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Month: November 2010

Book Nominations Sought for Go Big Read Program

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s common book program, Go Big Read, is engaging students, faculty, staff and the community in a shared academic experience as they read and discuss “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.

Planning is already under way for next year’s Go Big Read, and nominations are now being accepted for the book selection. All genres may be nominated, from fiction and nonfiction to biography, science and science fiction. “Our goal is to introduce diversity and variety to our selections over time,” says Ken Frazier, director of UW-Madison Libraries and member of the Go Big Read steering committee.

Nominated books should do one or more of the following:

– promote enjoyment of reading by being readable, relevant and engaging;
– incorporate sufficient depth and scope to promote sustained discussion of different points of view;
– appeal to individuals from a variety of backgrounds; and
– have cross-disciplinary flexibility that can tie into a variety of campus activities and programming.

The nomination deadline is midnight on Thursday, Jan. 6. The review committee will sift and winnow through all the submissions to create a short list of book titles for the chancellor to consider.

Submit a Title
See the List of Nominated Books

Contact us if you have any questions.

Release from Gwen Evans, University of Wisconsin-Madison Communications

Awards are on the Rise for ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’

Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is increasingly popular and winning many awards this year, including:

Skloot’s book is also a 2011 finalist for the Award for Excellence in Science Books in the Young Adult Science Book category. This award is given by the American Association for the Advancement in Science (AAAS).

Molecular Biology: Alive and Animated

A new trend is creeping out of the field of molecular biology: molecular animation. Over the past few years, molecular animation has developed from a few scientist-artists creating animated versions of cells and molecules into a full-fledged niche of molecular animators.

Molecular animators are creating a whole new world for scientists and professors to study the processes of cells and molecules at their microscopic level. These animators use scientific data and description to create as scientifically accurate representations of the cell processes as possible. The animators have to use space, size and color liberally so the processes can be clearly seen.

However, many scientists are worried that the animators stray too far into fantasy and lose the scientific accuracy. Scientists are continuously looking for ways to make sure the animations stay true to form. Despite these reservations, scientists in molecular biology generally believe that molecular animation is the way to understand cells for the future.

You can find more information about molecular animation in the New York Times article: Molecular Animation: Where Cinema and Biology Meet.

Elizabeth Huggins

Graduate Student

Skloot’s Reference to Current News Story

If you attended Rebecca Skloot’s public talk at the Kohl Center, you may remember that she referenced a recent news story about a teenager’s brain on display in a morgue without the family’s consent.

In New York, a 17-year-old was killed in a car accident which was followed by an autopsy. After the autopsy, the family buried their son without knowing the son’s brain was put on display. Friends of the son saw the brain on display at the morgue during a school field trip. Soon after, the family found out the shocking and disturbing news. Read more about this news story:

Skloot made this reference because this story greatly relates to her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The stories are similar in that Henrietta and Jesse’s bodies both were used without their consent. The families of Henrietta and Jesse found out after the bodies had been used which has caused disturbance for these families.

The themes of consent, medical discovery, and moral permissibility are prevalent in both of these stories. Especially in the Henrietta Lacks case, we are forced to get in touch with our moral intuitions and start asking tough questions. Is it morally permissible to use Henrietta’s cells even without her consent if it can and has saved many lives and has led to many scientific discoveries? What about the families? How should they be treated after discovery of the usage of their loved ones’ body? Should they be somehow compensated? These are some obstacles to consider in the cases of both Henrietta and Jesse.

Jessica Waala
Undergraduate Student

The Federal Government Files Against Gene Patents

The law that allows biotechnology and other medical companies to patent organic genes is in jeopardy after the federal government recently filed a case to reverse the decades –old Patent & Trademark policy. The federal government explained that it views these genes to be part of nature and therefore belong to the public.

The federal government is only reversing patents genes that have not been altered by a human. Genes found in genetically modified crops and gene therapies are chemically changed to create these products. However, the major point of contention in this discussion is whether or not genes naturally found in the body and isolated are truly natural.

Those who oppose patents claim that: * Human genes that are not specifically altered are natural and belong to the human race.
* Keeping genetic information inaccessible by applying patents to genes actually stunts medical developmentThose in favor of patents claim: * The chemicals isolated in the genes are not the same as in the body which makes them unnatural.
* Many biotechnology companies point out that the patents help create new tests, drugs and personalized treatments.Already, some courts have sided against the legitimacy of patents on isolated genes from the body. Since a precedence has already been started favoring the argument that isolated genes are natural and contain important information for the public, the federal government may have a good chance to win such a case. If isolated gene patents were to be revoked, the medical community would have access to a mountain of new information but whether or not that will aid medical development is yet to be seen.

For more information about the developments and details of the gene patent discussion, take a look at the New York Times article: US says genes should not be eligible for patents.

Elizabeth Huggins
Graduate Student

“Race and Storytelling” Book Discussion

This Wednesday, November 10, a focused book discussion, “Race and Storytelling,” will be introduced and led by Professors Sandra Adell, Afro-American Studies, and Ethelene Whitmire, Library and Information Studies.

Professor Adell’s areas of specialization include Black literature and modern narrative; she has also recently published a memoir, Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen. Professor Whitmire’s current project examines the life of Regina Andrews (1901-1993),the first African-American supervising librarian in the New York Public Library system.

All are welcome at the discussion, which will be held from 5:30-7 pm in the SLIS Commons, Room 4207, Helen C. White Hall.

Sarah McDaniel
Go Big Read

“Our Tiny Friends and Foes” Exhibit Event

Our Friends and Foes Exhibit Picture of Knitted HeLa Cell

Photo taken from “Our Friends and Foes” exhibit homepage on Overture Center website.

Join us this Saturday, November 6, 4-7pm, in the Craftshop at UW memorial Union (4th Floor) to help make pieces for the exhibition “Our Tiny Friends and Foes” which opens on December 18th in the Overture Center for the Arts. In conjunction with Go Big Read, join is making some HeLa cells in honor of Henrietta Lacks’ memory as part of the exhibition. For information, join the Facebook group “Our Tiny Friends and Foes” or see the link on the Overture website.

Kim Caisse

“Our Tiny Friends and Foes” Exhibit

Overture Center