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



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.

Register for MoBE Workshop

Register for Virtual MoBE


  • Day 1: We will be publicly live-streaming from Talley Student Union via Zoom Webinar and out to YouTube, with chat capabilities during Q&A sessions. All are welcome to join us virtually. REGISTER HERE >


  • Days 1 and 2 will be in-person for invited attendees (speakers, PreMiEr affiliates, and stakeholders). REGISTER HERE >

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 KuzmaWelcome and Introductions 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.Opening and the State of MoBE Science and Engineering (9-9:45 AM)Goodnight-NCGSK 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 DunnOpening Remarks 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 and the State of MoBE Science and Engineering (9-9:45 AM)Senior Vice Provost for University Interdisciplinary ProgramsNC State | LinkedIn
Claudia GunschState of MoBE Science and Engineering 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.Opening and the State of MoBE Science and Engineering (9-9:45 AM)Professor 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 Benezra Social Microbiome: What equity and transdisciplinary collaboration has to do with microbesBenezra204Dr. 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.Social Equity and MoBE (9:50-11:25 AM)Assistant Professor of Science and Technology StudiesStevens Institute of Technologyabenezra@stevens.edu
Andrew Hardwick Variables in the Built EnvironmentHardwick205Andrew 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.Social Equity and MoBE (9:50-11:25 AM)Doctoral Candidate in Public and International AffairsNC State Universityarhardwi@ncsu.edu
Mohammed Rafi Arefin the Emerging Role of Private Firms in Wastewater-Based SurveillanceArefin206Mohammed Rafi Arefin is an Assistant Professor of Geography (Environmental Justice and Social Change) at the University of British Columbia where he is also a founding board member of the Centre for Climate Justice. His expertise is in urban environmental politics specifically in the areas of sanitation and housing. He holds a PhD in geography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is passionate about critical social scientific work that engages deeply with scientists to create frameworks and outcomes driven by principles of social and environmental justice. For this work, he was recently awarded the Glenda Laws Award by the American Associations of Geographers which recognizes outstanding contributions to geographic research on social issues and policy.Social Equity and MoBE (9:50-11:25 AM)Assistant Professor of Geographythe University of British Columbiarafi.arefin@ubc.ca
Davida Smyth your teaching with microbiomesSmyth207Davida 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.Social Equity and MoBE (9:50-11:25 AM)Associate 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 ClintonClinton308Dr. 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
Justin LundLund309Dr. Justin Lund, PhD (Diné) (he/him/his), serves as a post-doctoral scholar within the Department of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University. He holds master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Lund's expertise lies in molecular anthropology, with a primary research focus on human microbiomes, bioethics, and Indigenous methodologies. However, his overarching commitment lies in amplifying Native American perspectives and advancing Tribal sovereignty. At NAU, Dr. Lund spearheads the establishment of the Indigenous Molecular Anthropology and Archaeology Learning Laboratories. These innovative lab spaces are designed to center Indigenous perspectives and foster community collaboration as the cornerstone of research methodology. The ultimate aim is to cultivate meaningful research partnerships while mentoring the next generation of Indigenous professionals.Microbiomes and data sovereigntyBioethics and MoBE: Privacy, Consent, Ownership (11:45-1:00 PM) Academic Excellence Postdoctoral Scholar in AnthropologyNorthern Arizona UniversityJustin.Lund@nau.edu
Nicolae MorarMorar310Nicolae 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 »
Joe BrownBrown411Joe Brown, PhD, PE, has broad interests in water and sanitation technologies, environmental health microbiology and the role of infrastructure in protecting public health and well-being. His current research includes pathogens in the built environment; the use of fecal waste streams in public health surveillance; the development and application of novel tools to track pathogens in environmental media; and observational and experimental studies to estimate the effects of water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in controlling the transmission of infectious diseases. Dr. Brown has held former faculty appointments at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.Quantitative microbial risk assessment: applications in the built environment Risk Governance and MoBE (1:50-3:05 PM) Professor and Engineering Programs Director the University of North Carolina, Chapel | Bluesky
Chris WozniakWozniak412Dr. 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'Doherty413Kieran 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.Development of Microbiome StewardshipRisk 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: Joe Brown | Download Session Graphic »
Christopher CummingsCummings514Christopher 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 LandrevilleLandreville515Kristen 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 SzymanskiSzymanski516Erika 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 VangayVangay517Pajau Vangay received her Ph.D. in Computational Biology from the University of Minnesota in the research lab of Dr. Dan Knights. Her graduate research focused on the impact of migration on the human gut microbiome and obesity development in U.S. refugee communities. She also has a M.S. degree in Food Microbiology from Cornell, and a B.S. in Computer Science from Colorado School of Mines. In 2018, she joined the California Council on Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program as a policy committee consultant and legislative aide in the California Legislature. Prior to joining the Hypothesis Fund, she was based at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where she was the Scientific Community Manager for the National Microbiome Data Collaborative and partnered with scientific communities to champion open science and data stewardship practices. As Sr. Director, Scientific Network at the Hypothesis Fund, she supports and empowers 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 GravesGraves618Speaker bio forthcomingSummary 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

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