Eight Early-Career Scientists Receive Awards to Carry Out Research in MBL Whitman Center


The MBL’s Rowe Laboratory, site of many Whitman Center laboratories.

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) has announced the recipients of this year’s Whitman Center Early Career Investigator Awards, which enable exceptional scientists from around the world to conduct research at the MBL and take advantage of its resources and collaborative scientific community.

The eight awardees will be supported for up to ten weeks to pursue independent research within the MBL’s current strategic vision and initiatives, particularly in:

  • Evolutionary, genetic, and genomic approaches in regenerative and developmental biology, microbiomes, and neuroscience, with an emphasis on marine organisms
  • Integrated imaging and computational approaches to illuminate cellular function and biology in marine and other organisms

“Once again this year we welcome a cadre of brilliant early-career investigators, who bring a diverse array of talents and scientific questions to the Laboratory,” said Jonathan Gitlin, Director of the Division of Research at MBL.  “We are confident that these new folks and those returning for a second year will deeply enrich the excellence of our research community.”

The Whitman Center offers access to state-of-the-art instrumentation, innovative imaging technology, genome sequencing, model marine and freshwater organisms, and modern laboratory facilities. In addition, the MBL fosters a highly collaborative environment within its “Faculty of 500,” a broad community of scientists from the Lab’s year-round resident program, Whitman Center, MBL Fellows program, and course faculty and instructors.

The 2017 Whitman Center Early Career Investigator Awardees and their research programs are:

Davi Bock (Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute)
Locating and characterizing extracellular vesicles (EVs) in the optic lobe of squid (Doryteuthis pealeii), and comparing them to EVs in the central nervous system of the fruit fly.

Thomas Boothby (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Establishing the marine tardigrade (water bear) as a genetic model to study how and when tardigrades evolved extreme tolerance to desiccation and other stress.

Katharine Criswell (University of Cambridge)
Using the little skate (Leucoraja erinacea) to study the evolution of axial skeleton segmentation in jawed vertebrates.

Kristen Koenig (Harvard University)
Characterizing cell types and differentiation in the retina of squid (Doryteuthis pealeii), which Koenig’s lab has established as a cephalopod model to study eye development and neurogenesis.

Maryna Lesoway (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)
Comparing the evolutionary and genetic basis of sequential hermaphroditism (change of sex during normal lifespan) in three species of sea snails (Crepidula).

Paul Joseph Minor (Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University)
Identifying conserved enhancer elements active in the primary vertebrate brain signaling centers and determining their regulatory function in the acorn worm (Saccoglossus kowalevskii) and mouse.

Shashank Shekhar (National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France)
Uncovering the physical origins of multicellularity using the single-celled Stentor coeruleus as a model organism.

Brandon Weissbourd (California Institute of Technology)
Leveraging a marine model organism (the jellyfish relative Clytia hemisphaerica) to determine how complex behaviors arise from neural activity.


The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.