About Us

We began as a collaborative effort between an academic ethicist from the Netherlands and a professional creative from the U.S.


Our GoalS:

  • To illuminate a bright future through collaboration.

  • To activate the arts to create a nuanced conversation about the future of technology.

  • To generate scalable research and engagement projects for and by researchers, educators, and creative professionals.


About Colab futures


Founders Karen Ingram and Wieke Betten met in early 2015 as part of the Synthetic Biology LEAP program at the Landscaping Workshop in Washington DC, where they received a crash course in the emerging arena of synthetic biology. As their immersion in the LEAP progressed, they discovered overlap in what they saw as challenges and opportunities in innovation; only separated by lingo. Ingram is from an art and professional marketing background, and Betten is an ethics phD. The two collaborated on an Action Plan as part of the program. The Action plan, CoLabFutures: Collaborations To Open Up The Future Of Biotechnology, is available on the SynbioLEAP website. Betten and Ingram are fortunate recipients of a SynbioLEAP Catalyst grant, in support of their vision.

Betten and Ingram crafted a manifesto to convey their joint vision.


Karen ingram

KAREN INGRAM is a designer, artist and creative director who uses her skill set to promote scientific awareness. Ingram recently completed visuals as a co-author of Biobuilder (O’Reilly), a synthetic biology curriculum. She is a co-organizer of Brooklyn science cabaret, The Empiricist League, and is a programming committee member of SXSW Interactive. She is an instructor on the subject of creative strategy for NYU SHERP’s Entrepreneurial Science Journalism course. Her work has appeared in many publications including titles from Die Gestalten (Berlin), Scientific American, and The FWA, where she was named a “Digital Pioneer.” As a 2015 Synthetic Biology LEAP (Leadership Excellence Accelerator Program) fellow, Karen is recognized as an emerging leader in synthetic biology.



Dr. wieke betten

Wieke Betten is a social science and bioethics PhD researcher and lecturer at the Athena Institute at the VU University of Amsterdam. Her research project focuses on societal and ethical aspects of synthetic biology. Since 2011 Wieke has been involved in the iGEM competition, both as an advisor and a judge. Wieke also works as a concept developer at the Open Wetlab of Waag society in Amsterdam. Together with Waag society she conducts a study on Trust Me I'm an Artist, a European project on ethical issues around art science collaborations. In 2015, she was selected to be a fellow in the synthetic biology Leadership Excellence Accelerator Program (LEAP). Wieke obtained a MSc in Medicine and a MSc in Management, Policy-analysis and Entrepreneurship in the Health and Life Sciences, both from the VU University in Amsterdam.



Dr. Christine O’Connell

Christine O’Connell, Ph.D., is an expert in the field of science communication, policy, engagement, and building empathetic leaders. She provides strategic direction to grow non-profit and academic organizations, research initiatives, and community campaigns. She is currently the Executive Director of Riley’s Way Foundation, an organization whose mission is to empower kindness and empathy in teen leaders to build a better world. Previously, she was the founding Associate Director at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University where she helped create and build the Center and its curriculum to international acclaim. Her research focuses on best practices in science communication, novel collaborations, science policy, and women in STEM.

RESEARCH PROJECT: From Ideation to Actuality: Identifying Connections Between Creative Professionals and Scientists


Dr. Nicola Patron

Nicola J. Patron leads a research group at the Earlham Institute, a life-sciences centre in Norwich, England. Her lab engineers photosynthetic organisms to produce valuable molecules used in medicine and agriculture, and investigates ways to make food crops that are healthier and require fewer chemicals. Nicola also co-directs the Earlham BioFoundry. Nicola has a PhD in plant molecular biology and pursued postdoctoral research at The John Innes Centre, UK and The University of British Columbia, Canada.

ENGAGEMENT PROJECT: Postnatural Botany