Ethics in science the focus of a series of events at Missouri S&T

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On November 6, 2014

ImmortalLifeofHenriettaLacks-749798New York Times’ bestselling book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” will be the focus of three different events in November at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Rebecca Skloot’s non-fiction work brought attention to Henrietta Lacks, known by scientists as HeLa. Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells — taken without her knowledge in 1951 — became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in-vitro fertilization and more.

Incoming first-year students were asked to read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” prior to arriving on campus as part of Missouri S&T’s One Book program. The book is taught in all sections of English 20, the introductory composition course required for most freshmen.

In addition to giving students a common intellectual experience, the One Book program creates opportunities for critical thinking on a topic of social relevance, while promoting the value and importance of reading beyond the classroom.

The following One Book events are free and open to the public:

•    Members of the student chapter of iGEM, the International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation, will present “The Science Behind ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’” at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10, in St. Pat’s Ballroom A and B of the Havener Center. iGEM members will lead a hands-on demonstration of DNA extraction during the event.

•    Dr. Joel Dittmer, assistant professor of philosophy at Missouri S&T, will present a lecture titled “Equality and Respect in the Henrietta Lacks Case” at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, in St. Pat’s Ballroom A of the Havener Center.

•    Dr. Katie Shannon, associate teaching professor of biological sciences at Missouri S&T, will present a lecture titled “Working with HeLa and Other Cell Cultures in Lab” at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 19, in St. Pat’s Ballroom B of the Havener Center.

The events are sponsored by the Missouri S&T One Book program and the English and technical communication department at Missouri S&T. Dr. Kate Drowne, associate professor of English and technical communication, is director of the One Book program and director of the Missouri S&T Writing Center. More information is available online at or by email at

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