Category Archives: Common Book

Black History Month: Pellissippi State faculty member discusses HeLa cells’ research contributions

Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer whose cancerous cervical cells were taken in 1951 without her knowledge, unwittingly played a role in biological research that continues today.

On Wednesday, March 6, at 2 p.m., Minoo Askari, a faculty member in Natural and Behavioral Sciences at Pellissippi State Community College, discusses Lacks’ contributions to scientific research in the presentation “HeLa Cells—Contributions to Modern Science.”

Part of the college’s 2012-13 Common Book experience, the discussion is based on the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” a New York Times bestseller by Rebecca Skloot. The author spent more than a decade researching and writing about Lacks and her family.

Pellissippi State’s Common Book is required reading for select courses and is the centerpiece for activities throughout the year. It is being used as a discussion springboard for such issues as the birth of bioethics, the history of medical research involving African-Americans and the legal battles over informed consent.

The cells taken from Lacks in 1951 were discovered to be “immortal”: they can grow indefinitely and be frozen for decades, divided into different batches, and shared among scientists.

Henrietta Lacks’ cells were coined “HeLa” cells by Dr. George Gey, a researcher and physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Her cells became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for development of the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization and other applications.

Askari offers an overview of the history of how cells from one tumor have become a foundation for the groundbreaking biological research that continues even now. The discussion includes a look at how HeLa cells have been used in research into HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, cancer, and the effects of radiation and toxic chemicals. The event is free and open to the public.

The discussion is 2-3 p.m. at Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus in the Goins Building Auditorium. For additional information, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.

To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or humanresources@pstcc.edu.

Pellissippi State: Son of Henrietta Lacks, subject of NYT bestseller, to speak at Convocation

On Oct. 4, David “Sonny” Lacks will share what it meant to find out—decades after the fact—that the cells of his mother, Henrietta, were being used in labs around the world, bought and sold by the billions.

Sonny Lacks is the keynote speaker for the Convocation for the Common Book at Pellissippi State Community College. He speaks at 10:50-11:50 a.m. in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the Hardin Valley Campus.

The story of the Lacks family was recorded by Rebecca Skloot in “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” the 2012-13 Common Book at Pellissippi State. The Common Book is required reading for incoming freshman and is the centerpiece for activities throughout the year.

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” took more than a decade to research and write and instantly became a New York Times bestseller.

“We are delighted to have Sonny Lacks on campus,” said Anthony Wise, Pellissippi State president.” He puts a personal face on some big issues that will be discussed on campus this year.”

Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells, taken without her knowledge in 1951, were discovered to be “immortal”: they can grow indefinitely and be frozen for decades, divided into different batches, and shared among scientists. Henrietta Lacks’ cells were coined “HeLa” by Dr. George Gey, a researcher and physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Her cells became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for development of the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization—yet for many years her family couldn’t afford health insurance.

The book will be used as a discussion springboard for such issues as the birth of bioethics, the history of medical research involving African-Americans and the legal battles over informed consent, says Carol Luther. Luther is a Pellissippi State English professor and the coordinator of Common Book activities.

Convocation for the Common Book is free, and visitors may park in any lot designated “Open.” To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or humanresources@pstcc.edu.

For information about Common Book activities, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.

Public invited to Pellissippi State’s ‘Children’s Literature in Africa’

Parents who want to give their small children a boost in reading will not want to miss Catherine T. Shafer’s lecture, “Children’s Literature by African Authors and Illustrators,” at Pellissippi State Community College.

Shafer speaks Monday, March 19, 10:45-11:45, in the Goins Building Auditorium on the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

Shafer is a passionate advocate for early childhood literacy. An adjunct faculty member in the college’s Early Childhood Education, she says that reading to young children is of utmost importance. She also believes that when parents choose literature from other cultures, their children can become more accepting of their global peers.

The free event is part of this academic year’s Common Book activities, which revolve around “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope” by William Kamkwamba. Kamkwamba was a 14-year-old in Malawi, Africa, when he built a windmill out of spare parts in order to get electricity into his parents’ home.

For more information about this event, contact Pellissippi State’s English Department at (865) 694-6708 or call (865) 694-6400.

To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or humanresources@pstcc.edu.

Pellissippi State hosts expert on religion, culture, politics in Africa

The strife in Uganda is worlds away for most Americans, just something they hear about occasionally on the news. But when University of Tennessee professor Rosalind Hackett went to the East African country for the first time in 2004, she was totally rattled by the realities of the ongoing civil war.

Hackett, who is also the head of UT’s religious studies department, decided to do something to help. Since then she has spearheaded efforts to bring relief and healing to Uganda and has made many return trips.

She discusses her experiences in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa at Pellissippi State Community College on Monday, March 12. The community is invited to “Africa Matters: For Whom and Why,” 11:50 a.m.-12:45 p.m., in the Goins Building Auditorium at the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The free presentation is one of Pellissippi State’s 2011-2012 Common Book events. Each school year a new Common Book is incorporated into classes in many disciplines to serve as a springboard for discussion and activities.

This year’s book choice is “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope,” by William Kamkwamba. As a teenager in Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries, Kamkwamba used his ingenuity to build a windmill to bring electricity into his parents’ house.

Hackett says the same kind of resourcefulness William Kamkwamba applied to his situation is apparent in Uganda.

“Since the early 1990s, the Lord’s Republic Army in northern Uganda has abducted women and children,” said Hackett, “pillaging villages and homes, and stealing anyone and anything beneficial to ensure the success of the rebel movement against the Ugandan government.

“I don’t want to downplay Africa’s problems—underdevelopment, resource exploitation, poor government,” she said, “but at the same time I want to show that Africans themselves, sometimes working in partnership with people overseas, are generating creative, pragmatic responses to these challenges.”

Hackett lectures widely in the U.S. and around the world. She is frequently consulted by government, development, and media organizations on religious conflict in Nigeria and the war in northern Uganda.

For more information about this event, contact Pellissippi State’s English Department at (865) 694-6708. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or humanresources@pstcc.edu.

Middle, high school students invited to Pellissippi State Young Inventors Fair

By the age of 6, Thomas Edison had managed to burn down the family barn. Luckily, his later experiments with electricity worked out better than his experiments with fire.

Parents with young inventors in the household have a chance to encourage their innovative spirits by bringing them to Pellissippi State Community College’s Young Inventors Fair.

The event, hosted by Pellissippi State’s student Science Club, is free for all middle and high school students. The fair takes place Saturday, March 3, 1-4 p.m.

Students may bring science fair projects or other personal projects to display in the Goins Building College Center at the Pellissippi Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

“If your student has already participated in a science fair at school but didn’t score high enough to be sent on to the Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair, here’s a second chance,” said Jerry Burns, chemistry professor and Science Club sponsor.

“We will give the students pointers on improving their inventions. We will send four students on to the SASEF, and will give certificate awards to the top three inventors.”

The event is in conjunction with the college’s 2011-12 Common Book activities. Those activities revolve around “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope,” by William Kamkwamba. The author of the New York Times bestseller was the keynote speaker at the President’s Convocation Sept. 1. He spoke about his experiences building a 16-foot-tall windmill nine years ago in Malawi.

It was the Common Book that inspired this event, said 23-year-old student Lee Beckner, president of the Science Club:

“When I read what William Kamkwamba could do without any support, I wanted to know what the children in the area could do with support. We hope that this will become a yearly event.”

For more information, call (865) 694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or humanresources@pstcc.edu.

Pellissippi State brings inventors to campus this Thursday

The potato chip. The paper clip. The microchip. Inventions can improve our lives in a thousand different ways.

Learn how to take your great idea through the patent process all the way to manufacturing at “Inventing the Inventor: Creative People Who Make a Difference” at Pellissippi State Community College this Thursday, March 1.

The community is invited to a panel discussion by local inventors, 12:25-1:40 p.m., in the Goins Building Auditorium, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The panel of four will talk about their personal inventions and how they navigated the waters of patenting and marketing. They will take questions from the audience, and some of the inventions will be on display at the end of the presentation.

“Inventing the Inventor: Creative People Who Make a Difference” is in conjunction with the college’s 2011-12 Common Book activities, which revolve around “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope,” by William Kamkwamba. The author of the New York Times bestseller was the keynote speaker at the President’s Convocation Sept. 1. He spoke about his experiences building a 16-foot-tall windmill nine years ago in Malawi.

For more information about this event, call (865) 694-6400 or 694-6708. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or humanresources@pstcc.edu.