More than 200 SHERP alumni, friends and faculty gathered September 29, 2007, to celebrate the program's 25th anniversary with a full day of events. There was a luncheon at 20 Cooper Square, a symposium on synthetic biology featuring famed geneticist J. Craig Venter with a panel of prominent journalists and policy analysts, and then a gala dinner dance at Gotham Hall. The guest of honor was the program's founder and director emeritus, Bill Burrows.
To mark the occasion, students and alumni produced a ten-minute video about SHERP, as well as a written history of the program and a colorful poster featuring logos from many of the places where SHERP students have gone to work since Burrows founded the program in 1982. Alumni also began raising money for a scholarship fund for deserving SHERP students, in Burrows' honor.
At the anniversary luncheon at 20 Cooper Square, Sean Mulligan (SERP 1) presents Director Emeritus Bill Burrows (right) with a poster showing the many places where program graduates have worked.
Later that evening, more than 200 alumni, friends, students and faculty celebrated the anniversary with a dinner dance at Gotham Hall. Burrows was the guest of honor.
The SHERP-organized "Designing Life" symposium focused on the creation of the first synthetic life, and what that imminent breakthrough is likely to mean for media and society. Venter, who rose to worldwide prominence for his work decoding the human genome, told the crowd about a series of breakthrough experiments that have put his research team at the cusp of creating the first entirely synthesized life form. He predicted that the first "designer bacteria" would be produced soon, perhaps at his own laboratory. Other participants in the panel included Dan Vergano (SERP 14) of USA Today, Robert Krulwich of National Public Radio, Kathy Hudson of the Genetics and Public Policy Center and Michael Stebbins of the Federation of American Scientists. The moderator was Apoorva Mandavilli (SERP 17), formerly with Nature Medicine and now executive editor at the Simons Foundation.
Venter explains why "booting up" the first synthetic life form is going to be easier than it seems. (4 min 35 sec)
Genetically designed biofuels have enormous promise, Venter says. (1 min 47 sec)
How should journalists cover the dawn of artificial life? Vergano, Krulwich and Venter offer advice. (4 min 26 sec)
A SHERP graduate, Holger Breithaupt, asks about the potential for unexpected disasters as synthetic biology develops. Venter responds that the risks are low because human biology is more predictable that it appears. (2 min 21 sec)
Why does the public mistrust science? Vergano, Stebbins, Hudson and Krulwich explain. (9 min 6 sec)