Life Science and Environmental Ethics

Life Science and Environmental Ethics Track 


The Life Science and Environmental Ethics Track addresses ethical, political, and social issues in the life science fields of biology, medicine, and environmental sciences. Such issues include the manipulation of genetic material in foods or insect pests or human embryos, the creation of new medicines and technologies to sustain life, and the environmental trade-offs that our expanding population confronts from land use, planning and disposal of hazardous waste to the preservation or natural environments, and the protection of clean air and water.  

Understanding and working with such issues requires clear and analytical thinking, an understanding of classical ethical arguments, and experience in the settings where the decisions are made. The Life Science and Environmental Ethics Honors Track provides the relevant training and experience of pursuing these interests. As with the other Honors Tracks, the Life Science and Environmental Ethics Track functions like a minor, offering a distinctive set of courses that adds breadth to, and reinforces, a student’s chosen major.


The Track is Ideal For:

  • Students of all majors
  • Students with special interest in ethical issues caused by their scientific knowledge
  • Business students who wish to better understand the ethical dimensions if the technical areas in which they will soon be working



After completing at least two science courses *by advisement), during the first two years at William Paterson, the student takes a set of three courses in the track. These courses expand the student’s understanding of the process of scientific investigation, expose them to major ethical systems, and through the mechanism of case study, guide the student in exploring the interfaces among ethics, science, and the law. Next, the student completes a one semester intensive internship with an agency that deals with ethical issues in the lives of humans, animals, or an aspect of human environmental interaction. Finally, the student will integrate classroom and practical experience with scholarship in a senior thesis.

What projects have students completed in the past?

Students in the Life Science and Environmental Ethics Track have produced theses with the following titles:

Thesis Title

Student Name


Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria: Health Issues and Solutions


Kristen De Wilde



The Practical Implementation of Vertical Farming in Urban Environments


Devin Pendergast



The Bioethical Struggles of the Filipino American


Karlene Chi



The Effect of Agricultural Chemicals on the Environment


Amanda Muraca




How do I enroll?

To enroll in the Life Science and Environmental Ethics Track, contact the Director, Dr. Karen Swanson, at (973) 720-2589 or at You could also contact Jan Pinkston at (973) 720-3776 or at A completed track application must also be submitted to the Honors College. 


About the Track Director:

Karen Swanson received her Ph.D. in Geochemistry and Mineralogy from the Pennsylvania State University in 1988 and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science. She is primarily interested in two areas of inquiry: the behavior of pollutants in natural water systems, and the best ways to teach science at all levels.