This is such a great question! After having read the previous two answers, I think I can add a bit.
It's important to note that Vivian is not just a hard-nosed, cold professor, she was specifically Jason's professor. Jason, in part, is who he is BECAUSE of Vivian. She taught him.
Jason sat in Vivian Bearing's class and watched her eviscerate her students, something she admits made her feel powerful. She reveled in the puzzle of John Donne's sonnets, just as Jason revels in the "awesome" puzzle of cancer. She had no tolerance for ignorance in her classroom, admittedly the toughest, and her standards were unwittingly (no pun intended) passed on to Jason, who likewise scoffs at those who are less dedicated to research than he is. After Vivian is under ameliorative care, he even admits to Susie that the puzzles of Donne's poetry and the way Bearing taught them were "great training for lab research."
During their respective work, neither of them sees the value of the "part with human beings."...
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