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Blog: Always on our Mind

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St Mary’s University, Twickenham welcomed Alumnus Dr Chris Willmott to deliver a guest lecture on Neuroethics to students on the MA Bioethics and Medical Law programme. Research Associate at St Mary's Matthew James has written a blog about the lecture. The delight of seeing students graduate from a degree programme must only be eclipsed by the privilege of welcoming alumni back to lecture and contribute further to the learning community within a university. Such an occasion took place on Thursday 26th May 2016 when the MA programme in Bioethics and Medical Law welcomed back alumnus Dr Chris Willmott to deliver a lecture entitled Playing on your mind? An Introduction to Neuroethics. The lecture helped to mark the publication of Chris’s latest book Biological Determinism, Free Will and Moral Responsibility: Insights from Genetics and Neuroscience. Published by Springer in its Briefs in Ethics series, the book develops research into behavioural genetics and neuroscience that Chris had undertaken to write his MA dissertation. Over the last decade rapid advances have been made in imaging and manipulating the brain and how it functions. This has raised key ethical challenges, particularly in terms of the moral limits of the use of such technology. In an easily accessible and engaging way, Chris addressed how developments in our understanding of behavioural genetics and neuroscience might impact on notions of free will and moral responsibility with particular emphasis on neurolaw, the application of behaviour-related science to criminal law. We were thrilled to have Chris return to St Mary’s and lecture on not only an important bioethical topic but one so closely linked to his MA dissertation. There is much talk about establishing communities of learning and it is one of our priorities on the MA Bioethics programme to equip and inspire our students to actively engage in this collaborative process. A number of students have been successful in having parts of their dissertations published in academic journals, including our own The New Bioethics: A multidisciplinary journal of biotechnology and the body. To celebrate with Chris on the publication of his book is a real delight for us as we continue to encourage our students to play their part in contributing to the public conversation surrounding bioethics and new technologies. Prior to the evening lecture, Chris also addressed the first meeting of the UK working group for the Cambridge Consortium for Bioethics Education, chaired by Matt James. During the meeting Chris shared his experience of using multimedia in teaching bioethics with bioscience students in higher education. Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry at the University of Leicester, Chris has a particular interest in the development of resources for teaching biological science students about ethics. He serves as a co-convenor of the Higher Education Academy Centre for Bioscience Special Interest Group in this field. He was the Editor of the Bioscience Education E-journal between 2004 and 2006, and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2005.
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