Science journalist Carl Zimmer to speak at CSU Oct. 17

What does heredity mean? Will new gene-editing technologies change our future as a species? How does our genetic inheritance truly connect us with our ancestors?

Science journalist Carl Zimmer will explore some of these questions in a talk about his new book, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity. Zimmer’s lecture, a part of the Murray Honors Visiting Scholar series, will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 in the Lory Student Center Ballroom.

Investigating science

Zimmer is an award-winning science journalist whose works explore the big questions of biology and evolutionary science and seek to advance public understanding of these questions. He is the author of 13 books, he writes a weekly science column “Matter” for The New York Times, and he has written two textbooks.

In addition to writing, Zimmer frequently talks about science and his journalism. He is regularly featured on podcasts and radio programs, such as Radiolab and This American Life, and speaks at universities, medical schools, museums and festivals. He teaches as adjunct professor at Yale University in the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, where he began teaching workshops and seminars in 2009.

Zimmer might also be the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named.

Seeking answers

Zimmer’s book She Has Her Mother’s Laugh presents an original perspective on what is passed between generations – and what the recent developments of low-cost gene testing and biomedical technologies mean for our fundamental understandings of heredity. Using historical and current scientific research, as well as his own experience with his two daughters, Zimmer investigates bioethical considerations that come from new technologies and asks what heredity means for who we are and what we can pass on to future generations.

“Each of us carries an amalgam of fragments of DNA, stitched together from some of our many ancestors,” Zimmer writes in She Has Her Mother’s Laugh. “Each piece has its own ancestry, traveling a different path back through human history. A particular fragment may sometimes be cause for worry, but most of our DNA influences who we are – our appearance, our height, our penchants – in inconceivably subtle ways.”

Public Lectures

Zimmer’s Oct. 17 talk, titled “The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity,” is free and open to the public.

The Murray Honors Visiting Scholar series is co-hosted by the Colorado State University Honors Program and the College of Natural Sciences. It is made possible by a generous gift from Jack and Nadine Murray. Zimmer is the fourth Murray Honors Visiting Scholar. Karolin Luger, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a Jennie-Smoly-Caruthers Endowed Chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry was last year’s scholar. Yale University Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Joan Steitz held the title in 2016. And Nobel Laureate and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics Carol Greider was the inaugural scholar in 2015.