Information for Advanced Research Training Courses

December 16: 2021 Planning Update

To: MBL Course Directors, Vendors, and Whitman Scientists

From: Linda Hyman, Burroughs Wellcome Director of Education; David Mark Welch, Director of Research; Paul Speer, Chief Operating Officer

Subject: 2021 Planning Update

In recent months, two working groups have been carefully assessing the capacity necessary to offer education and visiting research programs at the MBL in the coming year while considering the needs of resident faculty and prioritizing the health of the MBL and local communities.

Working closely with course directors, we are pleased to share a 2021 course schedule that reflects our goal of resuming as many academic and research activities as possible while adhering to public health guidance around social distancing and other measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Six advanced research training courses— Frontiers in Reproduction (FIR), Physical Biology of the Cell (PBC), Zebrafish Development and Genetics (ZEBRA), Biology of the Inner Ear (BIE), Workshop on Molecular Evolution (MOLE), and Strategies and Techniques for Analyzing Microbial Population Structures (STAMPS)—chose not to meet in 2021 and, as such, the schedule reflects a reduced course footprint. This will allow for our full compliance with Commonwealth of Massachusetts and CDC recommendations for safe operations of our campus, including in labs, residences, classrooms, and common areas.

The Research Division intends to host all Whitman and Grass Fellows who are able to travel to the MBL in summer 2021, along with a limited number of Whitman Scientists as space allows. Whitman Scientists are being encouraged to plan their time at the MBL in non-peak months.

We are confident that MBL laboratories, classrooms, and housing/dining facilities will support a rich learning and working environment for our students and scientists. While all expectations are that the current pandemic situation will be improved by spring/summer 2021, it is important to remember that this is a fluid situation and that flexibility to adjust as needed based on external conditions and trends in the pandemic will be necessary.

The University of Chicago is providing technical support to help us operationalize the schedule and assess risk management. While details are not available at this time, planning for quarantine dormitory space, COVID-19 testing and monitoring, and childcare, along with a host of other operational details, is currently underway and will continue throughout the winter. We will continue to keep you updated regularly as operational plans develop.

Although the health and safety requirements that we are adopting to minimize the spread of COVID-19 will necessitate a different on-campus experience in 2021, it is only through these steps and a shared commitment to maintaining public health that our education and visiting research programs can resume.

Nevertheless, the coming year promises to be a productive one for training and research at the MBL. We look forward to resuming our transformative education and research opportunities with a renewed sense of purpose. Please reach out Linda Hyman at or David Mark Welch at with questions or concerns.

November 20: Update on Calendar Year 2021 Planning

Dear Colleagues,

Last month we announced the formation of two working groups charged with assessing the capacity and space required to safely offer research and education activities at the MBL in the coming year.

The Visitor Working Group was tasked with developing a comprehensive list of the constituencies who come to campus and the space utilization that each group requires. The Space Capacity & Expansion Working Group was asked to analyze the capacities of all spaces—including housing, dining, lab, lecture, and childcare—and explore ways we might expand available space, for example by erecting tents. Our planning assumption is that the current Massachusetts COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions will stay in place through the spring and summer.

David Mark Welch and the Research team have determined the space available across campus for Whitman Scientists and Grass Fellows. Linda Hyman and the Education team are continuing to work with course faculty to think creatively about how they can augment course schedules and/or rosters to allow for the most programs as possible.

It has become clear that lab space will be the limiting factor for all programs. We do not anticipate having capacity issues for housing or dining. David, Linda, and Nipam Patel will meet over the next two weeks to make decisions on space allocations across programs and a draft programming schedule will be completed by mid-December.

The University of Chicago is providing technical support to help us work through these details and operationalize the schedule. Some of the challenges to be worked out include quarantine dormitory space, COVID-19 testing (requirements, capacity, and cost), additional cleaning responsibilities, and the associated costs of each.

We recognize that with the current pandemic situation it is difficult to think about having a busier campus, but we are hoping for a better situation in the spring and summer. We are appreciative of the efforts of the visitor and space working groups who helped us to gather this essential information and will continue to keep you updated on our progress.

Thank you,

Paul Speer
Chief Operating Officer

October 9: Calendar Year 2021 Planning

Dear Colleagues,

While the MBL has successfully mitigated the spread of coronavirus on our campus to date, the pandemic has upended our research and education programs, in particular the 2020 Advanced Research Training Courses and Whitman Scientist programs.

As we look toward 2021, it is critical that we resume as many research and education activities as possible while following all public health guidelines that have been established to limit the spread of COVID-19. To accomplish this goal, we have launched a significant planning process for calendar year 2021.

Fueled by the knowledge that we’ve gained from recent planning of the UChicago Autumn Quarter 2020 courses at the MBL, but cognizant of the unique challenges of our advanced training courses and Whitman programs, we’ve assembled two working groups to assess and analyze capacity and space required for safely expanding on-campus activities in 2021:

  • Visitor Working Group – will assess and develop a comprehensive list of the various visitor constituencies coming to campus and space utilization for each group
  • Space Capacity & Expansion Working Group – will analyze space capacities (e.g. housing, dining, lab, lecture/meeting, childcare, etc.) and explore expanded on-campus space options to meet visitor demand

All planning will adhere to public health guidelines and testing capacities and will rely on support from the University of Chicago.

Over the next month, the working groups will assess baseline capacity and demand and will consider ways to add capacity in areas of shortfall. Paul Speer and I will provide you with more detailed information on capacity for your own planning purposes in early November. A preliminary operational plan will be completed in early December. In the meantime, please reach out Linda Hyman, Burroughs Wellcome Director of Education at or David Mark Welch, Director of the Division of Research at with questions or concerns.

Thank you for your continued commitment to the MBL. We are looking forward to expanding activities on our campus to meet our mission of providing transformative education and research opportunities that are a hallmark of the MBL experience.


Nipam H. Patel

October 1: UChicago Students Arrive for Fall Quarter

Dear MBL Faculty & Staff,

Last week the MBL welcomed 12 UChicago undergraduates to Woods Hole for the autumn quarter. These second-, third-, and fourth-year students will be with us until November 21 studying topics from microbiomes, to neuroscience, to biological imaging.

With negative COVID-19 test results confirmed, the students have transitioned from quarantine in their Swope dorm rooms to a “Stay-at-Home” status meaning they can take their meals or spend time outside on the MBL campus while participating in fully remote courses. On Monday, October 5, in-person courses will begin and students will gain access to campus buildings. Each student has also been assigned a private study space in the Loeb Laboratory.

Like all MBL staff, students are being asked to follow mask and social distancing guidelines. In addition, all students will be tested weekly during their stay following University of Chicago guidelines. Although their number is small, an incredible amount of work has and is being done by many of you to ensure that the program is run successfully and safely – thank you!

Although the MBL has hosted UChicago undergraduates in previous years as part of the Semester in Environmental Science, September Courses, and as Metcalf interns, this marks the first time that a UChicago quarter is being hosted at the MBL, an exciting milestone in our continued expansion of undergraduate programming. Our faculty are looking forward to in-person classroom and lab work and providing students with the one-of-a-kind, hands-on educational experience that only the MBL can provide.

We have learned much from the planning and implementation of the Fall Quarter. Using that knowledge we are now turning our attention to planning for spring and summer 2021 programs and the adjustments that may be necessary given that pandemic impacts will likely continue for some time. We will continue to keep you updated on that front.

Please join me in welcoming our UChicago students to the MBL and, as always, feel free to reach out to me or to any member of the Education team with questions.

Best regards,

Linda E. Hyman
Burroughs Wellcome Director of Education

September 9: Fall Education Update

Dear MBL Faculty & Staff,

Like so many academic institutions around the world, the MBL’s Education Office has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the resumption of in-person programs and courses. As many of you are experiencing with your own family members, safely bringing students of any age together in an in-person setting requires detailed planning and the coordination of a multitude of factors.

Over the past few months, my team has been working closely with colleagues at the University of Chicago and staff from across the MBL to plan for the return of students to campus, focusing in particular on the Semester in Environmental Science (SES), which would have started last weekend, as well as the UChicago Autumn Quarter.

Due to a variety of constraints including complexities of access to reliable testing, we made the tough decision to cancel this year’s SES program. However, with more time to plan and in close coordination with the University of Chicago, we are preparing to welcome 16 UChicago undergraduates to Woods Hole this fall.

The students will arrive on September 24 at which time they will all receive COVID-19 testing. Individuals who test negative, or who are traveling to the MBL from a lower risk state as defined by The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, will be allowed to transition to a “Stay-at-Home” status meaning they can take their meals or spend time outside on the MBL campus. All others must quarantine in their Swope dorm rooms. Students will be tested weekly throughout their stay. Any student who tests positive while at the MBL will be transferred to a COVID-19 isolation area in Swope.

All Autumn Quarter courses will be held virtually from September 29 – October 2. In-person courses will begin on October 5 and will be conducted in compliance of all MBL mask and social distancing guidelines. Lab work will take place in Loeb. Students will depart on November 21, before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The following courses will be offered:

Microbiomes Across Environments
Faculty – David Mark Welch and Elena Peredo, MBL

Imaging for Biological Research
Faculty – Nipam Patel, Louie Kerr, and Carsten Wolff, MBL

Neurons and Glia: Advanced Cellular and Molecular Topics
Faculty – Bill Green and Rob Carrillo, University of Chicago

I am grateful to my team as well as colleagues in the Housing and Facilities departments and to the faculty for their assistance in planning. I am looking forward to getting back to what we do best—providing transformative educational experiences for students. Please feel free to reach out to Education at with any questions.

Best regards,

Linda E. Hyman
Burroughs Wellcome Director of Education


2020 Archived Messages:

May Updates

April Updates

March Updates