2020(S08) Lecture:week 5

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Week 5 Tuesday

Today will be a project work day with your advanced student mentors. You might consider reviewing the project organizer or the requirements for the 3 ideas presentation or the student resources list. There is no lecture log required for today but you should update your project development notebook, electronically if you're keeping it that way, or on paper if that's your preferred style. Your 3 ideas presentation will be one week from tomorrow.

Homework for Thursday

Read the chapter you were given written by Charles Weiner that was photocopied from the "Encyclopedia of Ethical, Legal, and Policy Issues in Biotechnology." The chapter serves three important purposes for our class. First, it provides some context for the upcoming video presentation of the 1974 Cambridge City Council Hearings. These hearings enabled the citizens of Cambridge to directly address the scientists themselves and question the intent and efficacy of national safety guidelines for recombinant DNA work. The video was made and made available to us by Charles Weiner and it will be shown on Thursday in class. Second, this chapter will give some timeline for the development of the technology itself as well as for the meetings and hearings that addressed its hazards. Finally, this chapter gives some insight into the polarizing viewpoints and biases inherent in many of the discussions associated with these issues.
There are three short parts to this assignment and you should spend no more than 1 hour reading the chapter and answering these questions.

  • Part 1: What is recombinant DNA?
To illustrate your understanding of genetic engineering techniques, describe how you might make the DNA that programs the GloFish shown here
image of GloFish from Wikipedia entry about Recombinant DNA
image of GloFish from Wikipedia entry about Recombinant DNA
. Call the gene for glowing "GFG" and the fish plasmid "pFP."
  • Part 2: Key events for regulation of experiments involving recombinant DNA

Concisely describe the relevance/importance of

    • 1973 Gordon Conference
    • 1974 Berg letters in Nature and Science
    • 1975 Conference in Asilomar
    • Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee

All of these are described in Charles Weiner's chapter that you were given.

  • Part 3: Public scrutiny of and say in research decisions

Consider these three quotes and then

    • give your idea(s) about how to best engage the public in the scientific enterprise
    • comment on one author's viewpoint or agenda, as best you can glean from the short quote
    • and finally say if you think the publication was an appropriate places to express that author's viewpoint

Quote 1: from pg 910 of Encyclopedia chapter (above) "The motive from the start was to avoid public interference and to demonstrate that the scientists on their own could protect laboratory workers, the public and the environment."
Quote 2: from Open Letter to the Asilomar Conference written by Science for the People "There is little evidence that the technologies being discussed at this meeting arise from social or medical needs of large segments of the population. Rather, they represent specialized interests including those of the scientific community itself."
Quote 3: from Summary Statement of the Asilomar Conference written by Paul Berg et al and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science "In the longer term, serious problems may arise in the large scale application of this methodology in industry, medicine and agriculture. But it was also recognized that further research and experience may show that many of the potential biohazards are less serious and/or less probable than we now suspect."

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Week 5 Studio

Today will be a second project work day with your advanced student mentors. You should organize your progress and task list and thinking in your project development notebook, be it electronic or on paper, depending on your preferred style. Your 3 ideas presentation will be one week from today.
For one hour, the advanced students will discuss a journal article. You are welcome to listen to that presentation/discussion or continue to work independently.

Week 5 Thursday

Challenge: Scientist, Activist

Homework for Tuesday

Read the photocopied handout from Jon Beckwith's book, "Making Genes Making Waves."
This chapter was chosen for you to read because it includes several important lessons drawn from the author's personal history and his career development. The chapter also includes some important scientific content about bacteriophage and E. coli's lac operon. Near the conclusion, it presents a rare, first-hand account of an emerging technology, namely direct gene manipulation, that was immediately recognized for its pioneering and frightening possibilities. As described in this chapter, Jon Beckwith's scientific work enabled the lacZ gene from E. coli to be purified, making the ability to purify any gene from E. coli seem close at hand. A future in which genes from any kind of cell (prokaryote or eukaryote, e.g. human) might be moved at will from one cell to another was suddenly more realistic than it had ever been.
Spend ~ 1 hour reading the chapter and answering the following questions:

  1. From pages 16-28: Find 1 sentence related to Professor Beckwith's development as a scientist that struck you for its relevance, its surprising nature, its humor, etc. Give the quote and explain its relevance to you.
  2. From page 28-end: In plain language describe what is being shown in
    • figure 1 panel A
    • figure 1 panel C
    • figure 1 panel E.
    • figure 2, top and bottom of image where there are squiggles
    • figure 2, middle where there is one thicker line. Be sure to say why the line is thicker.
    • figure 2 vs figure 3. What has been done to the material in figure 2 to make it appear as it does in figure 3.
  3. From page 36: Comment on the quote, "We have no right to pat ourselves on the back." For example think about:
    • Why was it said?
    • Do you agree with the thought?
    • Would you have said it?
    • Is there some emerging technology you are imagining this century might similarly "hold dangers for humanity."
    • Finally, is your thinking affected by the public reaction to the comment ("newspaper headlines warned of the imminent creation of new Frankenstein's monsters.")?
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