slated to appear in the Boston Globe on Nov. 14.
Soap Box is hosted by MIT Museum Director John Durant.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 9, 2005 (download PDF).