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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Oct. 15 deadline to apply to Blumberg Chair

Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific Innovation invites faculty to apply to be the next Blumberg Chair.

As a partnership between NASA’s Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress, the Blumberg Chair, an annually selected position, supports a scholar in the sciences, humanities, or social sciences to take up residence in the Library’s John W. Kluge Center.

The Blumberg Chair creates an opportunity to research the range and complexity of societal issues related to how life begins and evolves and to examine philosophical, religious, literary, ethical, legal, cultural, and other concerns arising from scientific research on the origin, evolution, and nature of life.

Within the parameters of NASA’s mission, a chair might also seek to investigate how innovative quests for fundamental understanding may lead to major developments for the betterment of society. Barry Blumberg, for whom the Chair is named, conducted groundbreaking research addressing a simple but fundamental question: Why do some people get sick while others, exposed to the same environment, remain healthy? That this work unexpectedly led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus, the development of a vaccine, and the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine illustrates the potential for unconventional thinking about fundamental questions to yield great rewards. Using methodologies from the history and sociology of science, the philosophy of science, legal, political, and cultural history, and other disciplines, a Chair might study and tell the story of how a basic research initiative led to completely unexpected discoveries and applications.

Possibilities for research subjects are many and wide-ranging in scope. The following potential topics of research are meant to inspire, not limit, your creativity:

  • legal issues related to governance of planets and space;
  • within the parameters of NASA’s mission, “high risk, high reward” initiatives from a historical, legal, philosophical, or ethical perspective or one that draws on several disciplinary modes of analysis;
  • ethical implications of cross-contamination;
  • scientific and philosophical definitions of life;
  • conceptions of the origins of life in theistic and non-theistic religions;
  • comparison of the discussion of these issues in multiple nations and cultures;
  • life’s collective future—for humans and other life, on Earth and beyond;
  • impacts on life and future evolutionary trajectories that may result from both natural events and human-directed activities.

Located in the Library’s magnificent Jefferson Building, the Kluge Center offers a rich intellectual atmosphere for informal discussion and exchange of perspectives.

Completed applications are due by October 15, 2022. For further information (including a new, streamlined process which does not require reference letters), please consult the Center’s webpage: