David Sadava: Genetics from a Duck

by Amy Drayer '99

Writing about one outstanding professor at Scripps is like trying to choose the most beautiful building on campus. It’s a losing proposition. But perspective allows us each to choose a favorite, and mine is surely an unlikely pick (for a die-hard right brained individual).

Professor David Sadava taught biology deftly and with absolute command of his subject, and managed to spark my curiosity in a topic completely outside my previous scope of interest. It’s this passion that each of our professors brings to his or her own field, and the subsequent ability to inspire a love of learning, no matter the topic, that sets a Scripps education apart.

As a women’s studies major, I was required to fulfill one science prerequisite as a part of my coursework. Science and math were never my cup of tea. I went as far as I could in high school, which included a wicked semester literally crying in frustration over physics equations. Why in the world I ever chose to tackle biogenetics my first semester at Scripps is beyond me; maybe it appealed to my love of irony.

What was most surprising was how much fun I had wedged in between two CMC seniors at a small lab table taking notes on Mendel’s tables à la Daffy Duck. Seriously, if you haven’t had a class with Professor Sadava, you’re missing Mel Blanc personified. Genetics from a duck was somehow much more approachable. What a brilliant way to wrangle a bunch of non-majors into attention while teaching them why a can of Diet Coke has a disclaimer about phenylalanine.

Cartoon impressions aside, Professor Sadava brought an infectious sense of wonder to a topic that definitely deserves it. If you’ve spent even a minute reading about the human genome project, you know what I mean. I had the sense at every moment that I was learning something incredible from a leader in his field. It was a privilege to be a part of his class, and it’s a delight to thank him in these pages for lighting a lifelong interest (as a dilettante to be sure) in an increasingly relevant subject.


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