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Summer 1999
Goldberg's Variations
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"I will try to prod you to think critically. If you want to have informed opinions about what's going on, you have to learn the science. I value your opinions much more if they're informed and they're logical and they're thought out. You're going to design experiments, analyze experiments. I'm more concerned with your knowing concepts than details, because once you know the concepts, then you can understand the details."

Catching their collective breath, the 60-or-so students enrolled in HC 25, an honors collegium course titled "The Human Genome: Prospects for a Super Race", must begin to suspect that this will be an unusual 10 weeks. Awaiting Goldberg's arrival, the class teaching assistants had been fiddling with a variety of audiovisual props, including a recording that sounded like someone covering Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love. They played it loudly, as if warming up the crowd before a rock 'n' roll show. This is not your average undergraduate course. "I like to jump right in with the learning," Goldberg says. "It's called the immersion method."

If this were theater, you'd notice instantly that Bob Goldberg has stage presence. But there is no fourth wall here - he is constantly pacing around the room, engaging students, making connections.

It's remarkable that Goldberg can maintain such a high energy level. For the past week, attempts to schedule an interview with the diminutive, peripatetic professor have been unsuccessful. It's not that he views talking with a writer as a nuisance. "Sure, sounds like fun," he had said when first approached for an interview. But in the week before Spring Quarter begins, Goldberg is singularly focused on his class. Finally, in an e-mail message time-stamped 1:32 a.m. on the day of the first lecture, he apologizes for the slow response and offers an invitation to attend the class. As it turns out, he continued working until 4 a.m. before stealing a few winks.

Goldberg shrugs when asked why he spends so much time preparing for a course he's taught for the past 15 years. The field of biology, he says, is moving at warp speed, almost to the point of rendering last year's notes useless. But staying up-to-date on the material is only the beginning.

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