By Christina Del Greco, BS/BA
Happy (almost) New Year, ASHG members! With the start of a new year often come resolutions to start new or improve current habits. If your upcoming resolutions involve reading more books or listening to more podcasts, you’ve come to the right place. This year, we reached out to trainee ASHG members who are involved in ASHG’s programming (such as committee members or in the ACGT program) to get some recommendations for us all to enjoy. This article would have been too long if we included every recommendation submitted, so I’ve highlighted a few and listed the rest at the bottom if you would like a more extensive list!
John Morris (ACGT): Siddartha Mukherjee’s The Song of the Cell
Siddartha Mukherjee has made a name for himself for writing beautiful books about biology, including The Gene and The Emperor of All Maladies. In his most recent release, Mukherjee describes the history of how we as scientists have manipulated cells, from the invention of the microscope in the 1600s and the first observation of cells through the years of cellular biology research to present day cell-based therapeutics like stem cell therapy. It’s another great book from Mukherjee about biology, medicine, and human progress.
Nicole Lake (PEAC): Svante Pääbo’s Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes
You probably know Svante Pääbo’s name for his recent Nobel Prize awarded for his work on the Neanderthal genome. Pääbo describes his own research journey that led him to his interest in ancient genomes, starting with his experience studying DNA from Egyptian mummies and working all the way up through sequencing the Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes. Along the way, Pääbo also describes the history of the evolutionary genetics field, and also highlights the dynamics of research collaborations. This a must-read for anyone interested in evolutionary genetics.
Christina Del Greco (ACGT Advocate, “Nascent Transcript” author): Gina Kolata’s Mercies in Disguise
I’m using my role as author of this piece to make the case for my own book recommendation. Gina Kolata details a family that discovers they carry a mutation that causes Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker (GSS) disease, a rare, incurable dominantly-inherited neurodegenerative disorder. Kolata goes through the history of GSS and the discovery of the disease itself, the family’s own diagnostic odyssey, and the difficult questions that the family struggled with regarding genetic testing for themselves and prenatal genetic testing for their future children. This book zooms out to give readers an understanding of what happens after diagnosis, and emphasizes the importance of understanding all facets of the impacts of genetic disease.
Dana Godrich (CDC): “HelloPhD”
“Hello PhD” was started by two now-PhDs who met at their interview for graduate school. They both matriculated to the same program, and they bonded over their shared experiences as PhD students. Over ten years later, they meet up for dinner and decide to start a podcast to share the things they wish they knew before graduate school—things they learned along the way that they feel will help current (and prospective!) graduate students. They have episodes about choosing an advisor, how to deal with failed experiments, different career paths, and more! It’s a great resource for students trying to navigate their own grad school experiences.
Rene Begay (ACGT Advocate): “The Experiment”
While not directly science-related, The Atlantic’s “The Experiment” is about “the experiment” that was the founding of the United States. “The Experiment” describes the contradictions that make up our country—and covers topics such as COVID-19 health disparities, disinformation, national parks, feminism, and more. Additionally, his podcast recently put out an episode about the role of genetics and genetic research in Native American communities. Rene herself was featured on the podcast and details her experience as a Navajo researcher, highlighting her own struggle in deciding how, if at all, the Navajo and other Native American communities should be involved in such research. Listen to “The Experiment” if you are looking for a podcast about just how well the U.S. is, or isn’t, doing at living up to its founding ideals.
Rebecca Meyer-Schuman (GPAC): “The Lonely Pipette”
For scientists trying to build better habits and do better science, “The Lonely Pipette” is the podcast for you. Podcast hosts talk to scientists around the world about their tips for doing better science, and topics cover things like balancing different aspects of one’s career, how to be wrong, how to storytell in science, and how to translate research into products for startups. “The Lonely Pipette” is a great resource for developing both your science and your career.
We hope that these recommendations will help you get off to a great start in the new year and that they lead you to even more entertaining and thought-provoking books and podcasts. Finally, thank you to everyone who submitted recommendations, including Rene Begay, John Morris, Amanda Gentry, Nicole Lake, Dana Godrich, Burcu Darst, Rebecca Meyer-Schuman, and Karina Miller. Happy holidays, everyone!
Full List of Recommendations*:
*Includes some recommendations from non-trainees who were excited to participate!
Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes, Svante Pääbo
When We Cease to Understand the World, Benjamín Labatut
Mercies in Disguise, Gina Kolata
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
How to Be Both, Ali Smith