April 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)

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)

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


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.

First MBL-UChicago Retreat Explores New Ideas for Joint Research and Programs

Attendees pose for a group shot during the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL)-University of Chicago Retreat at the Biological Sciences Learning Center on the UChicago campus on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 in Chicago.  (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

Attendees pose for a group shot during the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL)-University of Chicago Retreat at the Biological Sciences Learning Center on the UChicago campus on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 in Chicago. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

By Diana Kenney

An energized group of 240 scientists, faculty members and students from the Marine Biological Laboratory and the University of Chicago, including the Argonne National Laboratory, came together at the University campus in Chicago recently to explore a broad range of ideas for joint scientific research and educational programming.

The MBL-UChicago Retreat on February 8-10 was the largest joint scientific meeting since the two institutions launched their formal affiliation in July 2013. It sparked excitement and animated discussions among researchers who got to know their colleagues through panel sessions, “lightning talks,” roundtables, chats during breaks, and spontaneous side meetings.

View a slideshow
of the retreat here
Download a pdf of the retreat program here

“There is so much energy around the affiliation, and intellectual vigor to make it work. It’s wonderful to see the exchange of ideas and exuberance emerge,” said Neil Shubin, Robert R. Bensley Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and Senior Advisor to the President and Vice President for Research and National Laboratories at the University of Chicago.

Shubin leads a faculty advisory committee that is charged with fostering scientific collaboration between the two institutions and developing the affiliation through research and education initiatives such as workshops, courses, student fellowships, program seed funding, joint appointments, or shared facilities.

The MBL-University of Chicago Faculty Advisory Committee

Neil Shubin (Chair), Organismal Biology and Anatomy

Joy M. Bergelson, Ecology and Evolution

Juan de Pablo, Institute for Molecular Engineering

Richard Fehon, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology

Jack Gilbert, Argonne National Laboratory

Conrad Gilliam, Human Genetics and Dean, Biological Sciences Division Research

Jonathan Gitlin, MBL Deputy Director for Research and Programs

William N. Green, Neurobiology

Melina Hale, Organismal Biology and Anatomy

David Jablonski, Geophysical Sciences

Victoria Prince, Organismal Biology and Anatomy

Joan Ruderman, MBL President and Director

Rick Stevens, Argonne National Laboratory

Brian Clark (Staff), Associate Director for Operations and Planning, Office of the Executive Vice President

Rénu Kulkarni (Staff), AVP for Strategic Initiatives and Affiliation Operational Lead

The retreat was one step in an ongoing process of discussion and engagement that will result in creating meaningful programs that capitalize on the affiliates’  complementary strengths, and have lasting value for their student and research communities, Shubin said. A second retreat will be held on the MBL’s campus in Woods Hole, Mass., on May 3-4.

Participants said the retreat delivered on the promise of bringing researchers at MBL and UChicago closer together. “The spirit of collaboration is here,” said Zhe-Xi Luo, a professor of organismal biology and anatomy at UChicago.

“Where we go from today is up to all of you,” said Jonathan Gitlin, Deputy Director for Research and Programs at the MBL, to the many students and post-docs at the retreat. “I urge you to take this opportunity— with a brilliant University with limitless intellectual capital and an extraordinary place of discovery like the MBL—and become part of our conversation, drive us forward, change the world.”

The first morning’s program was designed to better familiarize the affiliation partners with each other. MBL President and Director Joan Ruderman gave an overview of the MBL and its three intersecting parts: advanced summer courses; resident research in biological and environmental sciences; and visiting research conducted by investigators from a host of universities and institutions worldwide.

“The MBL is one of the few places in the world that provides lab space, housing, and other support to a large number of researchers from different universities, to catalyze and enhance scientific collaboration,” Ruderman said.  She outlined ways in which students and scientists from the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory can take advantage of new and existing opportunities at MBL.

Shared research values

John W. Boyer, Dean of the College at UChicago, described the historical development of the culture of learning at the University, distinguished by its rigorous core undergraduate program, dual faculty appointments between the divisions and the College, a tradition of strong interdisciplinary cooperation among departments, and a flexible quarter system to allow time for creative and investigative sabbaticals.

“MBL seems to have a culture of risk taking: if something doesn’t work, try something else. Chicago faculty are also like that,” Boyer said. “They are empowered to follow their noses in research.” The institutions also share core values of interdisciplinary research and collaboration, he said.

The ingredients that power the MBL’s renowned research-immersion courses were the topic of talks by former Physiology course co-director Ron Vale of HHMI/University of California, San Francisco, and MBL Director of Education Bill Reznikoff.

“We create an intense, collaborative, interdisciplinary environment in the courses centered around solving real research problems,” Vale said. While publications are not an emphasis or goal of the courses, students often continue to collaborate with faculty on projects started in a course and eventually end up with a research publication, he said. “Many students are literally crying at the end of the summer because they have to leave this special environment that they and the faculty have created to explore the joy of doing science.”

Developing new avenues for growth

Participants discussed undergraduate research and diversity initiatives, and faculty members pitched creative ideas for new courses. Next, five-minute “lightning talks” on current research at the University and the MBL yielded fruitful questions and conversation.

In an effort to capture the growing flood of ideas in the room, Mark Westneat, professor of organismal biology and anatomy, encouraged everyone to submit their favorite idea on a Post-It note or via Twitter. These were sorted and posted at an “Idea Mutator” reception in the afternoon.

An illustrated talk on the rich history of collaboration between the MBL and UChicago was given at dinner by Jane Maienschein, the Regent’s, President’s, and Parents Association Professor at Arizona State University and adjunct senior scientist at the MBL.

The second day of the retreat was devoted to a deeper exploration of how the scientists at the two institutions can collaborate effectively. After a discussion of core shared-use facilities on each campus, the attendees chose thematic roundtables. Enthusiastic conversations began to crystallize as “big ideas” and potential projects, and participants passed on their ideas for consideration by the affiliation’s faculty advisory committee over the next few weeks.

“I have never been to a meeting that was so broad,” said Karl Matlin, professor of surgery at University of Chicago and a member of the retreat planning committee.  “We are only two institutions, but it seems like 1+1=1,000 when we come together. That is the beauty of this affiliation.”

Shubin said the ideas from the lightning talks and roundtables showed the affiliation’s immense potential. Now his objective is to keep that conversation going and make the potential real.

“This affiliation is yours,” Shubin said to the gathering. “Your ideas, your teaching, your research programs will define it.”

University of Chicago and MBL Announce Lillie Awards for Novel Collaborations

mbl-lillie_awards_featureThe University of Chicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory announce the launch of a new MBL research award program that will provide funding for scientists to develop novel, collaborative projects based at the MBL that will lead to transformative biological discoveries.

The initiative will be known as the Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Awards, in honor of the early 20th-century embryologist who served as the MBL’s second director and as chair of UChicago’s Department of Zoology. The awards represent the first formal new research opportunity since the announcement in June 2013 of the new affiliation between UChicago and the MBL.

Funding through the awards will be open to collaborators from the world-wide MBL research community, including year-round MBL scientists and scientists from other institutions who currently participate or propose to participate as visiting researchers or course faculty in the MBL’s renowned summer programs.

“The Lillie Awards signify one of the first steps our institutions are taking together to realize the highest aspirations of our new affiliation — to encourage innovative, groundbreaking biological research that benefits science at the MBL and beyond,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer.

“The MBL’s motto is ‘biological discovery in Woods Hole,’ and its special influence in modern biology has been to bring together scientists from around the world to collaborate and exchange ideas, leading to discoveries that have transformed biology and biomedicine,” said MBL President and Director Joan V. Ruderman. “This program will help seed promising working collaborations that can then take root in the MBL’s fertile intellectual setting.”

The Lillie Awards will provide for two years of pilot research for a total of $125,000 per award, in honor of the MBL’s 125th anniversary. They are intended to bring together interdisciplinary teams that have not collaborated before, for a project that represents a new area of inquiry for the investigators.  The goal is to stimulate more “blue sky” thinking by investigators that can lead to external funding with a consortium of collaborators working together on a big problem.

Teams who receive the Lillie Awards will be able to develop their projects over a period including two or three successive summers, working  in residence as a team at the MBL, in addition to continued progress on the project during the traditional academic years in between MBL visits.

“Today’s funding environment can make it difficult to develop innovative, collaborative projects that require time to take shape and establish connections,” said Joshua Hamilton, Chief Academic and Scientific Officer at the MBL. “By providing the time and place for new collaborations, these awards will help our scientists take unexpected directions and address new problems, including ‘high-risk, high-payoff’ projects that are increasingly difficult to fund at the national level.”

Proposals for the awards will be accepted starting in mid-October, with a deadline of December 15, 2013 for the first round of submissions. An external blue-ribbon panel of scientific experts will be established to review proposals in early 2014, with award notices provided by March 31, 2014. The institutions will make two awards available in each of the next two years, with the two-year projects beginning in Spring 2014 and Spring 2015. More information will be available October 1 on the MBL/ University of Chicago affiliation website.

The decision to name the awards after Frank R. Lillie highlights the collaborative aims of the new UChicago-MBL affiliation. Lillie was a student at MBL and UChicago under Charles O. Whitman, the MBL’s founding director, who also served as the founding chair of Zoology at UChicago. Lillie became a faculty member at the University of Chicago in 1900 and remained until his death in 1947.  In addition to his role as Zoology chair and MBL director, Lillie later served as Dean of UChicago’s Division of Biological Sciences. Present in Woods Hole every summer for 55 years, Lillie was instrumental in establishing the MBL as a pre-eminent biological laboratory.

“We have laid the principle of cooperation at [the MBL’s] foundation,” Lillie said, “and we have attempted to build it into every one of our activities.”

The affiliation between UChicago and the MBL is designed to build on shared values and historical ties between the institutions. The MBL has been a driving force in biological discovery and research training since its founding in 1888. Both institutions have reputations for scientific excellence, highly collaborative cultures that draw top scientists from around the world, and programs that will benefit from the affiliation’s combination of strengths.

Apply to  the Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Award Program

University of Chicago Announces Scholarship for Year-Round MBL Employees

campus-fallAs part of its recent affiliation with the Marine Biological Laboratory, the University of Chicago is pleased to announce the creation of a University of Chicago – Marine Biological Laboratory Scholarship for undergraduate study, to be awarded annually to the child of a year-round employee of the MBL.

Beginning in the current 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) MBL employee. The deadline for applications to the University of Chicago for the current cycle is January 1, 2014.

“This a great opportunity for MBL families to take advantage of the outstanding education the University of Chicago provides for its students,” said James Nondorf, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid and Vice President for Enrollment, University of Chicago.

To be eligible, students must be accepted for freshman admission to The University of Chicago and must be among the most qualified applicants from MBL families as judged by University’s Office of College Admissions. To apply to the University of Chicago, freshman applicants should complete the Common Application and the University of Chicago supplement, both available online at https://www.commonapp.org.  Students who wish to be considered for the scholarship will also be required to complete a verification form, the details of which will be announced at a later date. The scholarship winner will be announced by April 1st, 2014, and the offer of admission and the scholarship must be accepted or declined by May 1st, 2014.

This is a merit-based scholarship and does not preclude the possibility of additional need-based financial assistance from the University. The University of Chicago practices need-blind admission, which means that the University does not consider a family’s financial resources when making the admissions decision. For more information on need-based financial aid at the University of Chicago, please visit https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/costs.

For additional information about the MBL scholarship or admission to the University of Chicago, please contact Callie Brown, Associate Director of Admissions, at callieb@uchicago.edu or 773-702-5795.

University of Chicago and Marine Biological Laboratory Agree to Form Affiliation


MBL_from_Eel Pond