Workshop on the Societal and Ethical Implications of Microbiome Engineering in Built Environments

May 15–16, 2024, Talley Student Union, Room 3222, NC State University | NSF-PreMiEr Workshop

Virtual MoBE: Watch recorded presentations


What is PreMiEr?

The Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Precision Microbiome Engineering (PreMiEr) studies and improves the microbiomes of the built environment.

It is a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded collaboration between Duke University, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (N.C. A&T), North Carolina State University (NCSU), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte).

For more information on PreMiEr, please visit:

What is the “built environment?”

The built environment refers to any space built by humans, generally what we refer to as “indoors.”

These spaces include your home, place of work, vehicle, hospital, and shopping mall. The average person can spend up to 90% of their life within built environments.

What is SEI?

All research and activities within PreMiEr are guided and done in collaboration with the Societal and Ethical Implications (SEI) Core.

PreMiEr’s work evokes a diverse range of SEI issues at the intersection of health and environmental risk, medical ethics, research ethics, environmental release of GMOs, public trust and perceptions, social equity, gender and racial inequities, privacy and regulation, and responsible governance.

PreMiEr provides a unique opportunity to engage researchers, engineers, stakeholders, and publics in emerging conversations about engineered microbiomes in built environments.

The ERC also enables novel and ground-breaking scholarly examination of SEI aspects of microbiome engineering for built environments.

For more information on PreMiEr’s SEI work, please visit:

What are the goals of the MoBE workshop?

PreMiEr’s microbiome engineering framework will enable the development of a wide range of transformative technologies that solve societal challenges at the interface of health and the environment. However, the dissemination of these same technologies is not without risk as it relies on the responsible development and societal acceptance of microbiome engineering approaches.

The MoBE workshop will bring together a diverse group of scholars to help develop an agenda for research on the ethical, societal, and policy aspects of PreMiEr’s evolving microbiome engineering discoveries and methods for integration of SEI into PreMiEr’s work.

Topics include:

  • The State of MoBE Science and Engineering
  • Social Equity and MoBE
  • Bioethics and MoBE: Privacy, consent, and ownership
  • Risk Governance and MoBE
  • Public Perception and Engagement with Communities
  • Reflections on the integration of SEI with science and engineering of the microbiome

See the workshop sessions and speakers below for details.

MoBE Sessions and Speakers

Wednesday, May 15th, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm | In-person and Virtual

Morning Sessions

9-9:45 AM — Opening and the State of MoBE Science and Engineering

Moderator: Jennifer Kuzma | Download Session Graphic »
Jennifer KuzmaKuzma101Jennifer Kuzma, PhD, is the Goodnight-NCGSK Foundation Distinguished Professor in the Social Sciences at NC State University. She co-founded and co-directs the Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) Center. Dr. Kuzma leads NC State's efforts in the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center on Precision Microbiome Engineering, focusing on the social and ethical implications (SEI). With over 30 years of experience, she has authored nearly 150 scholarly publications on emerging technologies and governance. Her pioneering work in agrifood nanotechnology, gene-editing, and synthetic biology led to her election as a AAAS Fellow. Kuzma has received numerous awards, including the Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Science Policy and the SRA Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer Award. She holds leadership positions in various organizations, including the World Economic Forum Council on Technology, Values and Policy. Kuzma's expertise is widely recognized and sought after, as she frequently contributes to media outlets such as the New York Times, NPR, and Scientific American.Welcome and IntroductionsOpening and the State of MoBE Science and Engineering (9-9:45 AM) Foundation Distinguished Professor, Associate Director of PreMiEr, and Co-Founder/Co-Director of the Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) CenterNC State Universityjkuzma@ncsu.edu
Rob DunnDunn102Rob Dunn, PhD, is the Senior Vice Provost for University Interdisciplinary Programs at NC State University, overseeing various initiatives including the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program and the Sustainable Futures Initiative. He also holds a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professorship in the Department of Applied Ecology. Since 2005, Dunn has managed the Public Science lab, garnering over ten million dollars in research grants from twelve different sources for work across 20 countries. With a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Kalamazoo College and a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from the University of Connecticut, Dunn is an accomplished writer, with publications in National Geographic, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and authoring seven books, including "A Natural History of the Future" and "Delicious: The Evolution of Flavor and How it Made Us Human," co-authored with Monica Sanchez.Opening RemarksOpening and the State of MoBE Science and Engineering (9-9:45 AM) Vice Provost for University Interdisciplinary ProgramsNC State | LinkedIn
Claudia GunschGunsch103Claudia Gunsch, a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University, directs the NSF Engineering Research Center for Precision Microbiome Engineering. With a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, she merges environmental engineering and molecular biotechnology, focusing on microbiome engineering for bioremediation. Recognized with awards such as the NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award and the ASCE Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, Gunsch is committed to advancing knowledge and mentorship in her field, having mentored over 70 students and postdoctoral associates. She serves as Editor in Chief for Biodegradation and holds editorial positions in other prestigious journals.State of MoBE Science and EngineeringOpening and the State of MoBE Science and Engineering (9-9:45 AM) of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Director of PreMiEr, and Associate Director for the Duke Microbiome CenterDuke Universityckgunsch@duke.edu

9:50-11:25 AM — Social Equity and MoBE

Moderator: Kristen Landreville | Download Session Graphic »
Amber BenezraBenezra204Dr. Amber Benezra is a sociocultural anthropologist researching how studies of the human microbiome intersect with biomedical ethics, public health/technological infrastructures, and care. In partnership with human microbial ecologists, she has developed an "anthropology of microbes" to address global health problems across disciplines, and has been doing collaborative microbiome work for 15 years. Her book Gut Anthro: An Experiment in Thinking With Microbes was published by University of Minnesota Press in 2023. Currently Dr. Benezra is developing new research around race and the microbiome and antiracist scientific futures.The Social Microbiome: What equity and transdisciplinary collaboration has to do with microbesSocial Equity and MoBE (9:50-11:25 AM) Professor of Science and Technology StudiesStevens Institute of Technologyabenezra@stevens.edu
Andrew HardwickHardwick205Andrew Hardwick is a PhD Candidate with expertise in the relationship between research and discrimination. With two years of experience in science policy making, they with members of PreMiEr have written the first systematic review of the societal and ethical implications of precision microbiome engineering. They are completing their PhD in public administration from NC State University and are passionate about addressing inequities perpetuated by scientific research. They been involved in NC State University's AgBioFEWS Research Traineeship, bringing a unique perspective and valuable insights to ghost variables in the built environment.Ghost Variables in the Built EnvironmentSocial Equity and MoBE (9:50-11:25 AM) Candidate in Public and International AffairsNC State Universityarhardwi@ncsu.edu
Davida SmythSmyth206Davida Smyth, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Microbiology at Texas A&M University in San Antonio. There she conducts research with her undergraduate team in the area of comparative microbial genomics and evolution, studying Staphylococcus aureus from animals and from humans and researches the role of the built environment and anthropogenic activity in driving antibiotic resistance, a major global health threat. She also engages in pedagogical research on improving civic and scientific literacy in biology and integrating authentic research into the curriculum to improve student engagement and success in science. She is a Senior SENCER Leadership Fellow and PULSE Fellow. She is Deputy Director of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement.CUREing your teaching with microbiomesSocial Equity and MoBE (9:50-11:25 AM) Professor of Molecular MicrobiologyTexas A&M University – San | X | Instagram

11:45-1:00 PM — Bioethics and MoBE: Privacy, Consent, Ownership

Moderator: Andrew Hardwick | Download Session Graphic »
Carter ClintonClinton307Dr. Carter Clinton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University, focusing on African American genetics and historical burial grounds. His research utilizes non-destructive soil microbiome analysis at historical burial sites including the New York African Burial Ground, employing 16S and metagenomic techniques to detect human-associated bacteria, pathogens, and DNA from plants, animals, and humans. This innovative approach not only establishes historical human presence but also sheds light on the diets, diseases, and domestication practices of past populations. Dr. Clinton's work significantly contributes to understanding the health impacts and lineage of African American communities, offering insights that bridge historical gaps and address present-day health disparities. By engaging with communities and focusing on socially relevant outcomes, his research stands at the forefront of efforts to heal and inform through the lens of evolutionary medicine.From Soil to Society: Ethical Considerations of Microbiome Research in Historical African American Burial SitesBioethics and MoBE: Privacy, Consent, Ownership (11:45-1:00 PM) Professor of Biological SciencesNC State Universityckclinto@ncsu.edu
David ResnikResnik308Dr. Resnik has an M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and J.D. from Concord University School of Law. He received his B.A. in philosophy from Davidson College. Dr. Resnik was an Associate and Full Professor of Medical Humanities at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University (ECU) from 1998-2004, and an Associate Director of the Bioethics Center at ECU and University Health Systems from 1998-2004. Dr. Resnik was Assistant and Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wyoming (UW) from 1990-1998, and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics at UW from 1995-1998. Dr. Resnik has published over 250 peer reviewed articles and 10 books on various topics in philosophy and bioethics and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He serves on several editorial boards and is an Associate Editor of the journal Accountability in Research. Dr. Resnik was Chair of the NIEHS Institutional Review Board (IRB) from 2008-2019 and is a Certified IRB Professional.Thinking about the risks of engineering the microbiome in the built environment: A precautionary approachBioethics and MoBE: Privacy, Consent, Ownership (11:45-1:00 PM) Institute of Environmental Health | ResearchGate
Nicolae MorarMorar309Nicolae Morar, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy and an Associate Member of the Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Oregon. His work in bioethics provides an analysis of the ways in which microbial biology and current biotechnologies are altering traditional conceptions of (human) nature.Bioethical challenges regarding microbiome engineeringBioethics and MoBE: Privacy, Consent, Ownership (11:45-1:00 PM) Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophythe University of | Website

Afternoon Sessions

1:50-3:05 PM — Risk Governance and MoBE

Moderator: Christopher Cummings | Download Session Graphic »
Megan LottLott410Dr. Megan Lott is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with expertise in environmental and public health microbiology. She holds a Master’s in Environmental Sciences and Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a PhD in Environmental Health from the University of Georgia. Megan is passionate about utilizing interdisciplinary methods to link microbial ecology with human health risk. Megan led the establishment of the wastewater-based surveillance program for Athens, Georgia and has been an active member of the global COVID-19 Wastewater-Based Epidemiology Collaborative. Through her postdoctoral research, Megan aims to implement quantitative microbial risk assessment to translate microbial measurements from the built environment into terms of human health risk.Quantitative microbial risk assessment: applications in the built environment Risk Governance and MoBE (1:50-3:05 PM) Fellow in Environmental Sciences and Engineering atthe University of North Carolina, Chapel | LinkedIn
Chris WozniakWozniak411Dr. Wozniak received his training in Plant Pathology and Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He has worked for the Agricultural Research Service as a molecular biologist, as a National Program Leader at USDA-CSREES in areas of food safety and environmental risk assessment and as Biotechnology Special Assistant in the Office of Pesticide Programs at US EPA working with microbial, plant and mosquito products with pesticidal intent. After 35 years in government service, Chris retired; however, he maintains a consulting business for all things biotech derived. Dr. Wozniak continues to push for regulatory revisions to remove the inherent bias against products of rDNA.Regulation of novel engineered microbes into the environmentRisk Governance and MoBE (1:50-3:05 PM) Biopesticide Consulting LLCdcwoz929@gmail.com
Kieran O'DohertyO'Doherty412Kieran C. O’Doherty, PhD, is professor in the department of psychology at the University of Guelph, where he directs the Discourse, Science, Publics research Group. His research focuses on the social and ethical implications of science and technology. A particular emphasis of his research has been on the social and ethical aspects of human microbiome research. He is currently developing the concept of microbiome stewardship as part of a CIHR funded project. Recent edited volumes include Psychological Studies of Science and Technology (2019) and The Sage Handbook of Applied Social Psychology (2019). He is editor of Theory & Psychology.Microbiome Stewardship: ResponsibleGovernance of Microbial EcologiesRisk Governance and MoBE (1:50-3:05 PM) in Applied Social PsychologyUniversity of Guelphodohertk@uoguelph.ca

3:20-4:35 PM — Public Perception and Engagement with Communities

Moderator: Megan Lott | Download Session Graphic »
Christopher CummingsCummings513Christopher L. Cummings, PhD, serves as the Deputy Lead for the Center for Engineering for Public Health and Human Factors within the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) as well as a Senior Research Fellow in the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University. Previously, he was an Assistant Professor of Communication at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore—a top-ranked university in Asia and among the top 15 in the world where he also served as the Director of the International Strategic Communication Management program. Dr. Cummings’ work focuses on advancing public engagement with science, developing risk communication theory, and improving public health decision making across the life span. An experienced social scientist, behavioral theorist, and risk communication scholar, Dr. Cummings uses a variety of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods, and his work has been featured in more than 60 applied science and health venues, including Risk Analysis; Vaccine; Regulation and Governance; Nanotoxicology; PLOS One; Science, Technology, & Human Values; and Climate Research, among others.Taking the temperature of US public opinion on microbiome engineeringPublic Perception and Engagement with Communities (3:10-4:25 PM) Social Scientistthe US Army Corp of Engineers; NC State
Kristen LandrevilleLandreville513Kristen D. Landreville, PhD, is a Senior Research Scholar at the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, where she leads social science research as part of the Societal and Ethical Implications (SEI) Core in the PreMiEr Engineering Research Center. Kristen is a social scientist with a PhD in communication from the Ohio State University. With two decades of experience in quantitative and qualitative research methods, she uses her expertise in communication, media, psychology, and political science to study public attitudes and behaviors surrounding science, the environment, health, and risk. Prior to joining the Genetic Engineering and Society Center in 2023, Kristen worked as an Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism at the University of Wyoming for 13 years, where she led social science projects for NSF grants on microbial ecology and climate change in Wyoming.Taking the temperature of US public opinion on microbiome engineeringPublic Perception and Engagement with Communities (3:10-4:25 PM) Research Scholar with the Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) CenterNC State | LinkedIn
Erika SzymanskiSzymanski514Erika Szymanski, PhD, is an associate professor of rhetoric of science in the English department and microbiome cluster at Colorado State University, working primarily in science and technology studies. Following degrees in microbiology, rhetoric, and science communication, she took up a postdoc in Science, Technology, and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where she worked as a social scientist on the synthetic yeast project, studying how efforts to construct a redesigned synthetic genome for brewer's yeast also reconstructed microbe-human working relationships. She now leads an NSF CAREER project on understanding metaphors for microbiomes as scientific tools for constructing microbiome-based technologies, and as tools for reflecting on the values built into this work.How is a microbiome? Constructing more-than-human relationships in constructing microbiome-based technologiesPublic Perception and Engagement with Communities (3:10-4:25 PM) Professor of Rhetoric of ScienceColorado State Universityerika.szymanski@colostate.edu
Pajau VangayVangay515Pajau Vangay received her Ph.D. in Computational Biology from the University of Minnesota. Her graduate research focused on the impact of migration on the human gut microbiome and obesity development in two Southeast Asian refugee communities, which included the formation of an equitable partnership and targeted outreach with these communities. She also has a M.S. degree in Food Microbiology from Cornell University, and a B.S./M.S. in Computer Science from Colorado School of Mines. She has experience engaging with the public on science and policy, and managing and empowering scientific communities to champion open science and data stewardship. Currently, she is Sr. Director, Scientific Network at the Hypothesis Fund, where she supports a diverse network of scientists in identifying and pursuing high-risk, high-reward projects. She is passionate about creating culture change in science.A community-engaged approach to conducting human microbiome research with underserved communitiesPublic Perception and Engagement with Communities (3:10-4:25 PM) Director, Scientific Networkthe Hypothesis | LinkedIn

4:35-5:00 PM — Closing Remarks

Download Session Graphic »
Joseph L. Graves, Jr.Graves616Dr. Joseph Graves, Jr. is the MacKenzie Scott Endowed Professor of Biology at North Carolina A&T State University, holding a Ph.D. in Environmental, Evolutionary, and Systematic Biology from Wayne State University. He is an esteemed Fellow of the AAAS, recognized for groundbreaking research in evolutionary genomics, bacterial nanomaterial responses, and biological aging. Dr. Graves leads the Genomic Research and Data Science Center for Computation and Cloud-Computing (GRADS-4C) at NIH, serves as Associate Director of Precision Microbiome Engineering (PreMiEr) for NSF's Gen-4 ERC, and directs the NC Amgen Biotech Experience. An accomplished author of five books, notably "Racism, Not Race: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions," Dr. Graves is committed to addressing societal and ethical impacts within science. He actively promotes diversity in STEM and community engagement, mentoring underserved youth and contributing to the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina's Racial Reconciliation and Justice Commission. Dr. Graves' work challenges biological misconceptions and promotes constructive dialogue on race and science.Summary and reflections on integration of SEI with science and engineering of the microbiome Closing Remarks (4:30-5:00 PM) Scott Endowed Professor of Biology, Associate Director of PreMiEr, Director of the Genomic Research and Data Science Center for Computation and Cloud-Computing, and the Director, NC Amgen Biotech ExperienceNorth Carolina Agricultural and Technical State Universityjoe

Thursday, May 16th, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm | In-person only

Moderators: Jennifer Kuzma and Kristen Landreville | Download Case Studies »
Nathan CrookCrook7Dr. Nathan Crook serves on the PreMiEr research thrust 2 team developing tools for targeting the delivery and removal of desired genetic features.The Crook Lab develops new high-throughput experimental and computational genetic engineering techniques. In doing so, we hope to uncover novel biological phenomena and accelerate applied research and development in the broad areas of metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, and microbial ecology. Our current application focus is the human gut microbiota. The ability of the gut microbiota to influence health has recently been uncovered, enabled by high-throughput DNA sequencing and animal models in which community composition is precisely controlled. The ultimate goal of this focus is the development of foundational technologies by which engineered gut commensal ecosystems can be designed and assembled as a matter of practice, enabling the conversion of food into a healthy mixture of energy, nutrients, and therapeutics.Case Study 1: CRISPR-Engineered Bacteriophage to Combat Anti-Microbial Resistance Gene Spread in Hospital SinksCase Studies (Day 2) Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular EngineeringNC State | Google Scholar
Rachel Noble (with Kristen Landreville)Noble7Dr. Rachel Noble serves onthe research thrust 1 team characterizing fungal contamination in Southeastern USA built environments. Professor Noble’s (primary appointment in the Institute of Marine Sciences) research program bridges environmental microbiology and public health. A main thread of Dr. Noble’s work is the application of novel molecular techniques for applied and basic science to protect public health, aquaculture, and aquatic environments. She has developed a range of rapid water quality test methods, including those for E. coli, Enterococcus, and Vibrio species and studies the dynamics of microbial contaminants contributed through stormwater runoff to high priority recreational and shellfish harvesting waters. A specific recent interest is conducting research on wastewater-based surveillance for SARS-CoV-2. She leads the laboratory research program that is responsible for the NC Wastewater Monitoring Network, and has been a strong proponent of standardized, fully quantitative molecular methods, improvement of sample processing and recovery for difficult to measure human pathogens, and development of improved highplex molecular approaches for quantification of 10-20 pathogen targets from a single assay.Case Study 2: Mold-Detecting HVAC Sensors for Homes and Public Indoor SpacesCase Studies (Day 2) and Watts Hill Jr. Distinguished Professor, Institute of Marine Sciencesthe University of North Carolina, Chapel | Noble Lab
See: Full agenda and the  Workshop Resources site

Participant Resources

Resource Portal with access to resource files for registered workshop participants and speakers, including speaker abstracts and articles

Go to MoBE Workshop Resources

Workshop Organizers

  • Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, Goodnight-NCGSK Foundation Distinguished Professor, Associate Director of PreMiEr, and Co-Founder/Co-Director of the GES Center
  • Dr. Kristen Landreville, Senior Research Scholar with the GES Center
  • Patti Mulligan, Communications Director with the GES Center
  • Sharon Stauffer, Program Manager with the GES Center

Land Acknowledgement

NC State University is a land-grant institution for the people of North Carolina and respectfully acknowledges that the lands within and surrounding present-day Raleigh are the traditional homelands and gathering places of many Indigenous peoples, including eight federally and state-recognized tribes: Coharie, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, Sappony and Waccamaw Siouan. We share an ongoing responsibility to safeguard these lands and to respect the sovereignty of the tribes and Indigenous nations residing in North Carolina. NC State honors all Indigenous peoples who have been and continue to be an integral part of our university’s history and culture.

This statement is authored by the NC State American Indian Advisory CouncilStudent Government and Native American Student Association, and formally adopted by the NC State Staff SenateFaculty Senate and Student Senate. Learn more »


Funding and support for MoBE provided by the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center Award #2133504