Microbial Diversity


Course Date: July 10 – August 24, 2017

Deadline: February 1, 2017 | Apply here

2016 Lecture Schedule

Course Website

Directors: Dianne K. Newman (Caltech/HHMI) and Jared R. Leadbetter (Caltech)

Launched in 1971 by Holger Jannasch, the Microbial Diversity summer course at the Marine Biological Laboratory has trained generations of scientists from diverse backgrounds. The course is an intense immersion experience for 20 students that lasts 6.5 weeks. The goal of the course is to teach professors, postdocs and advanced graduate students how to discover, cultivate, and isolate diverse microorganisms catalyzing a breadth of chemical transformations, as well as how to perform molecular and computational analyses relevant to their study. While microbial isolation techniques form the essential core of the course, each new set of directors brings an additional focus that reflects their interests/expertise. Starting in 2014, we will introduce basic genetic methods that will enable students to study how microbes catalyze particularly interesting reactions, as well as state-of-the-art imaging techniques that detect gene-expression in single cells. Genetically-tractable strains isolated in the course will be sequenced by Pacific Biosystems, and students will learn how to annotate and analyze their genomes. Given the wealth of DNA, RNA and protein sequences now available from isolated microbes and environmental samples, these tools are important for students to gain so they may understand what these sequences mean and in which context they are expressed—be it in the marine environment, soils, or plant and animal hosts. We will also emphasize quantitative approaches to microbial diversity, including teaching students how to describe the energetic potential of diverse metabolisms and how to best use statistics in their studies. Through joint-seminars with the Physiology course, we will expose students to how physical principles and methods can be applied to study microbial cell biology. In addition to the emphasis on practical training, numerous visitors and guest-lecturers participate in the course every summer, allowing students to be exposed to exciting current research. The opportunity to interact one-on-one with these individuals is a tremendous opportunity, often leading to future collaborations.

This course is supported in part by grants from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, the Moore Foundation, the Simons Foundation, NASA, Promega, and the Agouron Institute.


Sean Crosson, University of Chicago
Scott Dawson, University of California—Davis
Ethan Garner, Harvard
Kurt Hanselmann, ETH
Jared Leadbetter, Caltech
Dianne Newman, Caltech
George A. O’Toole, The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Tracy Teal, Data Carpentry & Michigan State University BEACON Center