Scherer: Embrace the similarities within us all

In recognition of his career as a scientific world leader in the study of human genomics, Dr. Stephen Scherer, GlaxoSmithKline-Canadian Institutes of Health Research Chair in Genetics and Genomics at The Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science, honoris causa (DSc) at the Thursday afternoon session of Western’s 311th Convocation.

Scherer spoke to graduates from the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and Faculty of Science, encouraging them to embrace our similarities, regardless of race, religion of colour. We share 99 per cent of DNA code with one another, he said, focusing on the 1 per cent is not only bad science, but a bad way to live.

“While your genes helped you get to the auditorium floor today, where and how far you go from here is up to you,” Scherer said, stressing that our uniqueness does not come from genetics, but from our exposures and experiences and decisions we make in response.

Scherer and his team contributed to the landmark discovery of global gene copy number variation (CNV), as a common form of genetic variation in human DNA. Defining CNV revealed that genes do not always exist in pairs of two along chromosomes.

It is easy for scientists to make a discovery when they are seeing something for the very first time, he continued. But the next major breakthroughs for graduates in science – spanning genomics, artificial intelligence, and other emerging fields – will come from scrutinizing already existing technologies and practices, applying their individual experiences and perspectives to scientific foundations that are emerging and growing at this time.

“Guided by the lessons of your parents and professors, independently follow your intuition to the right place for you. Do not let your genome hold you back; it is a framework to build upon,” Scherer added.

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