The Scowcroft Institute Hosts Dr. Steven Block

September 17, 2010

On September 16, 2010, the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs welcomed Dr. Steven Block to campus as part of the International Affairs Seminars.  The program was co-sponsored by the Department of Biology and the George Bush Presidential Library. 

Dr. Block spoke to guests on the topic of bioterrorism.  He first conducted an introduction to biological substances such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and how they spread to others.  Dr. Block then reviewed some of the well-known cases of illness outbreaks in history such as the black plague in Europe and smallpox problems in ancient Egypt.  Following his overview of history, Dr. Block provided de-classified information from his work with the project JASON, a scientific advisory group that consults with the U.S. government on matters of national security.  With JASON, Dr. Block researched the many threats associated with bioterriorism and how advances in genetic engineering have impacted biological warfare.  He reviewed how some eradicated bacteria and viruses could be engineered today by those who wish to produce biological weapons.  Dr. Block concluded his talk with a comparison of how the U.S. responds to the threat of nuclear weapons and to the threat of bioterrorism.  While nuclear weapons have a mostly offensive strategy such as deterring others from using such weapons, Dr. Block advocated for a defensive strategy for bioterrorism.  This strategy includes preparing for biological weapons that may be released on the U.S. such as inoculating people and revising quarantine procedures. 

Steven Block holds the S.W. Ascherman Chair of Sciences in the Departments of Applied Physics and Biology at Stanford University, and is a senior fellow of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.  He received Bachelors and Masters degrees in Physics from Oxford University, another Masters degree from the University of Colorado in Biology, and a Doctorate in Biology from California Institute of Technology.  He has served on a Biological Warfare Advisory Panel and a Nonproliferation Advisory Panel for the Central Intelligence Agency.  He is the winner of the Max Delbruck Prize of the American Physical Society.

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