megan palmer
affiliate faculty
megan's Bio

Hello, my name is Megan. I am the Executive Director of Bio Policy & Leadership Initiatives (Bio.Polis), an Adjunct Professor of Bioengineering, and an Affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), at Stanford University. In these roles, I lead integrated research, teaching and engagement programs to explore how biological science and engineering is shaping our societies, and to guide innovation to serve public interests.

In addition to fostering broader efforts at Stanford and beyond, I lead an interdisciplinary research group studying the social and organizational aspects of bioengineering and their implications for policy design. Many of our current projects focus on how safety, security and social responsibility are conceived and managed as bioengineering tools and knowledge become increasingly accessible. These mixed-method projects examine what motivates researchers to contend with the potential benefits and risks of their work, and test strategies to enable more adaptive governance and cross-organizational learning.

One major site for my work is the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, which every year now involves thousands of participants (largely students) in hundreds of teams from dozens of countries. I have co-lead social responsibility programs at iGEM for the last decade, and now work closely with CRI Research Fellow Marc Santolini and a growing network of collaborators to develop iGEM as a global testbed for science, innovation and policy. My group also works with a number of other organizations to develop and test approaches to promoting social responsibility in bioengineering, including the World Economic Forum, the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, and the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Biological Policy Programs.

My previous roles include serving as Deputy Director of Policy & Practices for the multi-university Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc), a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford, and a Project Scientist at the Center for Quantitative Biosciences at the University of California Berkeley. I received my PhD in Biological Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Bioengineering at Stanford University.