October 2, 2014

MBL – University of Chicago Affiliation FAQ

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Q. What is the Marine Biological Laboratory?
Q. What are the benefits of the University of Chicago/MBL affiliation?
Q. Will the affiliation change the MBL?
Q. What is the shared history between the MBL and University of Chicago?
Q. How will the distance between the MBL and UChicago affect the affiliation?
Q. When did the MBL and the University of Chicago begin talking about an affiliation?
Q. How will this affiliation benefit the University of Chicago?
Q. Will this affiliation change how the MBL operates?
Q. What effects will this affiliation have on scientific collaborations at the MBL?
Q. What effects will this affiliation have on MBL educational programs?
Q. How will it affect the Brown-MBL Program?
Q. With an affiliation, will the MBL’s Visiting Summer Research Program remain intact?  Will there still be space to accommodate this program?


Q. What is the Marine Biological Laboratory?
A: The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biological and environmental science. The MBL was founded in 1888 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

For much of the MBL’s history, its research and educational programs were carried out only in the summer by scientists from other universities and institutions. Today, the MBL offers 25 research-based courses for graduate students and advanced scientists that are taught almost entirely by faculty from other institutions; as well as other educational programs. The MBL also hosts visiting scientists who set up laboratories to take advantage of the MBL’s special facilities, access to a wide variety marine organisms, and opportunities for collaboration.  Scientists began establishing year-round laboratories at the MBL in the mid-1900s. Today, the MBL has five year-round research centers and programs focused on areas including ecosystems science and global climate change, microbial evolution, cell biology, neurobiology, and regenerative biology.

Complete information about the MBL is available here: http://www.mbl.edu/mbl-facts/

Q. What are the benefits of the University of Chicago/MBL affiliation?
A: This affiliation will benefit research and educational programs at both institutions. The University of Chicago has advanced its mission greatly through affiliations with outstanding institutions that have shared and complementary goals. Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab are two particularly useful examples. In each case, the University works to strengthen the organization and its global reach and the University in turn benefits from research and teaching collaborations and the joint development of mutually beneficial programs. These types of partnerships have been a hallmark of the University of Chicago for most of its history.

Like all independent scientific labs, the MBL has faced financial pressures in recent years even as its scientific programs have continued to thrive. The affiliation will bring new resources with the University’s help, including efforts to expand access to federal and private grants, cooperation in philanthropic efforts, and expansion of educational programs. The University of Chicago sees particular promise in developing advanced, research-based educational programs during the academic year to complement the existing summer-based programs.

Q. Will the affiliation change the MBL?
A. The affiliation will preserve and strengthen the distinctive culture that makes the MBL an international center for research and education. The partnership will enable the MBL to continue to support the three core components of the institution: year-round research, visiting research, and advanced research-based training programs.

Q. What is the shared history between the MBL and University of Chicago?
A: The MBL and the University of Chicago have been strongly interconnected since their earliest days. During its first decades, the MBL was a summer-only institution that was directed, successively, by two University of Chicago faculty members. Charles Otis Whitman, head of the University’s Zoology Department, was the MBL’s much-respected founding director (1888-1907). Frank R. Lillie, also professor and later chair of the Zoology Department (and a student of Whitman’s) was the MBL’s second director, serving until 1925. Another key scientist was Jacques Loeb, a University of Chicago faculty member who founded the MBL Physiology course in 1892, conducted research at the MBL until 1910, and served as MBL Trustee from 1898 to 1923. As a testament to these scientists’ influence in shaping the MBL, three of the MBL’s major buildings were dedicated in their honor: Whitman Building in 1962, Lillie Laboratory in 1962, and Loeb Laboratory in 1969. Another building is named after Charles R. Crane of Chicago, one of the MBL’s most important early benefactors. Since 1888, more than 400 University of Chicago faculty, students, or alumni have come to the MBL to conduct research or participate in its esteemed summer courses as faculty or students.

Q. How will the distance between the MBL and UChicago affect the affiliation?
A. The MBL’s collaborators span the nation and the world, and always have. The MBL sought an affiliation with an institution that would be a good fit with its values and history, and the organizational capacity to carry out a successful affiliation for the long-term. Such considerations outweighed location.

The University of Chicago has exceptional experience leading collaborations and centers across great distances in the U.S. and around the world, in addition to its affiliated labs near Chicago. Notably, the South Pole Telescope is a major UChicago-led collaboration involving numerous other universities and federal agencies; the Giant Magellan Telescope project in Chile is an international consortium that includes the University of Chicago; and the University has operated numerous centers abroad, including recently opened Centers in Paris and Beijing and a planned Center in Dehli, international centers administered by the Chicago Booth business school, and the 90-year-old archaeological project at Chicago House in Luxor, Egypt.

Q. When did the MBL and the University of Chicago begin talking about an affiliation?
A. Talks began in late 2012.

Q. How will this affiliation benefit the University of Chicago?
A. The University of Chicago has benefitted from helping to lead global centers of scientific collaboration such as Argonne and Fermilab. MBL presents another opportunity to foster work that spans many institutions and disciplines, to the benefit of scientists at the University and around the world.

University faculty members also have identified the development of non-summer educational programs at the MBL as a key opportunity of an affiliation, one that could greatly benefit students during the academic year. Such activity would have minimal impact on the summer programs, while making better use of MBL facilities and resources that otherwise get low usage for much of the year. In addition, researchers affiliated with the University and Argonne National Laboratory, which is managed by the University of Chicago, have expressed interest in establishing links with specific research programs at the MBL.

Q. Will this affiliation change how the MBL operates?
A. The MBL will continue to be a separate 501(c)(3) corporation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with its own employees, endowment, budget and governance structure. Its endowment and other assets will be retained for MBL’s mission.  The MBL Board and senior management will retain general responsibility for the MBL’s programs and operations, while at the same time benefitting from financial and operational assistance from the University. The MBL President/Director will report to the President of the University.

Q. What effects will this affiliation have on scientific collaborations at the MBL?
A. The MBL’s collaborative intellectual culture and its interactions with scientists from many institutions are among the lab’s qualities that the University of Chicago values most. The University wants to provide more institutional support for collaborations and more opportunities for fruitful links between MBL programs and the University.

Q. What effects will this affiliation have on MBL educational programs?
A. An affiliation is expected to financially strengthen the MBL’s existing summer educational programs. The University principally sees opportunities to further develop educational programs at the MBL during the academic year that will complement the renowned summer programs.

Q. How will it affect the Brown-MBL Program?
A. The Brown-MBL Partnership and Graduate Program will remain in place and MBL and Brown will retain all of their current academic and financial commitments to students and faculty. The University of Chicago is committed to the Brown-MBL Partnership and Graduate Program, and believes that such cross-institutional relationships strengthen the MBL. MBL continues to work closely with Brown faculty and leadership to build and strengthen the Brown-MBL Partnership.

Q. With an affiliation, will the MBL’s Visiting Summer Research Program remain intact?  Will there still be space to accommodate this program?
A. Yes – The affiliation will financially strengthen the Visiting Summer Research Program but will not directly affect its structure or overall mission. The goal will be to continue to strengthen and diversify this program going forward.