HSCI takes part in local science festival

In keeping with its mission to provide the general public with a better understanding of the many dimensions of stem cell research, HSCI recently teamed up with the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study to present a town meeting on stem cell science.

Held April 25 at the Radcliffe Gymnasium in Cambridge, the free program was part of the first Cambridge Science Festival, a nine-day public event that showcased the city’s contributions to science and technology. Geared to all ages, the festival featured more than 150 events held throughout the city, including interactive exhibits, workshops, plays, debates, demonstrations, and lectures.

Presented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Museum in collaboration with Harvard University, MIT, and other local educational and civic organizations, the Cambridge Science Festival was, in the words of John Durant, Director of the MIT Museum and the Festival’s Executive Director, “designed to demystify science and pique the interest of young people, and inspire them to pursue an education in the science, technology, or engineering fields.”

The HSCI and Radcliffe Institute town meeting was divided into three consecutive sessions so that participants could choose their areas of interest. Each session included a presentation by an expert followed by an interactive discussion between attendees and a panel of experts.

The first session, “The significance of stem cell science,” included a discussion of how degenerative diseases affect people, what stem cell research can accomplish, and current therapies involving stem cells. Experts were HSCI Principal Faculty member Jerome Ritz, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; HSCI affiliate Paul Lerou, MD, of Children’s Hospital Boston; and HSCI affiliated faculty member Keith Orford, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital.

The second session, presented by HSCI Principal Faculty members Amy Wagers, PhD, Kevin Eggan, PhD, and Lee Rubin, PhD, addressed “The science of stem cells,” which focused on adult and embryonic stem cells, as well as stem cell technologies.

The final session, “The ethical and social implications of stem cell research,” touched on the controversies surrounding this research and public policy issues at the state, federal, and international level. This session featured HSCI faculty member M. William Lensch, PhD; Kevin Casey, of Harvard’s Office of Government, Community and Public Affairs; and Patrick Taylor, JD, of Children’s Hospital Boston.

For more information about the Cambridge Science Festival, visit the website at www.cambridgesciencefestival.org.