Multidisciplinary precision health expert joins Law, Policy, and Engineering

Samantha Chavanic
July 15, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Multidisciplinary precision health expert Jennifer K. Wagner will join the Law, Policy, and Engineering (LPE) initiative on Aug. 15 as assistant professor of law, policy and engineering in Penn State's School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP). 

Before joining Penn State, Wagner served as an assistant professor in Geisinger’s Center for Translational Bioethics & Health Care Policy and as associate director of bioethics research. She researches ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) related to genomics and precision health and has been involved with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) All of UsSM Research Program and the Geisinger MyCode Community Health Initiative

“Whether we’re talking biomedical devices, machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms, advanced materials, gene therapies or information technologies, they all raise critical issues regarding privacy, nondiscrimination and equity,” Wagner said. “How we embrace opportunities to fix historical wrongs and how we rise to the ethical, legal and policy challenges that come with implementing new science and technologies will fundamentally change our culture. I invested in my own multidisciplinary education because I saw not only its potential but its necessity for the future. I am so happy to find that the interdisciplinary vision I have had is one shared in Happy Valley and embraced by leadership at Penn State, including those in the College of Engineering, the School of International Affairs, and Penn State Law at University Park.”

Wagner earned her juris doctor from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Law in 2007 and her doctorate in anthropology from Penn State in 2010. She completed postdoctoral research appointments at Duke University’s Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Integration of Genetic Healthcare Technologies. Wagner left academia to serve in the office of United States Senator Edward J. Markey’s in 2014-15 as a Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow, sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As an academic, Wagner combines methods from anthropology, law, policy, and ethics with engineering techniques of design thinking and human-centered design. Through the law and policy lens, Wagner investigates biases and discrimination in genetics and omics and biomedicine, health access and disparate impacts on vulnerable populations, translational research on patient, participant and consumer engagement and privacy and cybersecurity of biometric data. Wagner’s underlying academic thread focuses on the advancement of the international human right to science, with current research projects funded by NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute’s ELSI Research Program and National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 

“I am excited to welcome Dr. Wagner to Penn State’s Law, Policy, and Engineering initiative,” said Sandra Allain, director of the initiative and professor of practice. “Her interdisciplinary research and expertise across science and technology policy, law, genetics, bioethics and precision medicine, as well as professional experience in the healthcare sector, provide ample opportunities to cultivate new academic offerings, professional programs and research collaborations in the College of Engineering and across Penn State.” 

Wagner’s unique background at the intersections of law, policy, and technology has presented her with numerous opportunities to work across traditional disciplinary boundaries and collaborate with engineers, scientists, ethicists and policy experts.

“Dr. Wagner’s expertise brings together exactly what the Law, Policy, and Engineering initiative stands for — the bridging of science and technology knowledge with law and policy competencies to influence positive social change,” said Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean in the College of Engineering. “Her interdisciplinary experiences provide her with the knowledge and expertise to advance LPE’s research and academic offerings.”

Wagner expressed her excitement around being afforded the opportunity to apply her expertise in a new way: interacting with and impacting the next generation of change makers. She also maintains a Twitter account as @DNAlawyer.

“To have the ability to engage engineering students — the people who will be or already are making the things and designing the systems with the potential to transform our world — and instill upon them the benefits of integrating the law, policy, ethics and anthropological dimensions into their work, while helping them understand the serious costs and consequences if they fail to do so is simply amazing,” she said. “I am excited to help LPE Director Allain develop and implement an innovative curriculum, and I look forward to leading my own research team within SEDTAPP.”

 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 16, 2021