Dr. Todd Kuiken’s work explores the scientific and technological frontier, stimulating discovery and bringing new tools to bear on public policy challenges that emerge as science advances. Since leaving the “field”, where he conducted environmental research on the bio-geo-chemical cycling of mercury, he has been exploring the environmental opportunities/risks associated with emerging technologies. He believes that effective environmental policy is more than just examining the science underpinning technologies, but the philosophies, economics and public perceptions enveloping the ecosystems in which those technologies are designed to impact, directly or indirectly.
Prior to joining the faculty of NC State University, he spent eight years at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program where he led the Synthetic Biology Project along with other emerging technology related projects, such as the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. During that time, he developed and managed numerous projects related to the environment and public policy; ranging from synthetic biology to rare earth materials. Including developing the first research agenda for the ecological implications of synthetic biology, a program with the burgeoning Do-It-Yourself Biology community, and produced a series of reports exploring the impacts of synthetic biology on the environment. That work, in part, led to his appointment to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity’s Ad-Hoc-Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on synthetic biology.
Since moving to NC State’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center, he has expanded this work to include numerous international environmental and conservation related projects; as well as global study on the biosafety, security and overall impacts of the DIYbio community. In addition he was commissioned by the U.N. FAO to assess how changes in science and technology will affect the structure, function and viability of the U.N. Plant Treaty. And was appointed to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) technical and policy task force on synthetic biology and gene drives, which culminated in the first comprehensive assessment of the impacts of synthetic biology and gene drives on conservation. More recently he was appointed to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Risk Assessment for the Cartagena Protocol.
He plays an active role in the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition as a long time judge and by serving as the co-chair of its sustainable development goals program and as the former co-chair of the human practices program.