Cancer, Biotechnology, & Society

Cancer, Biotechnology, and Society employs the story of Henrietta Lacks to explore disease and the methods and responsibilities of scientists engaged in medical research. The great irony of Henrietta Lacks is that the cancer that caused her early death produced an immortal line of cells that have been used in thousands of laboratories worldwide to study a myriad of diseases and develop therapeutics and vaccines; from the cells of this undereducated daughter of a sharecropper, a wealth of scientific knowledge has been learned. Using innovative classroom instruction and laboratory exercises, students will be active participants in developing their own understanding of cancer biology, biotechnology and how science benefits, and benefits from, the greater society. Strong emphasis will be placed on developing the skills of literature research, data mining, rigorous analysis of anecdotal and empirical evidence, and public presentation. The overriding objective of the course is to give students the confidence to enjoy learning about technical issues and to inculcate the skills of critical analysis for a lifetime of productive, efficient, and satisfying learning, decision making, and advocacy.