Irish geneticist W.H. Irwin McLean has devoted the better part of the past two decades to studying rare, single-gene skin disorders. His work on these diseases led him to filaggrin, “a really weird gene,” that plays a role in the development of dry, flaky skin. Surprisingly, mutations in that same gene are also involved in complex allergic disorders such as atopic eczema and asthma. McLean is a professor of human genetics at the University of Dundee, UK, and has degrees in microbiology and biochemistry from Queen’s University Belfast.

A native Londoner, Richard Smith has worn many hats throughout his career: doctor, editor, businessman, passionate advocate of open-access publishing, and television personality—to name a few. He is currently the director of the UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, which strives to combat illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer in the developing world. “Eighty percent of those...

Kevin Kelly, cofounder of Wired magazine, is a college dropout. Despite his lack of formal education, he once received an invitation to work in the University of Georgia lab of microbiologist John Patton. The two had become acquainted years earlier, when Patton, then a grad student, picked up Kelly as he was hitchhiking across the country. Kelly quickly realized he was “more interested in how scientists get information than the science itself.” He left the lab and began to explore the interface between technology and information. For 25 years Kelly has written about the culture of technology. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Science, The Economist, Time, Smithsonian, Harper’s, GQ, and Esquire. Kelly writes about how scientific method has evolved.

In “An Honest Look at Biotech,” researcher, turned fiction writer, turned researcher Jennifer Rohn talks about how her short stint in the biotech industry inspired her second novel, The Honest Look. “Laboratories are a setting that hasn’t been used very much in novels,” says Rohn. “I wanted to read novels about things going on in the lab, but I couldn’t find that many, so I decided to write a few myself.” Though “the story just took hold” of her while writing The Honest Look, penned in a mere three months while unemployed, Rohn is now happy to be back at the bench studying the genetics of cell shape at University College London and finishing off her third book.

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