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Summer 1999
Goldberg's Variations
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"Anyone can convey information. What takes so much work is making the connections between the pieces of information," he says. He doesn't prepare lectures so much as productions. Once Goldberg has determined a conceptual framework, he pores through stacks of articles and books, copying, cutting, pasting and scribbling notes in the margins for the thick handouts and the visuals he will project via television camera. He finds appropriate films - Lorenzo's Oil, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, Jurassic Park -- to throw into the mix. Then, of course, he has to learn about the students who have enrolled in his class so that he can tailor the discussions to their backgrounds and interests.

Bob Goldberg, make no mistake, does not take a halfhearted approach to anything. He runs seven miles each night. He doesn't sweat just to stay in shape, but because he loves the challenge. "If I ever retire, all I'm going to do is exercise," he declares. "I'm going to start hiking in the morning, go biking in the afternoon and run at night, every day of the week."

"The first and abiding feeling you get about Bob is his intensity," observes Ann Hirsch, an associate professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology at UCLA. Last year, when the two coauthored a paper for the journal Plant Cell, she got an up-close look at Goldberg's perfectionist tendencies. "He's very demanding, no question about that," Hirsch says, laughing. "Writing this paper was a little like pulling teeth on my part, but it's much better as a consequence."

He who can, does. He who can't, teaches. At this time of crisis in American education, the oft-repeated George Bernard Shaw line remains emblematic of society's under-appreciation of its educators. For the record, Goldberg does. He is widely considered a founder of plant molecular biology. His discoveries are helping to ignite an agricultural revolution in which genetic engineering promises substantially higher crop yields and who-knows-what else. But these days Goldberg's top priority is to impress upon his students the awesome implications of the rapid changes in molecular biology and genetics.

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