Biology Talk Show
Guest: Dr. Ernest Everett Just
(Teacher can serve as talk show host or two students do a dialogue to introduce lesson.)
Host: Today on our show I am pleased
to welcome Dr. Ernest Everett Just, a pioneer in
marine embryology. He has overcome great adversities in his personal and
professional life and has made extraordinary accomplishments in his field.
Welcome, Dr. Just. It is a pleasure to have you here at our school. Everyone here is
anxious to get to know you. First, tell us about your background.
Just: I had a difficult youth.
My father was an alcoholic and could never keep a steady job.
He died when I was very young. My older brother and older sister died also due to
poor health. It was my mother who was the strength for myself, my younger brother,
and my younger sister. When my dad died we were extremely poor. Thanks to my
mother, who was incredibly resourceful, we survived.
Host: How did your mom keep the family together?
Just: She was a dedicated
teacher, and she made huge sacrifices for me to continue
my education. Actually, she was the one who encouraged me to
attend Kimball Hall Academy in New Hampshire.
Host: I understand it was a struggle to attend.
Just: I earned a scholarship,
however, I didn't have enough money for the fare
to New Hampshire. I decided to find work along the way from Charleston.
To pay my ship fare from Charleston to New York, I worked on the ship.
In New York I worked as a cook long enough to pay my fare to New
Hampshire. It wasn't easy, but I believe you can accomplish anything
if you really want it.
Host: You earned awards in botany,
sociology, and history at Kimball.
Your mother must have been very proud.
Just: I was the only
African American in an all white school. I was
eager to learn and persistent in my efforts to accomplish great
things. Unfortunately, my mother never saw me graduate with
high honors. She died and never knew I earned a scholarship
Host: You must have been a stellar student at Dartmouth.
Just: Actually, no.
Not in the beginning. Like many freshmen I didn't
work hard as I could have. I turned it around later. One professor,
Dr. Patten, encouraged and got me excited in the sciences. I chose
zoology as my major.
Host: Was that a good field to enter?
Just: Not for a black man
or woman in the early 1900's. There
weren't many choices for a minority in the sciences. Actually,
my only option was to teach in a black community. I began
teaching at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Host: If there weren't many
opportunities for you, how did you end up
as a biologist in a primarily white research facility--the Marine
Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Just: I worked my way
up from a research assistant--taking demanding
classes and learning proper research techniques. I was persistent
and worked hard because I was dedicated to my field. I gained
respect because of my research.
Host: Describe briefly some of your research.
Just: I worked on fertilization
experiments with marine animals such as
sea urchins and marine annelids.
Host: I understand many embryologists
sought your advice on designing
experiments and handling specimens.
Just: Yes, I pay particular
attention to this. I was very meticulous about my
research. You cannot conduct good research with damaged specimens.
Host: Did the other researchers accept you in their social gatherings?
Just: I was accepted
by a small group of white biologists. Others were
prejudiced, which made it difficult to join them in a social setting.
Actually, some white researchers ignored my work. That crushed
my spirit. I felt hurt and frustrated.
Host: Is that why you left Woods Hole to do research in Europe?
Just: Yes, there were racial
tensions at Woods Hole. The institutes in
Naples, Paris, and Berlin felt like a community. It is a shame that
I did not feel welcome in my own home country. I was respected
and accepted in Europe.
Host: Did you eventually leave Europe because of the war?
Just: Yes, the Germans were
invading Paris in the summer of 1940. During
that time I was jailed. I was fortunate that the United States government
could get me out of jail and take me back home.
Host: Since you have faced many
obstacles, how would you encourage
someone in pursuit of their goals in the face of adversity?
Just: I would tell him or
her to be determined. Have self confidence. Work
hard at what you love.
Host: I understand you have an activity we can do in the classroom.
Just: Yes, this lab works
with Nereis worms. We will try to induce
parthenogenesis in Nereis worm eggs. All students should read
the entire lab procedure before attaining materials to begin the lab.
Keep the specimens covered to prevent them from drying out.
Each team of 2-3 students will need:
*4 female Nereis worms(kept covered in a small petri dish)
(or female sea urchins)
or Instant Ocean water at room temperature(18-20oC)-
enough for rinsing worms and to fill 3 small glass bowls.
piece of filter paper
*Large test tube with sea water heated to 30-33oC
*Another large test tube
*3 small glass bowls
*pipette(glass or plastic)
1) Rinse at least 2 female worms with sea water at room temperature
and dry on filter paper.
Transfer the other 2 worms in the sea water to a test tube to use as
Place female worms in test tube containing sea water that is warmed
to 30-33oC. Watch for the shedding of eggs and the extrusion
After five minutes pipette a drop of eggs to a small glass bowl
containing sea water at room temperature(18-20oC). Record
observations in table. Keep track of how long it takes for any
changes to take place.
Wait another 5 minutes and pipette another drop of eggs in
a second bowl containing room temperature sea water. Record
6) After another five minutes repeat step #3. Record observations.
Describe what happened to the eggs in each of the three bowls and record the
time it took for changes to take place. Compare results to the control.
|Observations (minutes for changes)|
|Control test tube||min.|
|Bowl #1 (after 5 minutes)||min.|
|Bowl #2 (after 10 minutes)||min.|
|Bowl #3 (after 15 minutes)||min.|
1) What variable was altered in the experiment to induce parthenogenesis
eggs? How do you know parthenogenesis took place?
2) What do you think was my hypothesis on how to induce parthenogenesis
3) Did you induce parthenogenesis in all 3 bowls? Note any
differences in changes.
4) How could you modify my experiment to test your own hypothesis?
your hypothesis be?
(Note: Ernest Just died at the age of 58 of cancer, just a
year after returning to the United
*for suggestions on how to teach multicultural science