Biologists Reading "Just Mercy"
General Catalog Course Title:
Freshman Seminar
Terms Offered:
Fall 2016
Course Thread: 
Human Rights
Course Thread: 
Law & Humanities
Weisblat, David

Some commentators suggested that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 signaled the beginning of a "post-racial" America, and/or that we were now building a "color-blind" society (is that even a a possible or desirable goal?). In any case, events of the last the eight years certainly suggest otherwise. As a starting-off point for this seminar, I'd like us to read and discuss the book "Just Mercy," the On the Same Page title for this year. I hope we can work together as (prospective) scientists to consider evidence-based approaches to understanding both the nature and the consequences of our biases. I hope that students from all backgrounds will participate in this seminar, and that over the course of the semester, we will create a mutually supportive community among ourselves that might persist at least throughout your time at Berkeley. I'm particularly eager to meet students who are also interested in biology or other sciences and who are open to thinking analytically about issues emerging from our discussion of "Just Mercy." If there is interest, I'd be happy to provide a tour of my lab and to highlight the possibilities for conducting undergraduate research at Berkeley. This seminar is part of the On the Same Page initiative. This seminar is part of the Food for Thought Seminar Series.

I grew up white and male in a racially and culturally homogeneous rural area of southwestern Michigan. After graduating from high school, I studied first at Harvard College, then Caltech and finally Berkeley, before joining the faculty here. My research aims to understand the biology of leeches, within the context of evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-Devo). I study primarily developmental biology (using the species Helobdella austinensis), but I'm also interested in leech genome, systematics, nervous system, behavior and life cycle evolution. In addition to research and teaching, much of my department and campus service is aimed at fostering and enhancing the wonderful diversity of our student body, and in accelerating the transformation of the faculty to more closely reflect that diversity.

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