Henrietta, Rebecca, Deborah, and Oprah

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people — including my father in Honolulu — marched for science or gathered for science festivals (on the Tar Heel Ten Miler race, we ran past the tents and tables being set up for the UNC Science Expo) across the nation. Erin and the girls and I gathered in our living room to celebrate science another way.

After today’s Sunday meal, and once Oliver was tucked into bed with a newly liberated tooth under his pillow, we watched the HBO adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. Rebecca’s book is a must read, and the movie — starring Oprah Winfrey as Henrietta’s daughter Deborah Lacks — was really good, raising quite a lot of discussion topics for us to tackle at future Sunday dinners.

At ScienceOnline’09, Erin and I heard Rebecca read a couple of spell-binding chapters of her book before it was published. Here’s what I noted in my annual thank-them post-conference blog post:

Rebecca Skloot couldn’t join us last year, but with her book finally drafted and off to her publisher, she was game to come to RTP this year to attend ScienceOnline’09 and keynote the Women in Science and Engineering networking event Friday night at Sigma Xi. Erica Tsai, Phoebe Lee, Ana Sanchez, Amrika Deonarine and Rachel Witek put together a fantastic event, and Skloot’s talk about the immortal contribution of Henrietta Lacks to science was riveting.

Last night, I joined some neighbors at a brewpub in Durham, and met an Irish microbiologist who studies antibiotics and Staph. aureus. I didn’t think to ask him, but I bet he’s used HeLa cells in his research. Next time, I hope we’ll raise a pint together. “To science, and Henrietta Lacks.”



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