Robert Pollack is pictured.
Professor of Biological Sciences
749 Mudd Building
New York
Office Phone: 
(212) 854-2409
Short Research Description: 

To study the difficulty of knowing what one sees, rather than seeing only what one knows, from scientific and subjective perspectives; to understand the induction and maintenance of phenotypic reversion as a strategy for treating malignancies.

Full Research Description: 
Director, Research Cluster on Science and Subjectivity, CSS
Editor, Columbia University Press series “Science and Religion”
Director, University Seminars
Member, Affiliate Faculty, Union Theological Seminary
Member, Board of Directors, Healing of the Nations Foundation

Acting President, West End Synagogue

Robert Pollack is an American biologist whose interests cross many academic lines.  He grew up in Brooklyn, attended public schools, and majored in physics at Columbia University, where he graduated from the College in 1961.  He received a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Brandeis University in 1966, and subsequently was a postdoctoral Fellow in Pathology with Howard Green at NYU Medical center, and at the Weizmann Institute in Israel with Ernest Winocour.  He was then recruited to Cold Spring harbor Laboratory by James Watson to establish a research program on reversion of cancer cells.  He became a tenured Associate Professor of Microbiology at SUNY Stony Brook Medical Center, before returning to Columbia as a Professor of Biological Sciences in 1978.  He served as Dean of Columbia College from 1982 to 1989, overseeing the enrollment of women in the College for the first time. 

He remains at Columbia as a Professor of Biological sciences, and also served as Director of the University Seminars from 2011 to 2020; he was the fifth Director since its founding in 1944.  He is also a member of the Affiliate Faculty of the American Studies Program.  From 1999-2012, he was the Director of the Center for the Study of science and Religion, a program within Columbia’s Earth Institute.  In 2014 his interest in questions that lie at the intersect of science and subjectivity, coupled with the gift of an endowment from College alumnus Harvey Krueger ’51, led him to establish the Research Cluster on Science and Subjectivity, a project within Columbia’s Center for Science and Society. 

In addition to these activities, Pollack has authored many research reports, reviews, articles, and opinion pieces on molecular biology, medical ethics and science education as well as writing or editing ten books, including Signs of Life: the Language and Meanings of DNA (1994), which won the Lionel Trilling Award and has been translated into six languages, The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith: Order, meaning and free will in modern science (2000), and The Missing Moment: How the unconscious shapes modern science (2001).  His most recent book is The Course of Nature, a book of drawings by the artist Amy Pollack, accompanied by his short explanatory essays. 


Pollack received the Alexander Hamilton Medal from Columbia University, the Gershom Mendes Seixas Award from the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, and held a Guggenheim Fellowship. He presented the Schoff Lectures at Columbia in 1998, which led to his book, The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith.    


B.A., Columbia College, Physics, 1961
Ph.D., Brandeis University, Biology, 1966


EEEB 4321, Human Identity

American Studies W3930, Life at the End of Life



[A list of all books by Robert Pollack]

Pollack, Amy and Robert Pollack, 2014. 2nd edition, The course of Nature: a Book of Drawings on Natural Selection and its Consequences, Stony Creek Press, 2014. Link

Pollack, R., with frontispiece by Amy Pollack, 2012. The 1999 Schoff Memorial Lectures, paperback edition: The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith. New york, Columbia University Press.

Pollack, Amy and Robert Pollack, 2012. The course of Nature 1st edition, 2012, Stevens Inst. of Technology.

Pollack, R., ed., Common Ground, proceedings of the fourth annual Fetzer Institute Symposium, e- Book (2009).

Pollack, R., ed., Love and its Obstacles, proceedings of the first annual Fetzer Institute Symposium, e- Book (2007)
Pollack, R., with frontispiece by Amy Pollack, The 1999 Schoff Memorial Lectures: The Faith of Biology and the Biology of Faith: Order, Meaning, and Free Will in Modern Science, New York: Columbia University Press (2000).
reviews on publisher's site Books of Distinction reviews on

Pollack, R., with frontispiece by Amy Pollack, 1999. The Missing Moment: How the Unconscious Shapes Modern Science.  Boston, Houghton Mifflin.
reviews on publisher's site Link

Pollack,R., with frontispiece by Amy Pollack, Signs of Life: The Language and Meanings of DNA. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. (1994).

Pollack, R., ed., Readings in Mammalian Cell Culture. Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. (1973).

Hellman, S., Oxman, M., and Pollack, R., eds., Biohazards in Biological Research. Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (1973).

Pollack, R. and Pfeiffer, S., Animal Cell Culture Cell Manual. Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (1970).

Representative Publications: 


[A list of all articles, from Google Scholar]

2021, Pollack, A. and Pollack, R., "Where is the Overlap of Jewish Identity and Jewish Ancestry?," Sinai and Synapses: Scientists in Synagogues, July 22, 2021.

2021, Cobb, M. and Pollack, R., “A dangerous, wrong or unneeded experiment? Don’t do it,” Nature, 594:496

2021 Pollack, R., Introduction to “A Community of Scholars: The University Seminars at 75,” Columbia University Press.

2020 Pollack, R., "A Conversation With a Coronavirus," Earth Institute, April 27, 2020.

2019 Pollack, R., "Rethinking Our Vision of Success,", October 10, 2019.

2019 Loike, J.D., Pollack, R., "Develop Organoids, Not Chimeras, For Transplantation," The Scientist, August 23, 2019.

2019 Jeffery, K., Pollack, R., Rovelli, C., "On the statistical mechanics of life: Schrödinger revisited," Entropy, August 15, 2019.

J.D. Loike, R. Pollack, "Opinion: Ethical boundaries needed on the uses of synthetic DNA," The Scientist, March 1, 2019.
J.D. Loike, R. Pollack, "Opinion: How to define life," The Scientist, May 2, 2019.
2019 Pollack, R., Introduction to “A Community of Scholars: The University Seminars at 75,” Columbia University Press, in press.
2018 Pollack, R., The Science of One Life at a Time, chapter 4, in Seckbach, J. & R. Gordon, Eds. Theology and Science: From Genesis To Astrobiology Singapore, World Scientific Publishing.
2018 Pollack, R., et. al., “How not to talk about race and genetics,” Buzzfeed Opinion
2018 Pollack, R., Director’s report, University Seminars

2017 Pollack, R. and Moss-Salentijn, L, "Report to the University Senate, February 24, 2017”.

2016 Pollack R., "Knowing vs. Seeing: Philosophy and Experience," in CrossCurrents.

2016 Pollack, R. "Seeing and Knowing." Essay. The Current. Spring 2016. 

2016 Powers, S., and R. Pollack, “Inducing stable reversion to achieve cancer control,” Nature Reviews/Cancer 16: 266. 

2016  Shaw, A., K. Schaefer, Lechich A. and Pollack, R., What do College Students and Nursing Home Residents Take Away from a Summer immersed in Palliative Care?, Harvard Medical School 2016 Soma Weiss Undergraduate Research Symposium, Poster.

2015 Brokowski, C., Pollack, M., and Pollack R. Cutting Eugenics out of CRISPR-Cas9, Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine 6:263 (2015).

2015 Pollack, R., Eugenics Lurks in the Shadow of CRISPR, Science 348, 871.

2015 Pollack, R., The New SETI Initiative: Is there Intelligent Life on Earth?, Traces, September

2015 Pollack, R., A Look at Our Chapel Windows, Bnai Jeshurun

2015 Pollack, R., Foreword, What’s Faith Got to Do With It?, four lectures by Msgr Lorenzo Albacete, Crossroads, NY.

2015 Pollack, R., in press, "Why is There a Naked Girl on a Horse at the Entrance to Low Rotunda?" Columbia College Today, Winter., p. 92

2014 Pollack, R. and Williams, P., "Who you really Are," Genewatch.

2014 Pollack, R., "Where in the world is the human soul? J. Science Religion Culture 1:22.

2014 Pollack R., "How the Unconscious shapes modern science," Jews and Genes, ed. E. Dorff, Chapter 21, in press.

2014 Pollack, R., "The embodied Self," J. Gender & Law 27, p. 36 

2014 Pollack, R., "Genesis Engines – why bother?", Preface, Computation and Chemistry in the Quest for Life's Origin. Eds. Bruce Damer, Joseph Seckbach and Richard Gordon.

2013 Pollack, R., Foreword, "Our changing Journey to the End," ed. C. Staudt.

2013 Pollack, R., Letter, "Frontiers Incident," Columbia Spectator February 25.

2013 Pollack R.,"How the Unconscious Shapes Modern Science," chapter of "International Jewish Discourse Project on Religion and Ethics at the Frontier of Genetic Medicine," JPS, in press.

2013 Pollack, R., "Introduction," Paperback edition of Faith of Biology.

2013 Pollack, R., "Can faith broaden reason?," GeneWatch 26, August-September.

2012 Pollack, R., "Molecular Biology: The Short Life of a New Field," Earth Institute Sustainable Development Seminars.

2012 Pollack, R., illustrated by A. Pollack, "Commentary: Being Jewish is more Mind than Matter," Forward.

2012 Pollack, R., "Teaching and Research at Columbia," Letter, Columbia Spectator March 9.

2012 Pollack, R., "One Candle, One Life, One Planet: The Jewish Festival of Hanukkah and the Deep Meaning of Small Differences." in The Journal of Interfaith Dialogue September 2012, p. 83.

2012 Pollack, R., "Mindfulness at the end of life," Kol Hadash June 2012.

2012 Pollack, R., "Bemidbar: Grasshoppers, Almonds, and the Anthropocene," Kol Hadash January 2012.

2011 Pollack, R., illustrated by A. Pollack, "Surrendering Secrets." Kol Hadash September/October 2011.

2011 Pollack, R., "The Whole Megillah: Purim, Queen Esther and Mordechai." Kol Hadash January 2011.

2011 Pollack, R., "Natural Selection, the Human Genome, and Race," Chapter 2,Race and The Genetic Revolution, ed. S. Krimsky, Columbia U. Press.

2011 Pollack, R., illustrated by A. Pollack, Selections from "Natural Selection, the Human Genome, and Race," GeneWatch.

2011 Pollack, R., "Locating the Soul in an Age of Modern Medicine." Presented at Symposium Science, Technology, and the Humanities: A New Synthesis, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken.

2010 Beale, N. and Pollack, R. "The Great Commandment, Tao, and the Survival of Humanity." Union Seminary Quarterly Review.October 2010.

2010 Pollack, R., "Be Strong, Be Trusting: Reading Psalm 27 in Elul." Kol Hadash September/October 2010.

2010 Pollack, R., "Ruth the Moabite, David the King, and the Fallacy of Biological Judaism," Kol Hadash April 2010.

2010 Pollack, R., "The Rose Window and the DNA Crystal," Kol Hadash February 2010.

2010 Pollack, R., "I am, therefore I think." Columbia Spectator 16 September 2010.

1995 Pollack, R., "What Philanthropy Should Not Learn from 'The Bell Curve'" The Chronicle of Philanthropy 39. January 1995.


2021, "Episode One." Genetic Dreams, Genetic Nightmares, hosted by Matthew Cobb, BBC Radio 4. 20 July 2021.

2019, Pollack, R., "The light that stays on beyond the oil: The Jewish Festival of Chanukah and the location of the Soul", presented at West End Synagogue, New York, December 14, 2019.

2016 Pollack, R., "Columbia College Class of 1961: Fifty-fifth Reunion." Faculty Room, Low Memorial Library. 4 June 2016.

2016 Pollack, R. "Can Faith Broaden Reason?" Trinity Church, Wall Street, Discovery Adult Education Program. 22 May 2016.

2016 Pollack, R. "From Ebola to Zika: Present and Emerging Infectious Diseases." Introductory Remarks. 19 April 2016.

2014 Pollack, R., "Commemoration of Robert Belknap." St. Paul's Chapel, Columbia University. 12 Sept. 2014.

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