Jesuit Scientists Talk about Faith and Research at Symposium
September 29, 2011 – Three Jesuit scientists discussed the challenges and joys of balancing their scientific pursuits with their Catholic faith during a Woodstock Theological Center symposium yesterday.
One of the three panelists, Rev. Kevin FitzGerald, S.J., (G’96, G’99), serves as the Dr. David Lauler Chair for Catholic Health Care Ethics at Georgetown’s Center for Clinical Bioethics.
“I think we are amenable to the insights that we can garner from looking at a situation or a problem from a philosophical or theological or humanities perspective in addition to the in-depth scientific pursuit that we are involved in,” FitzGerald said. “That’s part of the wonder of creation, and, in a way, that’s the wonder that many scientists feel doing the sort of investigations that they do.”
THIRD IN A SERIES
FitzGerald also works at Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, investigates abnormal gene regulation in cancer and ethical issues in human genetics.
Joining him were Rev. John Braverman S.J., assistant professor of biology at St. Joseph’s University and Rev. Cyril Opeil, assistant professor of physics at Boston College.
The event marked the third panel of Woodstock’s “Jesuits and the Sciences at Georgetown University,” a series devoted to exploring the history of Jesuit engagement with science as the university constructs its new science building.
RESEARCH AND TEACHING
Braverman, who works in the field of bioinformatics and evolutionary biology at St. Joseph’s, taught in the department of biology at Georgetown from 2003-2006.
“My priesthood is less like of a parish priest … but instead my priesthood converges on my research and teaching,” he said.
He said that being a Jesuit scientist does not make him immune to “human issues that all [scholars] face – limited funding, getting published, bias and politics and finding balance in life.”
Opeil, who works in experimental physics, says the best part of his journey as a Jesuit scientist came during a two-year stay at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
During his time in New Mexico, Opeil worked in the lab Monday to Friday and then spent the weekend at a parish where he celebrated Mass and assisted those in spiritual need in a disadvantaged section of the state.
“For me, the vocation is really to be a Jesuit,” he said, “to be someone engaged in the apostolate as a member of the community, someone who’s a priest who’s engaged in the sacramental life of a community and also be a scientist but somehow integrate all those things together and that’s really what I strive to do.”