Here is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 24, 2010 12:01 pm

A wonderful new book arrived this month that I highly recommend to readers! Misha Angrist composed Here Is A Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics, not only chronicling the experience of having his genome sequenced, but also introducing many fascinating characters in this engaging narrative about the relationship between us and our DNA.

Misha is assistant professor at Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy and I was fortunate to get to know him while working at the university. (For a sense of what Misha’s up to, check out this  interview featured in the News & Observer.) As one of the first ten individuals to participate in George Church’s Personal Genome Project, his book explores the broad implications of what personal genomics means in our society while providing the firsthand account of his experience. From Amazon:

In 2007, Misha Angrist became the fourth subject in the Personal Genome Project, George Church’s ambitious plan to sequence the entire genomic catalog: every participant’s twenty thousand–plus genes and the rest of his or her 6 billion base pairs. Church hopes to better understand how genes influence our physical traits, from height and athletic ability to behavior and weight, and our medical conditions, from cancer and diabetes to obesity and male pattern baldness. Now Angrist reveals startling information about the experiment’s participants and scientists; how the experiment was, is, and will be conducted; the discoveries and potential discoveries; and the profound implications of having an unfiltered view of our hardwired selves for us and for our children.

DNA technology has already changed our health care, the food we eat, and our criminal justice system. Unlocking the secrets of our genomes opens the door not only to helping us understand why we are the way we are and potentially fixing what ails us but also to many other concerns: What exactly will happen to this information? Will it become just another marketing tool? Can it help us understand our ancestry, or will it merely reinforce old ideas of race? Can personal genomics help fix the U.S. health care system?

Here Is a Human Being explores these complicated questions while documenting Angrist’s own fascinating journey—one that tens of thousands of us will soon make.

Here Is A Human Being is will appeal to anyone interested in DNA and the future of science. The content is easy to understand for experts and laypeople alike. At times Misha takes on a serious tone while elsewhere you’ll find yourself laughing at funny anecdotes. These transitions are seamless and the narrative is thought-provoking. I really enjoyed reading this book and learned a lot along the way. You will too so pick this one up!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Culture, Education
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Comments (2)

  1. Looks good. How much of a a geek do i need to be to understand all the technical talk? I am fascinated with the overall idea of DNA and how it passes on through so many generations. Although, I am a professional gamer by day 😀
    – Tony
    Admin of cataclysm leveling guide

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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