October 17, 2012

Best-selling author Rebecca Skloot to speak Feb. 6
Updated Feb. 4, 2013

By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Rebecca Skloot, author of the best-seller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, will speak at Bucknell University Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in Trout Auditorium of the Vaughan Literature Building. She also will answer questions from the audience and hold a book signing after the event. [Skloot's talk will be simulcast in Rooke Chemistry Auditorium (Rooke 116) and, if necessary, Olin Science Building, Room 268.]

The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of the continuing Bucknell Forum series "tech/no," which focuses on the evolution of technology's role in society, and its potential to impact the world in both positive and negative ways.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of a young black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951 and left behind an inexplicably immortal line of cells known as HeLa. Her cells, which were harvested without her knowledge or consent, have contributed to scientific advancements as varied as the polio vaccine, treatments for cancers and viruses, in-vitro fertilization, and the impact of space travel on human cells.

The story is also about her children, who were later used in research without their consent and who've never benefited from the commercialization of HeLa cells, though the cells have helped biotech companies make millions of dollars.

"Skloot narrates the science lucidly, tracks the racial politics of medicine thoughtfully, and tells the Lacks family's often painful history with grace ... Science writing is often just about 'the facts.' Skloot's book, her first, is far deeper, braver and more wonderful ... Made my hair stand on end," said Lisa Margonelli, New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Selected as the first-year common reading for the Bucknell Class of 2016, the book was honored as a Best Book of 2010 by more than 60 media outlets including The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post Book World, and O, The Oprah Magazine. It is being translated into more than 25 languages, adapted into a young reader edition, and being made into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball.

Skloot has written more than 200 feature articles, personal essays, book reviews and news stories for The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; Columbia Journalism Review; Seed; New York Magazine; Slate; Popular Science; Chicago Tribune; and other publications. She is co-editor of The Best American Science Writing 2011 and has worked as a correspondent for NPR's Radiolab and PBS's Nova ScienceNOW.

Named One of Five Surprising Leaders of 2010 by The Washington Post, Skloot is founder and president of the Henrietta Lacks Foundation. The recipient of a bachelor's degree in biological sciences and an MFA in creative nonfiction, she has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh and New York University.

She has spoken widely at high schools, colleges and professional organizations and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including The Colbert Report, CBS Sunday Morning, and National Public Radio (NPR) programs including Fresh Air and Talk of the Nation. These interviews and more are available at RebeccaSkloot.com

The Bucknell Forum
"tech/no" embraces technology and its perils and promises. The series, which will run through four semesters, aims to stir discussion about the pros and cons of technology, its benefits and damages, its legitimate promises and false panaceas, and its capacity to satisfy human need and desire even as it can bring risk and danger.

The series debuted with a talk by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone on Oct. 23, followed by a special performance of "un/real and un/true: 'The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobswith'"  Alex Lyras, Class of 1993, on Nov. 27. Continuing in the spring semester, the Forum series will host the talk, "The Brave New World of the 'New Media,'" with Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, on Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts.

Speakers are being sought to explore how technology has affected a range of areas, which might include social change, human relationships, culture, politics, medicine, science, the environment, globalization, education, journalism, business and more. Suggestions for speakers can be sent to theforum@bucknell.edu.

Contact: Division of Communications

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