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Summer 1999
Goldberg's Variations
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On the first day of the quarter, the students seem unsure about what to make of his high-octane, probing style. "Where's Erica? I know that you're a senior, and I know that you major in history, correct? So provide a hypothesis for me that can account for the difference in the size of those chromosomes.

"Where is Patrick? What's your major? What are you leaning toward? Well, maybe we'll hook you on genetics. What is your hypothesis for the different colors on this chromosome? Design an experiment to show that your hypothesis is correct. That's the scientific method - you have a hypothesis, and now we have to show it scientifically. "Joshua, are you here? You're a business major, so you must know all about the biotech industry. If we have access to the genes from any organism on the face of this Earth, and all of the cellular processes are similar in these organisms, and the DNA is similar in general structure, what does that predict that we can do with any gene of any organism? That's right, we can interchange them. Do you realize the implications of that statement?? By the end of the quarter, longtime Goldberg observers promise, students who were shy at the outset will practically leap out of their seats to join the dialogue.

Goldberg has received two of the highest honors bestowed on UCLA professors, earning the Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992 and the Gold Shield Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research in 1998. But his teaching methods haven't always won unanimous praise.

After three years on the faculty at Detroit's Wayne State University, Goldberg came to UCLA in July of 1976 as an assistant professor of biology. He was 32 years old and full of new ideas about how science should be taught. Within nine months, he was ready to quit.

If Goldberg's classroom style is seen as novel today, it was downright radical in 1976. "My colleagues thought I was from Mars," he says. But the incident that nearly led him to resign from his prestigious new position had to do with his approach to grading. "We had this stupid rule that you had to grade on a curve, and I refused to do it," he recalls. Goldberg has always struck a deal with his students: He tells them at the beginning of the course what he wants them to learn, he guides them through the learning process, and if the students fulfill their end of the agreement they receive an "A." On the other hand, the challenge Goldberg sets is so formidable that it filters out the less-motivated students.

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