Marine Biological Laboratory Names Anne W. Sylvester Director of Research

Anne W. Sylvester

Anne W. Sylvester

WOODS HOLE, Mass. — The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) has announced that Anne W. Sylvester has been appointed Director of Research. Sylvester will play a key role in advancing creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial programs that expand MBL’s visibility, impact, and influence within the research and academic communities. She begins her new role on November 1, 2021.

Sylvester comes to the MBL from the National Science Foundation (NSF) where, since 2014, she has been the Program Director and Cluster Leader of the Plant Genome Research Program, which supports genome-scale research that addresses challenging questions of biological, societal, and economic importance, and the Developmental Systems Cluster which supports research to understand the mechanisms and evolution of development.

As MBL Director of Research, Sylvester will develop and execute short and long-term strategic research plans that align with the laboratory’s overall institutional vision. Some of her key duties will include facilitating the success of resident and visiting research programs and research support services, identifying relevant funding opportunities, and coordinating collaborative research efforts between MBL scientists and University of Chicago faculty. Sylvester will oversee approximately 150 research staff.

“Anne brings extraordinary experience in academic research, public service, and federal oversight of science to this position,” said MBL Director Nipam Patel. “I am looking forward to working with her to advance MBL research in this important time of growth for the laboratory.”

Sylvester received a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in botany and developmental biology from the University of Washington. Prior to the NSF, she worked as an academic scientist, teacher, and administrator at the University of Wyoming and the University of Idaho. She held adjunct professor positions at both Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science and in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Wyoming during her tenure at the NSF.

Sylvester succeeds David Mark Welch, who served as Interim Director of Research since 2017. He will continue to direct the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution and lead his own research program.


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.