November 27, 2015

Applications Now Accepted for UChicago-MBL Scholarship

Beginning its second year, applications are now being accepted for the University of Chicago – Marine Biological Laboratory Scholarship for undergraduate study.

Each application cycle, the University of Chicago will offer one full-tuition MBL scholarship to a qualified applicant. The scholarship will be renewable for four years as long as the recipient remains in good academic standing and one of their parents is a year-round, minimum 0.5 FTE (20 hours/week) employee of the MBL. This is a great opportunity for MBL families to take advantage of the outstanding education the University of Chicago provides for its students. We ask any families that have students applying to the University of Chicago this year to fill out the following by January 3, 2016: MBL Employment Verification Form.

uchicago.campusTo be awarded the full-time scholarship, the student must be accepted for first-year admission to the University of Chicago and must be among the most qualified applicants from Marine Biological Laboratory families as judged by the admissions committee. First-year applicants are required to complete either the Universal College Application or the Common Application , both available online. Additionally, students will be required to complete the University of Chicago Supplement which is available online or through the Common Application. The deadline for applications to the University of Chicago is November 1, 2015 for Early Action and January 1, 2016 for Regular Decision.

These are merit-based scholarship and do not preclude the possibility of additional need-based financial assistance from the University. The University strives to ensure financial need is not the controlling factor in determining whether a student can attend. To apply for financial aid, the UChicago Financial Aid Worksheet is due November 1, 2015 for early action applicants. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be filed with the appropriate processing agencies by February 1, 2015 for regular notification. For additional information, please visit

If you have questions about the scholarship or would like additional information about admission to the University of Chicago, please contact Emily Benoit, Assistant Director of Admissions, at or (773) 702-7944.

Undergraduates Wrap Up an MBL Summer with Successful Poster Session

By Diana Kenney

Looking ahead to a new academic year starting in late September, several University of Chicago students recently flew home after a summer at the MBL. Before leaving, they shared the knowledge they had gained during their Metcalf Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) at a well-attended poster session in Swope Center.

Each student had spent twelve weeks in the lab of an MBL scientist who provided mentoring on a research project. Several of the students partnered on their research with an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) student from another university.

“Twelve weeks is a long time; we managed to accomplish a lot,” said Associate Scientist Linda Amaral Zettler, who mentored Metcalf SURF student Irene Zhang and REU student Louise Barias of Dartmouth College. “Irene was exposed to all the major analyses in my lab. She has those skills under her belt now, which will really help her if she moves on in the field.”

Below are a few snapshots from the Metcalf SURF poster session, which was organized by Beth Simmons, Assistant Director of Education. Other UChicago Metcalf undergraduates this summer and their MBL mentors were: Clara Kao (Jonathan Gitlin); Eva Kinnebrew (Chris Neill); Hanna Weller (Roger Hanlon); Leonard Shaw (Maureen Conte); Petra Byl (Joe Vallino/Julie Huber); and Jonathan Michelson (Jim Tang).

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UChicago Lab School Students “Get Their Hands in the Water” at MBL

By Rachel Buhler

Taking a break in a lounge in Loeb Laboratory, the two high-school science teachers looked sunburned, tired, but very happy. Daniel Calleri and Sharon Housinger of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools had spent the prior day with 12 of their students on Naushon Island, off the coast of Woods Hole. Nets in hand, they scouted out and collected marine organisms with the expert help of Dave Remsen, director of the MBL’s Marine Resources Center. After boating back to Woods Hole, the group took their finds into an MBL lab for further study.

“We wanted the students to jump right in and get their hands in the water, to take full advantage of Woods Hole in this short period of time,” said Calleri.

The 12 Lab School sophomores, juniors, and seniors spent a week at the MBL last month with Calleri, Housinger, and Alexzandra Wallace, the Lab School’s Manager of Special Projects and Outreach. The teachers had come to the MBL in 2014 to explore a possible collaboration with MBL Education Director Bill Reznikoff, and this summer’s stay was the successful result.

“This is another example of the MBL’s expanding relationship with the University of Chicago,” said MBL President and Director Hunt Willard. “We were happy to help introduce the Lab School students to the Woods Hole environment and the study of local marine organisms.”

UChicago Lab School students Whitney Thomas and Delnaz Patel observe plankton from the plankton tow, one of their many encounters with microorganisms during their MBL trip. Credit: Beth Simmons

UChicago Lab School students Whitney Thomas and Delnaz Patel observe plankton from the plankton tow, one of their many encounters with microorganisms during their MBL trip.
Credit: Beth Simmons

In their MBL lab, the students observed fertilization of sea squirt (Ciona) eggs and, through the microscope, watched the embryos divide. They also experimented with neural stimulation of squid skin thanks to inspiration from the YouTube hit “Insane in the Chromatophores” by Backyard Brains, which was recorded at the MBL in 2012. In addition, they learned how and why other organisms at the MBL are studied, including frogs, horseshoe crabs, and microscopic animals called rotifers.

After being chosen to visit the MBL through a competitive application process, the Lab School students prepared by taking a quarter-long marine biology course. In Woods Hole, their teachers were thrilled to bring them into the ecosystems they had studied in their textbooks. “It was like instant connection and understanding,” Housinger said. “I was thinking this morning when they were in the lab looking at the embryos, that they probably learned more embryology in two hours than we would have been able to teach in two weeks in the classroom.”

The students also saw at MBL that there are many ways to engage with marine biology, such as through training in physics (leading to microscope development) or chemistry. “For biology, traditionally they are taught, ‘Here’s this list of words, memorize it, and now you know marine biology,’ and it’s no wonder why people don’t go into it,” Calleri said. “It’s never presented as a field that has opportunity for professional growth and development. But at MBL, you get to see that writ large.” The MBL showed students who are starting to form collegiate aspirations several real-life examples of careers in the sciences.

A number of MBL faculty and staff members offered their time to interact with the Lab School students to ensure they had a well-rounded experience. They included Beth Simmons (Education Department); Dave Remsen and Scott Bennett (Marine Resources Center), Shalin Mehta and Hiro Ishii (Bell Center), Kristen Gribble (Bay Paul Center), Ivan Valiela (Ecosystems Center), and Esther Pearl (National Xenopus Resource).

The teachers hope an MBL trip will become part of the annual curriculum at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. “The students are seeing the MBL motto of ‘Biological Discovery’ in real-time,” Wallace exclaimed.

From Octopus Development to Arctic Change: UChicago Graduate Students Pursue Research Questions at the MBL

By Kelsey Calhoun

From octopus embryology to the proteins active in Arctic soil, University of Chicago graduate students are exploring a range of questions at the MBL this summer as recipients of a University of Chicago Graduate Student Research Award. Now in its second year, this program enables selected UChicago students to enroll in an MBL course or collaborate with an MBL research mentor. This year’s awardees are:

Caroline Albertin_smCarrie Albertin spent several weeks at the MBL investigating octopus development, as a follow-up to her recent work on octopus genomics. Albertin is first author of the cover story in Nature this week, which provides the first whole-genome analysis of an octopus (O. bimaculoides). This also represents the first complete sequencing of a cephalopod, a class of predatory molluscs that includes octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus. A sixth-year graduate student in Cliff Ragsdale’s lab in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago, Albertin plans to defend her thesis soon after incorporating this summer’s work. Her MBL research was sponsored by Senior Scientist Roger Hanlon; she also worked closely with Research Associate Stephen Senft.

Albertin is interested in the unusual body plans of the cephalopods. The octopus, with its large brain and eight arms capable of grasping objects, is constructed very differently than most other animals, even other molluscs. “By sequencing the genome, you get access to the whole [genetic] toolkit the animal has” to develop its body plan, says Albertin. Genomic analysis also allowed her to “get a broad look of how to build a cephalopod,” she says, and uncovered quite a few surprises. Read more here “Octopus genome sequenced,” UChicago Medicine & Biological Sciences.

Albertin’s octopus developmental studies at the MBL this summer complement her genomic research. “These are two different snapshots of the same species,” she says. She took advantage of healthy specimens in the MBL’s Marine Resources Center and a powerful scanning electron microscope (SEM), which gives “a very different view [of structure] compared to a light microscope or even a confocal microscope,” she says. “You see all kinds of surface detail that you wouldn’t normally get.” Albertin used the SEM to look at various octopus body tissues and a technique called in situ hybridization to determine which genes are expressed as those tissues develop. The SEM data will add another dimension to the broader question that interests Albertin: “How do you get from a single cell to an eye, a brain, an arm?”

5-Katharine-Criswell-of-UChicago-at-MBL-Credit-Tom-Kleindinst_smKate Criswell attended the 2014 Embryology course as a recipient of a UChicago Graduate Research Award and came back to the MBL this summer, using part of her original award. Criswell returned to study the development of skates: flat, cartilaginous fish that resemble stingrays. Using a technique called fate mapping, Criswell is tracking how skate embryos grow and investigating what undeveloped tissues will become in the mature skate. She’s particularly interested in how the spine and the vertebrae form.

Not many scientists study skates, but for Criswell’s research questions, it’s one of the best experimental systems. As a fourth year-graduate student with Michael Coates, Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at UChicago, Criswell sometimes has skates flown into the lab from a faraway ocean. However, she’s found it’s difficult to keep them healthy in the lab’s artificial seawater. In terms of experiments, “everything goes much more smoothly at the MBL,” Criswell says. She’s been able to collect a large amount of data with her MBL mentor, Whitman Center Investigator Andy Gillis of Dalhousie University, and she’ll analyze it over the winter.

This Chicago winter may be Criswell’s last, as she is about to graduate, but she hopes her work with skates—and her pilgrimages to the MBL—will continue. “The MBL has such a great, inspiring, positive, and creative atmosphere,” she says. Wherever Criswell goes after graduation, the MBL will likely be part of the plan.

Samuel Miller_smSamuel Miller, a fifth-year graduate student in Albert Colman’s lab in UChicago’s Department of the Geophysical Sciences, came to the MBL for its expertise in Arctic ecology. Miller studies frozen Arctic soils (permafrost) using proteomics, a method that investigates all the proteins present in a particular tissue, organism, or environmental sample. He’s interested in how permafrost soil microbes are responding to global warming. As the permafrost warms, proteins produced by microbes degrade frozen organic matter in the soil, which releases greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. Understanding the types of soil proteins present will shed light on the response of the Arctic carbon cycle to a rapidly changing climate.

Miller is also identifying the microbial genes that encode Arctic soil proteins. This metagenomic approach is an essential complement to proteomics, since the DNA in a soil sample indicates the range of proteins that can potentially be expressed. His Graduate Research Award is supporting metagenomic analysis at UChicago, as well as a week at the MBL working with Senior Scientists Anne Giblin and Gus Shaver, both MBL Arctic researchers. Giblin and Shaver have long experience conducting research at Toolik Field Station in Alaska, where Miller collected soil cores last year.

3-Darcy-Ross-UChicago-Credit-DanielCojanu_smDarcy Ross also attended the Embryology course in 2014 and has returned to the MBL to continue her research. She is interested in the development of snail shells, specifically in the slipper snail (Crepidula fornicata). She wants to know how the shells form and what shell building involves, but the larger question behind her investigation concerns how shells have evolved.

The experiments Ross has designed can be conducted at UChicago, where Ross is a third-year graduate student with Neil Shubin, Bensley Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy. But the snails stay healthier in natural seawater at MBL, so Ross is working out of Shubin’s lab in the MBL’s Whitman Center this summer. Ross also has expert advice here. “One of the Embryology course faculty members, Jonathan Henry of the University of Illinois, is the snail guy,” Ross says. Henry, who is co-mentoring Ross’s MBL research, has developed techniques and protocols to explore these very small experimental subjects. Ross is using UV light and various drugs to determine which genes play a role in shell coiling, and she wants to know whether different species’ shells are built by disparate methods. “It’s time to start looking at the inside of the shell” and the story behind it, Ross says, “as well as the outside.”

Neuroscientists Invited to Apply for a Travel Award to Attend the SPINES Neuroscience Symposium in Chicago

Monday, June 15, 2015, Chicago, IL

Contact: Chinonye Nnakwe, PhD

Event: SPINES Neuroscience Symposium—Scientific Excellence and Lifelong Mentoring to Increase Diversity

Date and Location: October 16, 2015 – Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago IL

Deadline to Apply for a Travel Award: June 30, 2015

The aim of the SPINES Neuroscience Symposium is to deepen our knowledge and understanding of current findings in neuroscience, recruit young and aspiring underrepresented scientists, as defined by the National Institutes of Health, to the field of neuroscience and to enhance retention and success of those already in scientific careers.

The planning committee seeks applicants to apply for a travel award. For further information and an application visit the website:

Applications from pre-doctoral and postdoctoral neuroscientists, and faculty/scientists from academia, industry and non-profit organizations are encouraged. There is a special interest in receiving applications from past and present SPINES students. The deadline to apply for a travel award is June 30, 2015.

About the Symposium
The SPINES Neuroscience Symposium will bring together a large contingent of underrepresented minority neuroscientists from multiple SPINES generations to provide encouragement, support, and networking, in the context of a scientific conference. Planned activities include scientific lectures, professional development workshops, lightning talks, mentoring sessions, and a showcase of the successes of SPINES student and faculty alumni.

About the SPINES Course
SPINES (Summer Program in Neuroscience, Ethics & Survival) is a novel professional development course offered each year at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) to facilitate the careers of underrepresented doctoral and postdoctoral students and early career neuroscientists. It is considered a model for the successful training of early career scientists from underrepresented groups. The SPINES course has been offered for over 20 years and has hundreds of alumni — from those who are beginning their careers to those nearing retirement. The key ingredients for the success of SPINES are career-long mentoring, monitoring, networking, and understanding the current boundaries of neuroscience knowledge. No other experience, except graduate training, has such a profound effect upon a student’s research career, as does a summer course at the MBL. Many describe the effect as magical and transformative.

Additional Symposium Sponsors
Alzheimer’s Association
Grossman Institute for Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology and Human Behavior

MBL–UChicago Exploratory Research Seed Funds Announced

We are pleased to announce grants in support of collaborative research among UChicago and MBL faculty (both visiting and year round) at the MBL. The grants will seed novel research that initiates collaboration between individuals and institutions and can serve as the substrate for future grant proposals. The intent is to provide the basis for collaborative research between UChicago faculty and visiting and/or year-round faculty of the MBL.

These grants are intended to be exploratory funds: budgets are at a maximum of $25,000, proposals are short, target dates are quarterly, and review and funding will be rapid.

Applications are accepted in Fall, Winter, and Spring Quarters. The next round is due April 30, 2015.

Completed applications are due by midnight CST on April 30th.


Winter 2015 MBL – UChicago Exploratory Seed Fund Winners

Melina Hale, Jennifer Morgan
“Behavioral change and neural circuit reorganization during metamorphosis in Xenopus

Understanding of neural circuit development and evolution is limited by the difficulty of establishing neuron homology among organisms and species. How does the startle circuit reconfigure from driving unilateral axial bending to controlling bilateral limb movement during development and evolution? Here we focus on development and will examine the M-cell circuit through the transition from tadpole to frog in Xenopus laevis. This work will provide new insights into how neural circuits develop through major behavioral transitions and will inform examination of startle circuit evolution in tetrapods. Homology of the M-cells to hindbrain neurons of amniotes is unknown; ultimately we aim to trace the evolution of this neuron and its circuit across the water-to-land transition and through tetrapod diversity.

Marine Biological Laboratory Semester in Environmental Science Open to UChicago Students

UChicago-MBL collaborations combine research strengths in new ways: Latest round of joint exploratory research proposals due Feb. 20

Huntington Willard Named President and Director of Marine Biological Laboratory


Contact: Pamela Hinkle, Director of Development & External Relations, Marine Biological Laboratory

Jeremy Manier, News Director, University of Chicago

Willard_Huntington.webWOODS HOLE, MA — Huntington Willard, an innovative leader in the fields of genetics and genome biology who has built comprehensive research centers at leading institutions, has been appointed the next president and director of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, who is also Chairman of the MBL’s Board of Trustees, announced the appointment to the MBL and University communities. MBL is an affiliate of the University of Chicago, a relationship designed to yield novel avenues for scientific discovery and education at both institutions.

At the MBL, Willard will lead one of the world’s foremost centers for biological research, international collaboration and education. Willard, currently the Arts & Sciences Professor of Biology and Genome Sciences at Duke University, will begin his appointment at the MBL on January 1, 2015.

Willard has earned a reputation as a groundbreaking scientist, a strong leader and builder of complex academic initiatives, as well as a talented educator who has received multiple teaching awards. From 2003 to 2014 he was the founding Director of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, a highly interdisciplinary unit that spanned the life sciences, engineering, medicine, social sciences and the humanities. For that program, Willard recruited 35 faculty members to Duke across 21 departments and established broad institutional strength in the genome sciences. He had previously chaired the Department of Genetics at Case Western Reserve University, where he also built a widely respected program of research and education.

As a researcher, Willard has explored many facets of genetics and genome biology, with a particular interest in the structure and function of chromosomes, the epigenetic regulation of gene silencing, and the evolution and organization of complex genomes. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has won many awards for genetics scholarship, including the William Allan Award from the American Society of Human Genetics.

“Hunt Willard is an outstanding scholar and a proven scientific leader who has created programs that have earned international respect,” said Zimmer. “He exemplifies the values that guide the Marine Biological Laboratory and the University of Chicago — wide-ranging collaboration, eagerness to explore and define new fields of study, and a dedication to discovery through engaged education. We are delighted to welcome him to this community, and confident that he will lead the MBL in a way that preserves its strengths, creates new opportunities for growth, and takes advantage of the relationship with the University of Chicago.”

Willard said he was attracted by the MBL’s historic role as a beacon for scientists from around the world, including its renowned summer courses and creative year-round programs of research and education.

“I’m honored to be named the next president and director of MBL,” Willard said. “The MBL has enjoyed such a strong tradition of integrating research and education since its founding, and offers wonderful opportunities to develop and implement novel strategies for tackling some of the most pressing questions in life sciences and biomedical research today. The highly interdisciplinary nature of its year-round and visiting scientists and students offers unique combinations of scholarship, teamwork and adaptability that can’t be easily matched elsewhere. I can’t imagine a place that better illustrates the values of integrated research and education that are important to me — as a scientist, an educator and as a leader. I look forward with great enthusiasm to joining this community, at both MBL and the University of Chicago.”

Jennifer Morgan, an MBL scientist and associate director of the Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering, said Willard is a perfect fit for the MBL’s intellectual culture.

“As a leader who has brought together researchers with many diverse kinds of expertise, Hunt Willard is an exceptional choice to enrich the spirit of innovation and collaboration that has guided the MBL since its founding in 1888,” Morgan said.

The MBL is known as an institution dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine and environmental science. In July 2013 the MBL and the University of Chicago formed an affiliation that is producing growing collaborations between the two institutions and researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, which is managed by UChicago and has many research ties to the University.

In addition to his leadership of the MBL, Willard will have a faculty appointment in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago. Prior to his appointments at Duke and Case Western Reserve, Willard held faculty positions at the University of Toronto and Stanford University and was founding president and director of the University Hospitals of Cleveland Research Institute. He received his PhD in genetics from Yale University and his AB degree in biology from Harvard University.

Willard is widely considered a leading figure among American geneticists, having authored or contributed to more than 300 scholarly publications, providing fundamental insights and new tools for studying how cells inactivate genes on the X chromosome and what DNA sequences are involved in chromosome segregation during cell division. His team also received international attention in 1997 when it constructed the world’s first human artificial chromosome.

“What’s so extraordinary about Hunt Willard’s academic career is his demonstrated ability to lead the charge in scientific discovery, both as an investigator and as a director of several large, ambitious programs,” said Neil Shubin, the Robert R. Bensley Distinguished Service Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and associate dean for academic strategy in UChicago’s Biological Sciences Division. “He has a sense of where fields are going, and an ability to identify and recruit the best academic talent. That’s going to make him an outstanding leader for the MBL, and a great colleague for all of us.”

Sally Kornbluth, provost of Duke University and the James B. Duke Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, praised Willard’s contributions at Duke.

“Hunt Willard is a stellar scientist, an energetic teacher and an innovative leader who helped make genomics a point of excellence at Duke,” Kornbluth said. “His appointment at the MBL heralds an exciting opportunity for the laboratory.”

Willard will succeed Arthur M. Sussman, the MBL’s interim president and director, who assumed that role in November with the departure of former president and director Joan Ruderman. President Zimmer sent a message to the MBL community last May praising Ruderman’s record of commitment to the lab, which began in 1974 when she first arrived as a post-doctoral researcher.


The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.



UChicago-MBL-Argonne Workshops on Cell Dynamics and Advanced Imaging

Xenopus kidney cells by MBL scientists Amitabh Verma, Michael Shribak, and Tomomi Tani.

Xenopus kidney cells by MBL scientists Amitabh Verma, Michael Shribak, and Tomomi Tani.

MBL Scientists are invited to participate in a series of workshops on Cell Dynamics and Advanced Imaging. The MBL-UChicago affiliation has provided the impetus for new efforts to integrate and further develop imaging research throughout the University of Chicago. Although there is significant imaging related research on the University of Chicago, Argonne and MBL campuses, it has not been well coordinated to date.

We propose to convene a series of workshops to start promoting interactions among the different parties. Initially, we hope to gain insights into the expertise available on campus, stimulate new collaborations, and explore future common activities. The workshops will be held on several Saturdays during the rest of the academic calendar. Each workshop will feature talks that highlight active projects in which imaging plays a major role.

These workshops are designed to facilitate communication between cell biologists, cellular neurobiologists, developmental biologists and structural biologists using imaging. We also strongly encourage participation by groups developing and engineering new electron and light microscopy techniques, groups developing and engineering new probes for imaging and computational scientists working on imaging. Together, we aim to identify the new areas and technologies needed to move Cell Dynamics and Advanced Imaging forward at the three different campuses.

Each workshop will run from ~1-5 pm and will feature ~8 talks that represent the interest groups mentioned above, including colleagues from Argonne and MBL. The speakers will be selected so that each workshop features a diverse set of talks designed for a diverse audience. We are guaranteed to learn a lot of new science and better appreciate the imaging capabilities we have on our three campuses.

To indicate your interest in attending these workshops and or presenting at the workshops, please fill out this short form ( There will be no registration fee for the workshops.