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Summer 1999
Goldberg's Variations
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In the lab, Bob Goldberg's research in genetic engineering may lead to new generations of superplants. But it is in the classroom where his influence perhaps is greatest, as he sows the seeds that will blossom into the newest crop of young scientists
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By Dan Gordon '85

Robert Goldberg bursts through the doors of his classroom on the first day of Spring Quarter as if he's on a quest. "How ya doin'"? he says as he strides with determined purpose toward the front of the room, his shoulder-length white mane swinging with each step.

"This is a class where I'm going to be calling on you by name," he announces in his uniquely emphatic style. "In fact, I know many of your names today, I know your majors, what year you're in. We have looked up all of your records last week, because one of the most important things about being a professor is to know your students. We will be using the Socratic method: question/answer/question/answer."

Welcome to the world of Bob Goldberg, professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology, teacher par excellence and a man whose push-the-envelope research may change the face of agriculture well into the next century.

"Everything you do in this class is a collective effort," he continues. "I do not believe in competition among students. I have no hesitation whatsoever about giving every student an A+. I give you challenging questions, and I want you to work together to solve them. All of the exams are take-home exams. I want you to talk to each other; I want you to exchange ideas with each other; I want you to get to know each other; I want you to debate."

There are more surprises to come.

"The final exam is an oral exam," he says. "It's an all-class oral exam. Can you believe that? I've actually done it with 300 students. Imagine having 300 students in a final exam, having it all oral" It works.

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