Since we moved to Wisconsin we’ve made quite a few new friends. When we are getting introduced the subject of who does what eventually comes up. I tell people I am a biomedical engineer, and often they don’t know exactly what that means in terms of a job, but it has the word engineer in it, and that can form the basis of an initial guess. Then I tell them that Melissa is getting her PhD in bioethics. This usually leads to a stumbling question like “What does a…um…who are…uh…what does a person with a degree in bioethics do?” When Melissa isn’t around to answer the question this is what I say:

1. Melissa’s PhD is on pleiotropy. This is a word I had never heard until I married her. Pleiotropy is when a single genetic test can have multiple possible outcomes, and some of these may be unforeseen at the present time. I’m still not 100% sure this explanation is correct but I’m going to try to get it right by the time she defends her dissertation.

2. I’m not exactly sure what bioethicists do, but I have spent enough time around them to know that they like conceptual frameworks a lot. An engineer might wake up and think about what he is going to build, take apart or blow up that day. I’m guessing that bioethicists wake up and think about their conceptual framework for the day, and wonder how their framework overlaps with those being used by their colleagues.

With this in mind, here is our current conceptual framework: Melissa’s defense date is rapidly approaching, so I’m sending out this request to our friends and family all over the world to put on your tin foil hats and send some positive dissertation energy in the direction of Wisconsin. But if you don’t get around to it for a few weeks then please redirect your antennas to Cleveland, since that is where her defense is taking place.

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