Regents' Professor is leading scholar of law, policy and science

Gary Marchant

Editor's Note: This professor profile is part of a series that looks at the achievements of seven outstanding faculty members who were named ASU Regents' Professors in 2011.

Gary Marchant always loved science. As a boy growing up in Squamish, British Columbia, chemistry sets topped his Christmas lists, and he spent hours tinkering with test tubes and colored liquids in a homegrown laboratory in his parents’ basement.

But Marchant’s passion for a specific type of science was sparked by his mother, Elsie Anderson, who, cruelly, or so her then 10-year-old son thought, kept him home from football practice one afternoon to watch a documentary about genetics. Her decision, however unpopular, eventually helped him make his mark on the world.

“I was totally peeved, grumping around for the first half hour,” recalls Marchant, a professor at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “By the end of the show, I had decided I wanted to be a geneticist.”

Some 15 years later, Marchant earned his doctorate in genetics from the University of British Columbia, then obtained a joint Master of Public Policy and Juris Doctor from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School. He has since amassed numerous accolades for his knowledge, teaching, research and scholarship in the field of law and emerging technologies – the most recent accolade being named a Regents’ Professor at ASU.

“Professor Marchant is the first and remains the leading scholar on issues of law and policy and their intersection with science and technological innovations,” says Elizabeth D. Capaldi, provost and executive vice president of ASU. “His research into the impact of genetics, nanotechnology, neuroscience, biotechnology and other emerging technologies on society has helped advance the goals of the College of Law, specifically, and the university, more broadly.”

Marchant was praised by interim dean Douglas Sylvester, a longtime colleague and Center Faculty Fellow, who has worked with him over the years on nanotechnology projects.

“Gary is a fantastic scholar, teacher and colleague,” Sylvester says. “He is, simply put, the quintessential Regents’ Professor. I could not be happier for Gary on getting this well-deserved recognition.”

Marchant’s zest for teaching, thirst for learning and dedication to ASU is felt across the university. He is a professor in the ASU School of Life Sciences, a Senior Sustainability Scientist in the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability, and the ASU Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics.  

“He’s one of the leading Lincoln professors,” says Peter French, director of ASU’s Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics. “Gary is the exemplar of a Regents’ Professor. He meets all the criteria, and I think it is not only well deserved, but in the best sense of the term, he’s really earned it.”

At Harvard Law, Marchant was editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology and the Harvard Environmental Law Review, and he graduated at the top of his class.

He practiced primarily environmental law at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C., for nine years, and taught at nearby universities, developing the first Law, Science and Technology course at George Mason University School of Law.

In 1999, Marchant accepted a professorship at the ASU College of Law and became executive director of the Center for Law, Science and Technology two years later. A popular professor, he teaches courses in law; environmental law; science and technology; nanotechnology law and policy; biotechnology, law and policy; genetics and law; and law and research ethics.

In the past five years, Marchant has authored or co-authored 16 book chapters, five books and three dozen articles; has organized 12 major conferences and workshops; and delivered more than 140 presentations worldwide on topics ranging from the murder gene, adolescent brain scanning and robotic insects, to nanotechnology oversight, personalized medicine and human gene patents.

When he’s not on the road, in the classroom, testifying before Congress, or contributing as a member of a National Academy of Sciences’ National Research committee, Marchant is in his law school office. Books are wedged onto his bookshelves, newspapers are crammed into a cranny under his computer, and 4-foot-tall stacks of papers are everywhere that photographs of and drawings by his two children aren’t.

“I love my work,” Marchant says. “The greatest thing about academia is the freedom. When a new technology raises a new policy issue, I have to merge right into that and not worry that I have to do something else for a client.

“And there’s so much going on. I have had a couple colleagues wonder what their next paper is going to be, but I already have my next 50 laid out.”


Most recent book
"The Growing Gap Between Emerging Technologies and Legal-Ethical Oversight: The Pacing Problem"

Most recent publications
“Genetic Susceptibilities: The Future Driver of Ambient Air Quality Standards?”
“Physician Liability: The Next Big Thing for Personalized Medicine?”
“International Governance of Autonomous Military Robots”

2011 Professor of the Year, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
2009 Outstanding Faculty Award, Arizona State University Alumni Association
2007 Professor of the Year, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
2003 Law Professor of the Year, Maricopa County Bar Association

1990 Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, Harvard Law School (Class rank 1/540)
1990 Master of Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
1986 Ph.D. in Genetics, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia
1980 B.Sc., University of British Columbia

Other academic appointments
• Professor, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
• Faculty Director, Center for Law, Science & Innovation, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
• Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law & Ethics, Arizona State University
• Professor of Life Sciences, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University
• Senior Sustainability Scientist, Global Institute of Sustainability

• Member, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Assessment of Solid State Lighting
• Principal Investigator, “Governing Nanotechnology Risks and Benefits in the Transition to Regulation: Innovative Public and Private Approaches,” ELSI Grant from Department of Energy Genomes to Life Program
• Principal Investigator, “Adapting Law to Rapid Technological Change,” National Science Foundation
• Principal Investigator, “Mechanisms for Transnational Coordination and Harmonization of Nanotechnology Governance,” ELSI Grant from Department of Energy Genomes to Life Program
• Principal Investigator, “Genetic Susceptibility and Environmental Regulation,” R01 Grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Janie Magruder
Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law