Consortium Introduction

The Consortium conducts original research, serves students and faculty, and advances public dialogue and understanding on emerging issues at the intersection of science and society.

Latest News

Oron Catts

Pioneer of Biological Art Offers Public Lecture Nov. 27

November 12, 2018

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, Oron Catts will delivery a lecture entitled "Biology on the Pedestal" at the Weisman Art Museum. Catts is the director of SymbioticA, a center dedicated to the biological arts at the University of Western Australia. He is an artist, researcher, designer and curator whose pioneering work, the Tissue Culture and Art Project, is considered a leading biological art project. Catts’ ideas and projects reach beyond the confines of art; his work is often cited as inspiration to diverse areas such as new materials, textiles, design, architecture, ethics, fiction, and food. He is recognized worldwide for creating a unique model of cross-disciplinary integration where artistic thought and hard science seamlessly blend into a single creative research process. This event is co-presented by the Weisman Art Museum, the BioTechnology Institute, a Consortium member, and the University of Minnesota Medical School; learn more and register here

Silhouette of people made of binary code

Some Swedes are Early Adopters of Biohacking

November 7, 2018

According to a report from National Public Radio, "In Sweden, a country rich with technological advancement, thousands have had microchips inserted into their hands. The chips are designed to speed up users' daily routines and make their lives more convenient — accessing their homes, offices and gyms is as easy as swiping their hands against digital readers." On April 3, 2019, a free, public lecture and webcast will feature Prof. Lisa Ikemoto (UC Davis School of Law) discussing "Biohacking and Cyborg Rights." Her talk is part of this year's Consortium lecture series, "Consumer-driven and DIY Science," which will also feature Sharon Terry (Genetic Alliance) and Michael Imperiale (University of Michigan).

Gut bugs

Immigrants' Microbiomes Drop in Diversity Once They Move to US

November 2, 2018

A new study published in the journal Cell demonstrates that the American diet has nearly immediate effects on the human microbiome. The lead author of the article is Dan Knights of the University of Minnesota; as he tells the Washington Post, "We found that moving to a new country changes your microbiome. You pick up the microbiome of the new country and possibly some of the new disease risks that are more common in that country." In the case of people moving from Southeast Asia to the United States, their "gut diversity dropped to resemble the less-varied microbiomes in European Americans. At the same time, obesity rates spiked." Prof. Knights is renowned for his work using computational methods to better understand the human microbiome and develop precision medicine therapies. He was the commentator for a Consortium-sponsored lecture, "The Evolving Human Microbiome," by Alexander Khoruts, also of the University of Minnesota. Watch the video of that lecture here

Globe made out of puzzle pieces

Climate Change Report Sparks Changes to Everyday Habits

October 29, 2018

Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an alarming report forecasting the effects of global warming above 1.5°C when compared to pre-industrial levels. The IPCC whitepaper predicted massive forest fires, widespread drought and increasingly violent storms in the coming decades, and called for the complete elimination of the use of fossil fuels by 2050. Given the dire outlook, it's tempting to succumb to despair and inertia. However, local environmentalists are both calling for positive action and taking steps in their personal lives to help address the problem. According to the Star Tribune, among those working on small-scale solutions is Jessica Hellmann, Director of the Institute on the Environment, a Consortium member. Prof. Hellmann's family has installed solar panels on their St. Paul home; she is renowned for her advocacy of not simply working to stem climate change, but also plan for adaptation in the face of a warmer planet. “The narrative is that we’re going to have to … sit in the dark in a cave. The life that alternative technologies can provide is pretty enriching,” she said. Read the entire article here

Upcoming Events

Consortium Updates

Call for Proposals: Consortium Research Awards

Each year, the Consortium provides funding for intramural projects related to the societal implications of problems in health, environment, and the life sciences. Grants will be awarded in spring 2019 to UMN graduate and professional students for work during the summer of 2019 and academic year 2019-20. Student organizations may apply for these grants. Deadline for proposals is Feb. 11, 2019. To learn more and get application materials, click here.

Job Opportunity: Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator

We are seeking a full-time Executive Assistant and Events Coordinator to support the administrative, programmatic, research, and teaching functions of the Consortium and its leadership. This is a Bargaining Unit position; Job ID is 326080. Applications will be accepted until the job is filled. Questions may be directed to Audrey Boyle at For more information or to apply, click here