New Guest Bloggers

Theral Timpson

We're happy to welcome two guest bloggers to

Nathaniel Comfort, Ph D

Nathaniel is an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University where he teaches and writes on the history of biology. Comfort is currently writing a book, The Science of Human Perfection, a history of American medical genetics. Of the project, Comfort says,

"I am interested in heredity and health in 20th century America. My current book project examines the growth and evolution of medical genetics from the early days of Mendelism to the Human Genome Project. In it, I show that heredity, health, and human improvement have always been intermingled; there was no break when medical genetics became "legitimate." The professionalization of medical genetics that began around mid-century involved many refinements of the message, but the old goals of human improvement dating back to Francis Galton carry down to present-day efforts such as gene therapy. Likewise, trendy contemporary notions of individualism and personalized medicine have roots back in the late nineteenth century, with Archibald Garrod's emphasis on diathesis and biochemical individuality. I strenuously avoid labeling one of these good and the other bad; these twin impulses resonate with and feed off of one another, and both have inspiring and sobering implications for how we think about health and identity today."

We found Nathaniel over at his own blog, after reading one of his terrific posts on April Fool's Day. Since then he and I have been bantering emails back and forth comparing notes on Dawkins' The Selfish Gene and how new genetic information impacts society. Comfort sees his role as stepping back and taking a look, a longer look, at scientific discovery as it's made. I stole this line from one of his emails.

"If science is king, then it needs a jester to give it honest opinions and evaluations about how its judgments will affect the public. Someone who is critical out of loyalty, not treason, and who knows how to amuse and entertain while delivering his barbs--both for pure fun and so he doesn't get himself beheaded!"

Comfort is eager to hear your comments. And, by the way, he says he's heard about every pun there is on his name.

Shawn Baker, Ph D

Shawn recently retired from Illumina after helping the company skyrocket from a 15 employee start-up to the shining star it is today. But you can't know as much as Shawn knows, love the field of genomics and stay retired. Especially at his tender young age. See his blog, Retirement Fail . . .

Having received his Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, Shawn started his career as a Research Scientist at Illumina. After spending several years at the bench developing gene expression array products, he transitioned to Product Marketing. In addition to consulting for BlueSEQ, Shawn is the founder of and part-time blogger at

Earlier in the year, I interviewed Shawn for our show, Looking for a Job is a Full Time Job. Shawn began his website before joining Illumina and has kept it updated. It's a terrific resource for those seeking a job in the industry, being well linked to some of the popular job hunting websites (, and to some smaller local organizations as well ( in San Diego and in Michigan). The site also includes a job board. Maintaining the site and interviewing over a hundred job applicants while at Illumina has given Shawn some insight into how one might go about seeking a new job in this industry.

It's not all work for Baker. He just returned from Istanbul, Capadoccia and Ephesus where I'm sure he forgot, at least for a few hours, about A, G, C and T.

Welcome Shawn and Nathaniel.

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