Speaker Bios

Simon Mawer, author of Mendel’s Dwarf and Gregor Mendel: Planting the Seeds of Genetics

Simon Mawer, author of Mendel’s Dwarf and Gregor Mendel: Planting the Seeds of Genetics

Simon Mawer is a best-selling author of 10 novels and two nonfiction books who has frequently delved into genetics and the work of Gregor Mendel in his writing.

Mawer’s fourth novel, Mendel’s Dwarf, which was published in 1997, is the story of Mendel’s great-great-great nephew, a brilliant geneticist who sets out to target the gene that caused his dwarfism. The book named a top-10 finalist for the Booker Prize and was listed as a New York Times “Book to Remember” for 1998.

Mawer, who holds a biology degree from Oxford University, also wrote Gregor Mendel, Planting the Seeds of Genetics, a nonfiction work published in 2006. His other books have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Novels and the Wingate Prize, been adapted for the stage, and been considered for film adaptations.

Ondřej Dostál, PhD, Director, Mendel Museum, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic

Ondřej Dostál, PhD, Director, Mendel Museum, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic

Ondřej Dostál, through his work as a museum curator, has shared the story of Gregor Mendel’s life and work around the world.

The Director of the Mendel Museum since 2007, Dr. Dostal is the author of the museum’s permanent exhibition, G.J. Mendel—Man, Abbot and Scientist. He has created and collaborated on exhibitions and delivered lectures about Mendel at the museum and around the Czech Republic, as well as in Taiwan, Slovenia, Singapore, Brazil, and the United States. He is also the author of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Mendel’s lectures this year, under the auspices of the Czech prime minister and The Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific academy.

Dr. Dostal is second vice chairman of the Czech Association of Museums and Galleries and a member of the Czech Geological Society.

Gregory Radick, PhD, MPhil, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds; Director, Leeds Humanities Research Institute

Gregory Radick, PhD, MPhil, Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds; Director, Leeds Humanities Research Institute

Gregory Radick, PhD, MPhil, is a historian and philosopher of science, with an emphasis on biology and the human sciences.

Based at the Centre for History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds, Dr. Radick has focused much of his research on genetics. He is the author of The Simian Tongue: The Long Debate about Animal Language, the co-author of Darwin in Ilkley, and the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Darwin. His latest book, Disputed Inheritance: The Battle over Mendel and the Future of Biology, is under contract for publication.

Dr. Radick oversaw the establishment of the University of Leeds’ Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, and he is the current President of the British Society for the History of Science.

Robert C. Green, MD, MPH, Associate Physician and Geneticist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director, Genomes2People Research Program

Robert C. Green, MD, MPH, Associate Physician and Geneticist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director, Genomes2People Research Program

Robert C. Green, MD, MPH, is a renowned expert in translational genomics and health outcomes.

The author of more than 300 published articles, Dr. Green has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) continuously for 21 years and has participated in and presented at numerous national and international workshops and meetings related to the future of genomic medicine, translational genomics, and personalized medicine.

Among other NIH-funded research, Dr. Green has led studies into the use of genome sequencing in the care of newborns, both healthy and ill; the integration of whole genome sequencing into clinical practice; the scientific and social impact of direct-to-consumer genetic testing services; and other emerging topics in translational genomics.

Patricia LoRusso, DO, Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of Innovative Medicine, Yale Cancer Center

Patricia LoRusso, DO, Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of Innovative Medicine, Yale Cancer Center

Patricia LoRusso, DO, is a leader in the development of new cancer drugs through clinical trials.

Dr. LoRusso was director of the Phase I Clinical Trials Program and of the Eisenberg Center for Experimental Therapeutics at Wayne State University’s Barbara Karmanos Cancer Institute before joining the Yale Cancer Center in August 2015.

With 25 years of experience in the fields of medical oncology, drug development, and early phase clinical trials, Dr. LoRusso is the recipient of several prestigious awards and has served as co-chair of the National Cancer Institute Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program Investigational Drug Steering Committee. She has also served on committees of the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. She is the current president of Women in Cancer Research and a board member of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Nathaniel Comfort, PhD, Professor, Department of the History of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University

Nathaniel Comfort, PhD, Professor, Department of the History of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University

Nathaniel Comfort, PhD, is a researcher, historian, writer, and teacher whose work has been focused on genetics for 25 years.

A professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University since 2013, Dr. Comfort is also the Baruch Blumberg Chair of Astrobiology at the Library of Congress and NASA.

Dr. Comfort is the author of two books, The Science of Human Perfection: How Genes Became the Heart of American Medicine and The Tangled Field: Barbara McClintock's Search for the Patterns of Genetic Control; the editor of and a contributor to The Panda's Black Box: Opening Up the Intelligent Design Debate; and a contributor to Nature, the New York Times Book Review and National Public Radio, among other media outlets. He is currently at work on a biography of DNA.

Pilar Nicole Ossorio, PhD, JD, Professor of Law and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin; Director, Ethics Scholar in Residence, Morgridge Institute for Research

Pilar Nicole Ossorio, PhD, JD, Professor of Law and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin; Director, Ethics Scholar in Residence, Morgridge Institute for Research

Pilar Ossorio, PhD, JD, is a law professor and researcher whose interests include ethical and social issues in scientific research.

At the University of Wisconsin, in addition to her roles as a professor of law and bioethics and at the Morgridge Institute for Research, Ossorio is co-director of the Law and Neuroscience Program, leader of the ethics core for the Center for Predictive Computational Phenotyping, and co-director of the Research Ethics Consultation Service.

Ossorio is a member of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the advisory council for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the National Academies committee that is planning an international summit on human genome editing.

Sarah-Vaughan Brakman, PhD, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Villanova University

Modern Genetics Roundtable

Sarah-Vaughan Brakman, PhD, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Villanova University

Sarah-Vaughan Brakman, PhD, is a practicing clinical ethics consultant who is known nationally and internationally for her expertise in clinical medical ethics and in the ethics of embryo donation.

The founding director of the Ethics Program at Villanova, Dr. Brakman holds the Anne Quinn Welsh Faculty Fellowship in the Honors Program. She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy with a specialty in medical ethics through a joint program of Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Brakman’s work on filial obligation and long-term care policy, decision-making for individuals with developmental disabilities, ethics in assisted reproductive technologies and adoption ethics has appeared in many scholarly books and journals. She is the ethics consultant and chair of the National Ethics Committee of Devereux, the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of behavioral and mental health care.

The Rev. James J. McCartney, OSA, PhD, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Villanova University, and Adjunct Professor, Villanova University School of Law

The Rev. James J. McCartney, OSA, PhD, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Villanova University, and Adjunct Professor, Villanova University School of Law

The Rev. James J. McCartney, OSA, PhD, teaches courses in bioethics, clinical ethics, bioethics and the law, the philosophy of medicine, philosophy for theology and the philosophy of law.  

Father McCartney holds an MA from Augustinian College, an MS in cell and molecular biology from The Catholic University of America and a doctorate in philosophy from Georgetown University. He previously served as Director of Philosophy Doctoral Studies and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Villanova, and he is also a past Director of the Bioethics Institute at St. Francis Hospital in Miami, Fla., and held academic and administrative positions at St. Thomas University in Miami.

A frequent lecturer on bioethical subjects both locally and nationally, he has authored one book, co-edited four books and authored numerous articles, and he serves on the editorial board of HealthCare Ethics Committee Forum.

Stephen Napier, PhD, Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Villanova University

Stephen Napier, PhD, Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Villanova University

Stephen Napier, PhD, is an expert in epistemology and bioethics whose research interests include cognitive science and metaphysics of persons.

Dr. Napier earned a doctorate in philosophy from Saint Louis University and completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in clinical and research ethics at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, during which he performed numerous ethical consultations and was involved in the hospital’s Institutional Review Board.  Before coming to Villanova, he was a human research protections analyst at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. He has also served on University of Pennsylvania institutional review boards.

Dr. Napier is the author of a book, Virtue Epistemology: Motivation and Knowledge, and he has contributed to numerous scholarly journals.

Ana S. Iltis, PhD, Director, Center for Bioethics, Health and Society, and Professor, Philosophy, Wake Forest University

Ana S. Iltis, PhD, Director, Center for Bioethics, Health and Society, and Professor, Philosophy, Wake Forest University

Ana S. Iltis, PhD, is a widely published bioethicist whose work focuses primarily on organ donation and the ethical conduct of human research.

A graduate of Villanova University, Dr. Itlis earned her MA and PhD from Rice University. She holds an appointment in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine and is the Director of the Interdisciplinary Minor in Bioethics, Humanities, and Medicine, in addition to her work in the Center for Bioethics Health, and Society and in the Philosophy Department at Wake Forest.

Dr. Itlis serves on several National Institutes of Health data safety monitoring boards and holds a range of editorial positions. She is working on a book on the foundations of research ethics and a project on neglected tropical diseases.