LO: For me, I've already decided the type of research I want to do. It affects my day-to-day in that we have these interesting conversations, which I think are important to have and I appreciate. As far as my research goes, I don't think it affects me any which way. My lab does not and never will use CRISPR for gene therapy. For us, it is a fantastic genetic tool.
Now, for these two, who are just at the beginning of their careers, and are literally in the process of applying to graduate school — which means next year they have to think about what their theses are going to be — it's more timely and will potentially have more of an effect on changing their trajectory or day-to-day lives in the future.
GAUDENZI: For me, it definitely settled me on the things I don't want to do as a scientist. This is not the kind of storm I would want to be in the middle of. And not even the storm in terms of media; I know — now, because I never thought about this — it opened my mind to pondering the consequences of what my research is, both positive and negative. At the same time, it's teaching me what I don't want to do. What is crossing the line, for me? Which might not be [the case] for every researcher. But for me, this is going too far. At least now, because we're not ready in terms of societal norms and laws.
SINISCALCO: I actually do want to go into translational research: things that have biomedical and direct applications. And I am really interested in human disease. So I've already been thinking about this a little bit. Hearing this really just reiterates how much in the future I will need to think about what I'm doing and the impact it can have, and not just do it because I think science is awesome, but keeping in mind that the end goal is helping people, not just doing things for the sake of doing things.
I think a different mindset can be applied to basic research — it's so cool that we get to use our knowledge, skills and tools to learn more about the world. But if you're trying to put something out in the world that can’t be put back in or taken back, then you really need to be deliberate and careful. And I have to focus on making myself a deliberate and careful person so I can do this effectively.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.