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Lafayette senior Kim Lavalley (Nashua, N.H.) was one of only six students nationwide selected to speak at “The Ethics and Politics of Reproductive Technologies,” an undergraduate bioethics conference held at Princeton University Feb. 23-24. Lauren McHale ’02 gives the following report:

The conference was sponsored by the Student Bioethics Forum of Princeton University, which provides students the opportunity to discuss issues regarding bioethics, including genetic engineering, reproductive rights, infectious diseases, euthanasia, and fetal transplant research.

Lavalley’s presentation, entitled “The Implications of Prenatal Genetic Testing,” examined the ethics of prenatal testing. “I focused more on the utilitarian aspects rather than the individual rights of a given person,” Lavalley explains. “I didn’t present my personal opinion on the subject, but rather presented the audience with all sides of the issue, letting them formulate an opinion based on the information provided,” she says.

Lavalley felt honored to speak at the forum. “I was very nervous before I presented because I knew that the audience contained so many renowned figures in the bioethics field,” she says. “At the same time, I was so excited to present at such a prestigious event.”

Lavalley’s presentation was originally written as a paper for her VAST class, “Conception, Contraception, and Carrying Capacity,” taught by Nancy Waters, associate professor of biology.

“It was a really good paper, and the forum just seemed like a fated opportunity for Kim to present her work at a higher level,” says Waters. Waters and Lavalley submitted the paper, and shortly thereafter, they learned of the honors that her work had garnered. “It was such an honor for Kim to be chosen to speak at the forum. She was the only student from a four-year college, unlike the others who came from large universities with esteemed bioethics programs,” Waters continues.

Waters believes that Lavalley’s paper serves to promote the value of Lafayette’s VAST program. “The VAST program doesn’t get a lot of press and most students view it as just another requirement,” she says. “Nobody ever thinks that a VAST paper will be used again or presented at a higher venue, but Kim’s work is evidence of how the VAST program expands the boundaries of students’ capabilities.”

Although Lavalley is not sure what the future holds, she has plans of either teaching high school science or working at a Dartmouth College library and possibly pursing graduate work.

Categorized in: Academic News