Molecular and Cell Biology 90D, Section 2

Revolutions in Biology: Past, Present, and Future (1 unit, P/NP)

Professor Russell Vance
Thursday 4:00-5:00, 447 Life Sciences Addition, Class number: 22655

In this seminar, we will discuss revolutions in biology, with a particular focus on two emerging revolutions that have origins at UC Berkeley: the cancer immunotherapy revolution and the genetic engineering revolution. We will begin with a discussion of Thomas Kuhn’s classic text, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and ask: what is a scientific revolution? and, how do they occur? We will then examine specific examples of revolutions in biology from the past and present, and discuss what biological revolutions might be on the horizon. There are no assignments or presentations for this class, but active class participation is expected. Be prepared to read and discuss as much as a (short) book a week for this seminar.

Instructor Bio

Russell Vance has been a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology since 2006. He holds an MA in Philosophy from Queen’s University (Canada), and a PhD in Immunology from UC Berkeley. He runs a research lab studying how our immune system defends against bacterial infections. In the Fall, he also teaches MCB 55 (“Plagues and Pandemics”); and in the Spring, he will teach MCB 103 (“Microbial Pathogenesis”). This is his second time teaching this freshman seminar.

Faculty web site:


Although this seminar will discuss some science, no particular scientific knowledge is required, and the level of scientific discussion will be accessible to all. Much of the seminar will be dedicated not to science itself, but to the social and philosophical underpinnings of science. Participation from students with a wide range of interests is encouraged.