The Gene Virtual Screening & Discussion

The Gene Virtual Screening & Discussion

Tue, 05/04/2021 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm


Join WXXI Education for a virtual screening and discussion of Ken Burns' The Gene: An Intimate History.

The Gene: An Intimate History weaves together science, history and personal stories for a historical biography of the human genome, while also exploring breakthroughs for diagnosis and treatment of genetic diseases — and the complex ethical questions they raise.

WXXI Education will be joined by a panel of local genomic experts from University of Rochester's Genomics Research Center and Rochester Institute of Technology's Genomics Lab. The event will include a screening of a clip-reel from The Gene series (time length about 45 minutes), which is a portion of the full-length series. Following the screening, we will be joined by our experts for a moderated discussion about some of the topics touched upon in the series. 

  • When: Tuesday, May 4 from 7 to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Via Zoom
  • RegisterThe event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. 


Meet Our Panel

  • Dr. André Hudson, from RIT’s Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences and Genomics Lab. Dr. Hudson is a trained biochemist and in addition to running his research lab, he teaches courses in genomics, plant biochemistry and pathology, molecular biology, and microbiology.

  • Dr. Elizabeth Pritchett, from University of Rochester's Genomics Research Center.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Malik, from University of Rochester's Genomics Research Center.

About The Gene series

Groundbreaking treatments will improve the lives of millions of people — potentially treating diseases like sickle cell — but there are worries that scientists will take gene-editing technology too far, using it to modify germline DNA in order to enhance certain traits deemed “preferable.” As The Gene demonstrates, those fears have already been realized: in November 2018, Chinese researcher He Jiankui stunned and horrified the scientific community with an announcement: he had created the first genetically edited babies, twin girls born in China — a medically unnecessary procedure accomplished well before scientists had fully considered the consequences of altering the human genome.

The documentary includes interviews with pioneers in the field — including doctors Paul Berg, Francis Collins, Jennifer Doudna, Shirley Tilghman, James Watson, Nancy Wexler and Mukherjee himself. As with Burns’s other projects, The Gene uses a remarkable trove of historical footage, including Rosalind Franklin’s “Photograph 51” from 1952, to track the journey of human genetics. Beginning with the remarkable achievements of the earliest gene hunters and their attempts to understand the nature of heredity, the film traces the history of genetics from Gregor Mendel’s pea plant studies in the 19th Century and Watson’s and Crick’s discovery in 1953 of the structure of DNA to the efforts by Sydney Brenner and Marshall Nirenberg, among others, to understand how the genetic code is translated in human cells. We also witness the massive technological transformation from the 1970s through the 2000s from the sequencing of individual genes by Fred Sanger to the sequencing of the whole human genome. As The Gene introduces us to the scientists solving these great mysteries, the film also examines the insidious rise of eugenics, which bore horrific results in the United States, Europe and, in particular, in Nazi Germany.

Learn more about the resources available from The Gene at WXXI's Educator Resources Hub.

 Specal thank you to our partners on this virtual event

Production funding for KEN BURNS PRESENTS THE GENE: AN INTIMATE HISTORY has been provided by Genentech, 23andMe, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Gray Foundation, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) & Conquer Cancer Foundation, Judy and Peter Blum Kovler Foundation, Craig and Susan McCaw Foundation, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Outreach and Education Partner is National Institutes of Health, National Human Genome Research Institute. Outreach support is provided by Foundation Medicine.