October 20, 2014

New Internships Allow Eight UChicago Undergrads to Spend Summer at Marine Biological Laboratory

Dianna Douglas, University of Chicago

 

ight UChicago undergraduates will spend their summer at the MBL as research interns through the Metcalf program.

Eight UChicago undergraduates will spend their summer at the MBL as research interns through the Metcalf program.

Eight students in the College will spend their summer as research interns at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, marking a new phase in the affiliation between the lab and the University of Chicago that will allow students to pursue significant scientific projects.

“The student interns will make invaluable contributions this summer, while gaining important contacts and resources to navigate the complex process of finding a career path,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “The Marine Biological Laboratory internships are an example of the faculty and laboratory collaborations that can help our students succeed in many careers.”

Funding for the internship comes through a partnership between the MBL and the College, and the interns will be part of UChicago’s Metcalf internship program in Career Advancement. Each student will live in or near the MBL campus in Woods Hole, Mass., a village on Cape Cod that attracts world-renowned scientists for intense, transformative research and advanced courses in a range of biological subjects. The MBL’s summer courses are famous for creating a distinctive environment of collaboration among instructors and students, often working with the latest technology to address research questions.

“It is a fantastic opportunity. We’re going to have a lot of exposure to the scientists, and will understand more things that are happening in the field,” said Medha Biswas, a second-year biology student, who will be part of the first group of interns. She visited the MBL during a Career Advancement trek over spring break.

This summer she will work on live imaging of synaptic proteins in the laboratory of William Green, professor of neuroscience at UChicago and a visiting fellow at the MBL.

While the MBL has hosted many scholars from UChicago during its summer programs, this is the first time that a formal internship program will bring a group of students to Woods Hole.

“Scientific discovery moves forward when bright, young, curious minds are given the opportunity to explore without limits. These outstanding undergraduates are the perfect connection of real intellectual capital between our two great institutions and I have every anticipation of extraordinary accomplishments,” said Jonathan Gitlin, deputy director for research and programs at MBL.

Biswas said she is excited by the opportunity for these inaugural interns to show what UChicago students are capable of contributing at the MBL. The other interns—Rachel Folz, Shaunae Alex, Clara Kao, Lyda Harris, Para Mehta, Caroline Owens and Andrea Rummel—will work on projects as varied as suspended animation in zebrafish and the sedimentary layers of the salt marsh ecosystem.

Each of the student interns identified a faculty member at the MBL whose area of study intersected with their own work. They wrote proposals to the faculty members, explaining a research project that they hoped to pursue in collaboration with the laboratory scientists.

“We look forward to the energy and scholarship that the Chicago students will bring to our summer programs, and to seeing the results of the research and discoveries that will come out of their work,” said Joel Smith, a biologist at the MBL who has worked closely on bringing the UChicago interns to the lab this summer. The MBL’s renowned summer programs attract more than 1,700 scientists and advanced students from around the world.

The MBL interns will be part of the College’s largest group of Metcalf interns. More than 1,000 undergraduates will travel around the world through UChicago’s paid internship program to gain on-the-job skills and explore career opportunities this year.

UChicago and MBL Announce First Recipients of Lillie Awards for Collaborative Research

Contact: Gina Hebert
508-289-7725; ghebert@mbl.edu

Erik M. Jorgensen and Clare Waterman are the first two recipients of the Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Awards. The awards will provide funding for scientists to develop novel, collaborative projects based at the MBL that will lead to transformative biological discoveries.

Erik M. Jorgensen and Clare Waterman are the first two recipients of the Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Awards. The awards will provide funding for scientists to develop novel, collaborative projects based at the MBL that will lead to transformative biological discoveries.Waterman photo, credit: Tom Kleindinst/MBL

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA—The University of Chicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) today announced the first two recipients of the Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Awards.

The newly established grant program honors Lillie, the early 20th-century embryologist who served as the MBL’s second director and as chair of UChicago’s Department of Zoology, and represents the first formal research opportunity between the University and the MBL since their affiliation in 2013. The awards will provide funding for scientists to develop novel, collaborative projects based at the MBL that will lead to transformative biological discoveries. Scientists throughout the MBL’s worldwide research community were eligible to receive the awards.

One grant was awarded to University of Utah neuroscientist Erik M. Jorgensen and his colleagues, who will address the fundamental question of how high-level brain processes such as memory are related to changes in the structure and function of neural connections.

Another grant was awarded to Clare Waterman of the National Institutes of Health. Waterman and a multidisciplinary team of cell biologists and experts in advanced microscopy will investigate basic molecular mechanisms of cellular movement, shape, and form, which are critical to understanding human disorders like cancer.

“This is innovative research by scientists who are leading their fields,” said Joan Ruderman, MBL President and Director. “They are asking bold questions that have the potential to change the way we understand fundamental biological processes. Frank Lillie was a visionary and these awards are visionary on the part of the University of Chicago and the MBL. The science has the potential to transform the understanding of basic biology and human health.”

“The collaborative advances that will emerge from these awards show the immense potential of the affiliation between the MBL and the University of Chicago,” said Neil Shubin, the Robert R. Bensley Professor in Organismal Biology and Anatomy at UChicago and senior advisor to the President and to the Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories. “These projects will bring together scientists who might not have interacted otherwise, with powerful benefits for our community of researchers and educators.”

Jorgensen and his colleagues from the University of Utah and Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, one of the largest university hospitals in Europe, will use novel electron microscopy imaging techniques to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity, a fundamental property of the nervous system. Synaptic plasticity describes the changes to structure and function that occur where nerve cells connect in the brain and is thought to underlie learning and memory. Abnormal synaptic plasticity is linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“One of the great remaining mysteries in neuroscience surrounds the issues in the brain that make us uniquely human—how we think, sleep, learn, and remember things,” said Jonathan Gitlin, MBL’s Deputy Director for Research and Programs. “Memory is one of the most vibrant and important functions in the human brain, yet we don’t know how it works at a fundamental level. How can we approach diseases of memory? This is the frontier, and the new project brings forward cell biology and imaging, which are areas of incredible focus for our partnership with UChicago.”

Waterman’s research team includes scientists from the NIH, Harvard Medical School, the National Center for Biological Sciences in India, and investigators from the MBL’s Cellular Dynamics Program. They will use new technologies in polarization microscopy developed by MBL scientists to study molecules important to cell structure, movement, and form. Cell migration is critical for wound healing, immune response, and development.

“In human disorders like cancer, you want to inhibit cell movement, while in infection, you want to move it along,” says Gitlin. “The fundamental aspects of knowing how cells take shape and move are critical to understanding the cell biological basis of human health and disease.”

Several of Jorgensen’s and Waterman’s team members have long histories with the MBL, having served as faculty members in MBL courses and as visiting investigators. In addition, both projects were seeded at the MBL in previous summers. Jorgensen and fellow team member, Shigeki Watanabe spent three summers at the MBL developing the imaging techniques featured in their project. Waterman initiated her project with colleague Satyajit Mayor as part of an MBL Physiology course in 2012 while she was serving as course director and he as an instructor. Two other team members obtained preliminary data for the project while participating as students in the course.

The Lillie Awards will support two years of research for a total of $125,000 per award. Jorgensen and Waterman and their teams will initiate their projects this summer. A complete list of research teams and their affiliations is listed below.

“Ultrafast endocytosis of AMPA receptors during long-term synaptic depression”
Principal Investigator:
Erik M. Jorgensen, Professor, University of Utah; HHMI Investigator; MBL Neurobiology course faculty (2004-2008); MBL Visiting Investigator, (2008-2010)

Co-Investigators:
Christian Rosenmund, Professor, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin; MBL Neurobiology course faculty (2008)
Shigeki Watanabe, Post-doctoral fellow, University of Utah; MBL Visiting Investigator (2008-2010)
Benjamin R. Rost, Post-doctoral fellow, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

 

“Integrin activation and organization by actin dynamics during cell migration”
Principal Investigator:
Clare Waterman, NIH Distinguished Investigator, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health; MBL Physiology course student (1993); Physiology course instructor (2003-2007); Physiology course director (2008-2013)

Co-Investigators:
Timothy Springer, Latham Family Professor, Harvard Medical School
Satyajit Mayor, Dean and professor, National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India; MBL Physiology course instructor (2012-2013)
Tomomi Tani, Associate Scientist, Cellular Dynamics Program, MBL
Rudolf Oldenbourg, Director, Cellular Dynamics Program, Senior Scientist, MBL
Vinay Swaminathan, Post-doctoral fellow, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health; MBL Physiology course student (2012); MBL Physiology course teaching assistant (2013)
Pontus Nordenfelt, Post-doctoral fellow, Harvard Medical School; MBL Physiology course student (2012); MBL Physiology course teaching assistant (2013)
Joseph K. Mathew, Graduate student, National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India; MBL Physiology course teaching assistant (2013)
Shalin Mehta, Post-doctoral fellow, Cellular Dynamics Program, MBL

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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.