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Answering the Question, “Should We?” How a Bioethics Alum is Putting Patients First in the Field of Biological Research and Technology

“I cannot think of a single person that would not benefit professionally or personally from the knowledge gained while pursuing this degree,” says Columbia M.S. in Bioethics alum Quintin Spey (’24SPS).

Now a quality assurance associate at ZEO ScientifiX, a biotechnology company, Quintin says that Columbia’s Bioethics program prepared him for a life and career dedicated to developing biotechnologies and medical/biological regulations that put patients first.

In a recent chat, Quintin shared what drew him to the Bioethics program and how his time at the School of Professional Studies equipped him with the knowledge needed to pursue his goal of “helping to shape regulations so that scientific research does not advance so fast that it loses sight of the goal of helping patients in need.”

What initially attracted you to the M.S. in Bioethics program at Columbia?

I was interested in the program because it provides unique opportunities to study bioethical applications beyond medical ethics. This program allowed me to explore the ethics relevant to biological research, developing biotechnologies, and medical/biological regulations.

Why did you choose to pursue an M.S. in Bioethics after getting a B.S. in Biological and Chemical Engineering?

While pursuing my Bachelor of Science at Tufts University, I conducted extensive molecular biological research. I realized that many scientific researchers tend to only ask, “Can we?” But they were not asking, “Should we?” That stuck with me as I advanced in my career. 

When I was a researcher in the biotechnology industry, working on developing cell and gene therapies, I examined the regulations of these therapies and found them to be lacking and not up to date with current technologies. I wanted to help resolve this discrepancy, and Columbia’s M.S. in Bioethics program was the best way for me to begin my journey.

What does your current role as a quality assurance associate at ZEO ScientifiX entail? 

ZEO ScientifiX is a biotechnology company developing regenerative medicines focused on biological nanoparticles. As a quality assurance associate, my job is to make sure that the production of our therapies adheres to the necessary regulatory requirements. I monitor the environment in which our products are produced and review all testing to ensure they are sterile and safe for use in humans. I determine which are the best regulations to follow, which is not always easy because the nature of our products is that they’re still very new, and regulations regarding biologics are still sparse.

What skills did you gain from your time in the program, and in what ways did it prepare you for your current role?

I learned how to read legal texts, develop an ethical argument, analyze regulatory documents with an ethical perspective, and design biological and medical research in accordance with bioethical principles. Most importantly, the Bioethics program taught me to always have a patient-first perspective, which helps me to ensure that the products at ZEO ScientifiX are developed with the patients’ health in mind. 

Tell us about your favorite course or instructor. 

It is very hard for me to pick my favorite course from the program as they were all incredibly enlightening and all of my professors were experts on the topics they taught. That being said, one course, Environmental Bioethics, changed how I live my daily life and my perspective on the definition of bioethics. It taught me that bioethics as a school of thought can be applied to everything biological, not just humans. The course made me think about my responsibilities to planet Earth and to all of its inhabitants. I started maintaining a plant-based diet and became more aware of actions that could impact the planet for future generations.

What advice would you give to current students?

Moral issues are very rarely, if ever, black and white, and it is imperative for any student of ethics to listen to new and different perspectives so that they can better view the whole picture and gain a better understanding of every situation.

About the Program

Columbia University’s Master of Science in Bioethics grounds students in interdisciplinary approaches and models to address pressing bioethical challenges such as stem cell research and health-care reform. The program prepares students to act as responsible and responsive leaders in this new and ever-growing field. It also includes a concentration in global bioethics—the first of its kind in the U.S. Columbia's Bioethics program offers a range of degrees and courses. 

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