for our e-mail list for updates and socially responsible
1015 18th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202 429-8900
Fax: 202 429-8905
Stem Cell Research
Careers in Science From the Field
R. Alta Charo is the Elizabeth S. Wilson - Bascom
Professor of Law and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at
Madison, where she is on the faculty of the Law School and the Medical
School's Department of Medical History and Bioethics. She offers
courses on health law, bioethics and biotechnology law, food &
drug law, medical ethics, reproductive rights, torts, and legislative
drafting. In addition, she has served on the UW Hospital Clinical
Ethics Committee, the University's Institutional Review Board for
the protection of human subjects in medical research, and the University's
Bioethics Advisory Committee. She has also been a visiting professor
at law and medical schools in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China,
Cuba, France, Germany, and New Zealand.
What is/are your profession(s)?
I am a Professor of Law and Bioethics with joint appointment to
both the law and medical schools. In addition, I am the Associate
Dean of the Law School.
What are the responsibilities of your profession(s)?
My work involves teaching, research, and service.
Can you describe a typical week at work?
There is no such thing as typical for me. I will usually be teaching
one or two different courses, as well as working on one or two articles
or government reports, plus participating in departmental or campus
committees on topics ranging from faculty hiring to conflict of
interest rules for researchers.
What do you find to be the most and least enjoyable aspects
of your work?
The most enjoyable is the opportunity to teach and do research and
public service. The least enjoyable is the struggle, as in all public
institutions, to do one's work without the generous resources often
found in private sector settings.
kinds of skills do you need for your line of work?
I apply analytical and organizational skills for the research, and
interpersonal skills for teaching and service.
How did you become interested in bioethics and reproductive
I began as a biology major in college and slowly concluded that
I was more interested in biology and social policy than in biology
What are the most heated debates or controversial topics
in the areas of bioethics and reproductive rights?
There is great controversy over parental autonomy versus state control
in decisions concerning whether, when, and how to have children.
For students who are interested in working with the legal
and ethical aspects of biotechnology in their future careers, what
kind of experience, paid or unpaid, should they start to acquire
There is no career track, so do the things you love and that offer
you a chance to learn new skills or make new contacts. The rest
will fall into place.
Any other advice that you would give to someone who is interested
in a career in bioethics or reproductive rights?
Obtain a broad education in science, history, philosophy, political
science, and international studies.
Submitted by: Kyle Gracey, Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute, 2003 Fall Intern