Humanities Symposium Captivates


By Noa Schabes 17′

In a keynote address at Tuesday’s annual Bissell Grogan Humanities Symposium on The Global Tipping Point, Dr. Derrick Rossi, a lead researcher at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, detailed the history of stem cell initiatives and his recent breakthroughs in the field.

Speaking to Middle and Upper School students in the Ruth Corkin Theatre, faculty, and alumni, Rossi explained how his company, Moderna Therapeutics, is approaching stem cell research by targeting mRNA, as opposed to DNA, to generate healthy cells.

“I think it’s important for the youth to understand the possibilities of stem cell research,” Rossi said, “because in 200 years from now there will be major improvements—it has endless possibilities.”

After the keynote, students broke into smaller seminars on topics ranging from self-driving cars and the value of political polling to the power of hashtags, and the effect diversity on corporation’s profits.

One popular session was The 5-0 and Y.O.U, a discussion on improving relationships between communities and the police led by representatives from the Boston-based organization Teen Empowerment.

“It was probably some of the most challenging panels we have had in 10 years of doing this,” says Humanities Department Chair Donald Reese, who co-organized the event with Upper School librarian Megan Dolan. “I think people oftentimes just give you a caricature of what adult professional lives are like, so it’s great to have people in here that give you a real window—here’s a description of what a biotech executive actually does.”

Students agreed this year’s symposium was engaging and challenging.

“I wish we had more time,” says Matthew Hasting ’18, “When the keynote got into the details, he kind of lost me, but overall I thought it was really interesting.”

“The amount of different topics they offered this year really allowed me to be engaged in what I am interested in, like communication and social justice,” said Samantha Vingers ’17.

– Photo by Caroline Ellervik ’18