April 19, 2015

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.

MBL Celebration of Discovery to Focus on Research and Education Partnerships and Opportunities

We are pleased to announce A Celebration of Discovery to be held at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.

This event—encompassing the broad MBL community of scientists, scholars and students—will feature plenary talks, panel discussions, poster sessions and social events to both celebrate and explore the scientific opportunities emanating from MBL partnerships in both research and education, including in particular those in the UChicago community.

For more information, contact: researchprograms@mbl.edu, 508-289-7173.

Whale Course Among UChicago-MBL Programs to be Held in Woods Hole

whale-and-calfThe first undergraduate course cultivated from the UChicago-partnership is set for the Fall of 2015.  Twelve UChicago undergraduates will spend the 10 weeks at the MBL for “The Whale: Biology, Culture and Evolution on Nantucket Sound,” a four course program that targets undergraduate, non-science majors interested in the maritime culture and entwined histories of whales and America.

Students will be exposed to New England maritime history and culture, and provided a comprehensive overview of biology that includes evolution, environmental science, biodiversity, physiology, and cell and developmental biology.

The lead instructors will be Karl Matlin, University of Chicago Professor of Surgery, teaching “Experimental Biology by the Sea,” Michael Rossi, University of Chicago Assistant Professor of the History of Medicine teaching, “Whales, Whaling, and American History,” and Robert Richards, University of Chicago Distinguished Professor in History of Science and Medicine teaching, “Darwin’s The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man.”

Guest lecturers include Mitch Sogin, MBL Distinguished Scientist and Professor in Molecular Biology, Cell and Biochemistry at Brown University, and Nathaniel Philbrick, noted author of In the Heart of the Sea and other works on whaling and the maritime history of New England.

The program will run from September 27 to December 6, 2015.

A “Quantitative Biology Boot Camp” targeted for all incoming graduate students from all programs in UChicago’s Biological Sciences Division is also scheduled for September 2015 at the MBL.

Co-directed by Stefano Allesina, an Assistant Professor, UChicago Department of Ecology & Evolution and Stephanie Palmer, an Assistant Professor, UChicago Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, the course will provide students with a working knowledge of computational and statistical approaches through their application to analysis of real world data sets.  Organizers also hope to foster future MBL-UChicago collaborations by exposing students to the full range of MBL’s research opportunities and resources .

The program will run from September 5 to 11, 2015.

In late August, 12 students from the University of Chicago Lab Schools will spend a week at the MBL engaged in intense biology experiences that both enhance and relate to the current High School curriculum. Experiences will include a trip on the MBL’s R/V Gemma to collect samples and gather data on the local marine intertidal ecosystem, visits to the salt marshes to study restoration ecology, learning about and utilizing cutting-edge microscopes made exclusively available to the MBL community as well as a community service project.

The program will run from August 23– August 30.

UChicago Metcalf Students to Conduct Summer Research at MBL

metcalf.2015.by.dan.cojanuDuring the summer of 2015, twelve undergraduates from the University of Chicago will gain substantive, project-based professional research experience at the Marine Biological Laboratory through the MBL/Jeff Metcalf Summer for Undergraduate Research Fellows program (SURF). The goal of the SURF Program is to introduce students to scientific research under the guidance and direction of MBL’s leading scientists.

“The Metcalf SURF Program represents the best of the MBL/UC partnership as it reflects the enthusiasm of both institutions for research and educational advancement,” says Beth Simmons, MBL-University of Chicago Assistant Director for Education Programs.

Reflective of the program’s past success, this year saw an increase in the number of applications from first to fourth-year students whom expressed interest in a variety of research areas including medicine, developmental biology, genetic diseases, neurology and immunology, oceanography, and ecology.

The twelve-week program encourages students to initiate a project proposal which couples the student with an MBL faculty scientist whose expertise mirrors the student’s research interests and career goals. Each advising scientist mentors and guides the student toward successful project completion. Student experiences vary with each discipline, providing both hands-on field and laboratory-based training in an effort to allow a comprehensive research experience.

The Program is enriched by weekly lunch-seminars with MBL faculty, networking opportunities with other undergraduates on campus, evening lectures, and a variety of cultural and social activities throughout the summer. Additional professional development series workshops are also offered to assist in navigating career and graduate school admissions processes.

SURF students culminate their experience with an undergraduate student symposium through which they have the opportunity to present their projects to their peers and the MBL community prior to submission of a final paper detailing the project, its goals and related successes.

The 2015 Metcalf SURF students are:

Ruby An
“Optimizing the Performance of an Algae-to-Methane Coupled Bioreactor System Through Experimental and Modeling Approaches”
Mentors:  Zoe Cardon /Joe Vallino, Ecosystems Center

Caroline Owens  
“Atmospheric Delivery of Nitrogen to Ecosystem as a Stimulant of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)”
Mentor: Ivan Valiela, Ecosystems Center

Petra Byl    
“Microbial Influence on the Transformation of Ferrous and Ferric Iron in Siders Pond”
Mentors: Julie Huber, Bay Paul Center / Joe Vallino, Ecosystems Center

Clara Kao
“Zebrafish Cytoskeleton Architecture: Actin Filaments and Reconstruction”
Mentor: Jonathan Gitlin, Bell Center

Eva Kinnebrew    
Impact of Soil Nitrogen Levels on Species Diversity in Northeastern Grasslands and the Role of Grazing in Mediating the Nitrogen-Diversity Relationship”
Mentor: Chris Neill, Ecosystems Center

Corey Okinaka  
“Visual Function in Pupil Shape in Skates”
Mentor: Lydia Mathger, Bell Center

Leonard Shaw    
“Phosphorous Phase Associations as Indicators for Particle Cycling in the Water Column”
Mentor: Maureen Conte, Ecosystems Center

Hanna Weller    
“Shifting Perspectives: Quantifying Color Camouflage by Flounder in the Eyes of Different Predators”
Mentor: Roger Hanlon, Bell Center

Yangtian Yi
“Parkinson Disease Synoptic Nerves in Lamprey”
Mentor: Jennifer Morgan, Bell Center

Irene Zhang  
“Lifestyles and Hosts of Unknown Acidophilic Legionella  in the Rio Tinto”
Mentor: Linda Zettler, Bay Paul Center

Marine Biological Laboratory Semester in Environmental Science Open to UChicago Students

MBL Announces New Recipients of MBL-UChicago-Argonne Collaboration Awards

mbl-uc-argonne.award.recipients.15The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) has announced new recipients of the MBL-UChicago-Argonne Collaboration Awards.

These awards support innovative scientific collaborations among faculty at the MBL and UChicago/Argonne, in service of laying the foundation for long-term interactions between the institutions. Teams of at least one UChicago/Argonne and one MBL resident scientist are eligible to receive the awards. The following projects were awarded:

“Structural investigations of a protein-primed reverse transcriptase”

Irina Arkhipova, Bay Paul Center, and collaborator Phoebe Rice, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Chicago

“Color visual perception: advancing sensory ecology with innovative neural modeling and hyperspectral imaging”
Roger Hanlon, Bell Center, and collaborators Stephanie Palmer and Mark Westneat, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago

“The molecular evolution of a neuron”
Jennifer Morgan, Bell Center, and collaborators Melina Hale, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, and Jeramiah Smith, Biology Department, University of Kentucky

“Can biodiversity and ecological function be restored to the residential landscape? A MBL-University of Chicago-Nature Conservancy workshop to develop science for testing the efficacy of backyard management”
Christopher Neill, Ecosystems Center, and collaborators Charles Catlett, Urban Center for Computation and Data, University of Chicago; Andrew Chien, Department of Computer Science, University of Chicago; and Tom Chase, The Nature Conservancy

UChicago and MBL Announce Recipients of Lillie Awards for Collaborative Research

research.awardees.feature.imgMBL, WOODS HOLE, MA—The University of Chicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) have announced the 2015 recipients of the Frank R. Lillie Research Innovation Awards.

The grant program honors Frank R. Lillie, the early 20th-century embryologist who served as the MBL’s second director and as chair of UChicago’s Department of Zoology. Awards are open to collaborators from the MBL and the University of Chicago or Argonne National Laboratory.

A. Murat Eren and Eugene B. Chang will build an open-source software platform to investigate the intricate role of microbial communities in human digestive diseases.

A. Murat Eren and Eugene B. Chang will build an open-source software platform to investigate the intricate role of microbial communities in human digestive diseases.

The grants bring together interdisciplinary teams of scientists for a project that represents a new collaborative area of inquiry for the investigators. The goal is to stimulate “blue sky” thinking that has the potential to lead to significant external funding with a consortium of collaborators working together on a big problem.

One Lillie Award was given to MBL Assistant Research Scientist, A. Murat Eren and Eugene B. Chang, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, who will build a high-performance, open-source software platform to study metagenomics, a powerful tool that is used to analyze the genetic material of microbial communities extracted directly from the environment. Once built, the researchers plan to use the software to investigate the intricate role of microbial communities in human digestive diseases.

Another grant was awarded to MBL Associate Scientist Jianwu Tang and Yuki Hamada, an Associate Biophysical Remote Sensing Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, who will develop a novel approach to measure plant photosynthesis and other ecosystem functions that can be used to quantify the impacts of environmental change on ecosystems and agricultural systems.

Jianwu Tang, Tomomi Tani, and Yuki Hamada (left to right) will develop a novel approach to measure plant photosynthesis and other ecosystem functions that can be used to quantify the impacts of environmental change on ecosystems and agricultural systems.

Jianwu Tang, Tomomi Tani, and Yuki Hamada (left to right) will develop a novel approach to measure plant photosynthesis and other ecosystem functions that can be used to quantify the impacts of environmental change on ecosystems and agricultural systems.

“The Lillie Awards are important to support and stimulate new collaborations between the MBL and the University of Chicago,” said MBL President and Director Huntington Willard. “The two projects that have been awarded have great potential for impacting both the science and its implications for the world we live in. This program is even more far-reaching, since it catalyzes interactions between our campuses at many different levels, which will have numerous payoffs down the line.”

Eren, a computer scientist by training, builds novel algorithms to make sense of complex datasets. As part of the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, he recently developed oligotyping, a computational method that can help microbial ecologists investigate closely related bacterial groups with unprecedented sensitivity. At the University of Chicago, Chang leads a research program that aims to elucidate the role of microbial communities in the development and progression of human digestive diseases.

Eren and Chang’s project will contribute to the fields of microbiology and microbial ecology by tackling processing and visualization challenges that currently prevent researchers from having full control of their metagenomic data. Their software platform has the potential to transform how scientists interpret metagenomic data, which may have tremendous long-term implications on our understanding of the microbial world.

Understanding the response of natural ecosystems, agriculture, and urban ecosystems to the changing environment is critically important to guide sustainable development and protect the human environment. However, the ability to measure complex ecosystem functions (such as photosynthesis, respiration, water uptake, and nutrient cycling) and understand their processes on an ecosystem scale is limited.

Tang and Hamada’s project will address these challenges by building on Tang’s work in the MBL’s Ecosystems Center and developing a novel system to automatically measure plant fluorescence and its link to photosynthesis. This system will be integrated with Hamada’s work collecting ecosystem function data using Argonne’s EcoSpec tower-based hyperspectral remote sensing system, which explores the power of optical information to predict the dynamics of ecosystem functions. The team will further refine their approach by adding pixel-based fluorescence data and tapping the skills of MBL Associate Scientist Tomomi Tani who has been working on instrument development of fluorescent imaging for studying sub-cellular dynamics in living cells. Tang and Hamada expect their project to have a broad impact on the field in ecology, environmental science, agricultural science, remote sensing, and global change research.

The Lillie Awards will support up to two years of pilot research for a total of $125,000 per award. Recipients 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.

A complete list of 2015 Lillie Award recipients and their teams is listed below.

“Post-assembly metagenomics pipeline for comparative analysis of microbial populations”
Principal Investigators:
A. Murat Eren, Assistant Research Scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory
Eugene B. Chang, Professor, University of Chicago

“Using chlorophyll fluorescence and other hyperspectral reflectance signatures to investigate plant photosynthesis and other ecosystem functions”
Principal Investigators:
Jianwu Tang, Associate Scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory
Yuki Hamada, Associate Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory
Co-Investigator:
Tomomi Tani, Associate Scientist Marine Biological Laboratory

 

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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.

 

UChicago Innovation Fund Now Accepting Applications for Spring 2015

uc.innovator.fund

 

Fund Open to Resident MBL Faculty

The University of Chicago has built an array of programs to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that can help researchers navigate the path toward commercialization and overcome the hurdles to attracting investment. These programs include the Chicago Innovation Exchange, The New Venture Challenge, accelerator and incubator programs, and the University of Chicago Innovation Fund.

About the Innovation Fund
The Innovation Fund is a philanthropic proof-of-concept fund created to support the evolution of your ideas into products and services. The Fund has now been expanded to $20 million dollars and is open to current UChicago and affiliated lab faculty, staff, and students with technologies in a wide variety of industries.

Applications are due via electronic submission by Thursday, March 12th.

Apply Now!

Eligibility
The Innovation Fund is intended to provide proof-of-concept funding for technologies / concepts which:

  • are submitted by a current University of Chicago Principal Investigator, student, affiliate (including national labs), or their representative,
  • possess the potential to have a substantial commercial impact but are too early to attract commercial investment,
  • and cannot be funded through existing granting mechanisms.

It is not intended to fund research / activities that are not directly driving towards an externally validated business outcome.

Contact
If you have any questions, contact Jason Pariso, The Director of Operations (jpariso@uchicago.edu), or Wolfgang Connell, Chicago Innovation Exchange Program Manager (wolfgangc16@uchicago.edu).

— The Innovation Fund Team

 

 

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Pamela Hinkle, Director of Development & External Relations, Marine Biological Laboratory
508-289-7650; phinkle@mbl.edu

Jeremy Manier, News Director, University of Chicago
773-702-8187; jmanier@uchicago.edu

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.

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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.