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A Day in the Life of a Neuroethicist: Nita Farahany

Nita A. Farahany is a leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging technologies. She is a Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law & Philosophy, the Founding Director of Duke Science & Society Initiative, Chair of the Duke MA in Bioethics & Science Policy, and principal investigator of SLAP Lab. She is the current president of the International Neuroethics Society.

1. What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning?

Reply to emails.

2. What’s your work routine like?

I work 9am-5:30 pm Monday through Friday, and usually get in some more writing between 8:30-10 pm Monday-Thursday.

3. Are you involved in the theoretical, investigative, or the practical/translational aspect of neuroethics? Describe your research area briefly.

All three! I focus on the intersection of law, ethics, and science, with a focus on neuroscience & genomics.

4. What’s a challenge that you face on a daily basis as a neuroethicist?

Helping people to see the value of integrating ethics early into their scientific inquiry. Driving toward practical and pragmatic solutions to help guide the responsible progress of neuroscience.

5. How do you determine what questions deserve the most focus and attention in your work?

Usually I look at what I think are "unanswered" questions, or areas that are novel breakthroughs that I believe raise unique issues beyond existing (and usually excellent) insights by others.

6. What do you wish more people understood about being a neuroethicist? Whether it be from a schooling, interest, or day-in-the-life point of view? Describe neuroethics in your own words.

That there are different methodologies to ethical inquiry, and that ethics is far more than "guardrails" on research and innovation.

7. What skills or training do you most frequently use in your work and how do you suggest more people gain these skills if they want to contribute to the field?

For me, the combination and law and philosophy help me to focus on the philosophical underpinnings of a question, together with the legal and policy solutions that can guide us forward.

8. What do you love most about your work? What keeps you motivated?

There is always a new issue to tackle, more to learn, and exciting advances that are both thrilling to learn about and give me new ways to consider my views.

9. What’s one thing you wished you did differently in your career trajectory?

I wish that I had a chance to practice law before become an academic.

10. What’s one thing you could advice the next generation of neuroethicists?

Follow your passion, one step at a time. There are many pathways to become involved in neuroethics, and your pathway will be unique. Seize each opportunity to grow your own unique career and contribution.

11. What’s the last thing you do when you leave work in the evening?

Save and quit!


This post is part of the Neuroethics Today blog series 'A Day in the Life of a Neuroethicist' where we bring you answers to questions by junior and senior neuroethicists about a day in their life to give you a better idea of what neuroethicists do, what have they learned throughout their trajectory, and ways that you can do it too.

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