After serving Howard University for more than four decades, Georgia Dunston, founding director of National Human Center, retired from her teaching and research duties on campus and at the medical school.
But as she fielded questions recently from a group of students at Archbishop Carroll High School for an upcoming television program, it was clear that Dunston hadn’t lost her passion for talking about her groundbreaking efforts to teach people of color the importance of unlocking genetic code.
“I am excited about engaging the community, especially the schools as part of the community,” Dunston said. “A lot of science has focused very narrowly especially STEM, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, that’s solid but at Howard, as we look at the genome, we are conscious of the arts and the creative aspects of our inheritance, that has not been part of the main stream of study. We need the natural creativity of our people to be part of the study of genome.”
Born in 1944 in Norfolk, Virginia, Dunston earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Norfolk State University In 1965. She went on to Tuskegee University, where she received a master’s degree in biology in 1967 before heading to the University of Michigan to earn her doctorate in human genetics in 1972.
In 1975, Dunston continued her postdoctoral work at the National Cancer Institute in tumor immunology. For the past 40 years, she has served in various capacities at Howard, including her work in the Department of Microbiology and Howard University College of Medicine.
Dunston also served as interim chair from 1994-98 and chair from 1998-2004 of the National Human Genome Center at Howard University.
Cherie Ward, a fellow Howard graduate and director of Archbishop Carroll’s Vance Scholars program, invited Dunston to the school, where her students now are working on a film project with Dunston and on recent they peppered with many questions.
Ward was also executive director of TEDxLeDroitPark 2019, a Feb. 27 event that brought people from the community to Howard’s Cramton Auditorium to take part in an “imaginative mental journey,” diverse talks, perspectives and live performances.
Speakers included John Carpten, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, Jarita Holbrook, an astronomer, anthropologist, educator and filmmaker, and Gary L. Harris, former dean of the Howard University Graduate School and director of Howard’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering facility.
“My vision is that STEM is now beyond science, technology, engineering and math because it incorporates all of the literacies, reading and the arts,” Ward said. “I look at STEM as a stream of consciousness that incorporates science, technology, engineering, reading and literacy.”
Ethan Arnheim, president of the LeDroit Park Civic Association, said in a statement on the eve of the TED Talk project that it “is a wonderful opportunity for positive exposure and a chance to come together to experience local, national and global perspectives in our community.”