Outcomes (Publication, Conference presentation/papers, career trajectory – have students taken positions with faculty and staff, pre-post course survey assessment):
2021 Students & Faculty
Students Valerie Komatsu, Viraj Doddihal and faculty member Chenbei Chang published a micropub paper entitled, “Time-lapse microscopy of anterior mesoderm migration and notochord segregation and intercalation in a Xenopus explant” It shows the first time that F-actin dynamics recorded in an explant that encompassed both the head and trunk mesoderm during Xenopus gastrulation.
Rebecca Varney writes: “Embryology changed my research program profoundly. I came home and immediately made contact with our microscopy core, and when I needed other types of microscopes, I had the confidence and competence to reach out to other resources on campus, knowing that I had the training to use their equipment correctly. Three in-progress manuscripts will now likely include confocal microscopy to describe organisms, and two will include HCR. More than methods, however, my research has already become braver; I am more comfortable taking risks in topics and methods than I was before the course, and I will continue to try to keep the "MBL spirit" (including failing fearlessly) with me.”
Student Guilherme Gainnett had an image he took at the course be selected for the cover illustration for the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society for his work on daddy-long-legs, “The genome of a daddy-long-legs (Opiliones) illuminates the evolution of arachnid appendages” by Gainett et al., Published in Proc. R. Soc. B (https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.1168).
The cover photo features Multiplexed fluorescent in situ hybridization showing staggered expression of the Hox genes labial (orange), Deformed (green), and Sex combs reduced (magenta) in a daddy-long-legs embryo. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/toc/rspb/2021/288/1956
Leslie Babonis writes: “The biggest impact that the 2019 Embryology course had on my career was due to the incredible networking opportunities it provided. During the course I developed two ongoing collaborations (one with a course instructor and one with a fellow student) and received critical and extensive feedback on job and grant applications from people I met in the course. These efforts have clearly been impactful as I managed to land a tenure-track faculty job in the spring of 2020! Perhaps the most impactful outcome is that after being a student in the course I was invited to return as an instructor. Teaching in the Embryology course has been truly transformative to my career and many of the senior faculty in my department (who will one day vote on my tenure application) have already commented that it is clear I have already established myself as a leader in my field.”
Ahmet Karabulut writes: “My name is Ahmet Karabulut. I am a member of the Embryology 2019 class. 2019 Embryology Course was a life changing experience for me. I met with wonderful classmates and was taught by distinguished faculty and course assistants from all around the globe. The course allowed me to build my confidence as a graduate student to become a competent scientist. The course curriculum and laboratory experiments allowed me to become familiar with various model systems to study complex biological questions. Additionally, working in a team environment with the aid of amazing faculty and course assistants provided a great environment for learning how to do collaborative scientific research with creativity, insight and ingenuity. During this course, I learned the history and the core principles and concepts of embryology. I got to work with the state-of-the-art equipment and learned many experimental tricks and toolsets that I currently utilize in my own projects and research program. Particularly, I learned critical techniques and tools that I utilize in my experiments working with my model animal. For example, by applying one experimental trick that I learned for live embryo imaging during the course, I was able to developed a new method for imaging neurons which I utilize for imaging cells in my model organism. This allowed me to ask new research questions that I wouldn’t experimentally test without the knowledge that I gained from the Embryo 2019 course. I believe the Embryology course produces future leaders of science and the lifelong friendships that we built will last decades where we, the classmates will build a wonderful community of scientists with our culture and experience of teamwork, creativity and ingenuity. I am ever grateful for the opportunity to participate in this world renowned course and I would like to thank all the generous parties who contribute to the program and provide financial support to students like me and to the 2019 Embryology course. “
Fena Palominos writes: “The embryology course changed my perspective and my career trajectory. Being from a developing country, Embryo19 allowed me to experience cutting-edge technologies that otherwise are difficult to find here. It also allowed me to network with world-class developmental biologists and importantly, it opened my eyes to an immense world of research topics, models, and scientific questions. Having gone through Embryo19 changed me as a scientist and changed my research interests, making me reconsider the direction of my future career as an independent researcher. Before the course, I thought I would continue doing research in the biomedical field, using the same model organism I have been working with for the last ten years, the lovely zebrafish. However, having taken the course allowed me to look at science from more broadened and complex perspectives. Thus, after Embryo, I decided to change fields to a topic that relates more to the person I am and the future I want to build, not only for myself but also for my community.
Today, I can say that thanks to the MBL’s Embryology Course and the seeds it sowed in me, I decided to change my career and develop new skills by using unconventional model organisms in developmental and evolutionary biology. I’m happy to say that I will be joining Chris Marin’s lab in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California Berkeley around October of this year. In the Martin lab, I will be using the adaptive evolution of San Salvadorian pupfishes as a model to study how novel craniofacial genes alter the development of the head and brain in the generalists and specialists species. This position will allow me to mix my passion for embryology but also for evolution and ecology.
On the other hand, the impact that the embryology course had on me has not only to do with science. I consider the people I met during Embryo19 as great friends and scientific collaborators for a lifetime.
In simple terms, I am extremely grateful for all that I learned in the Embryology course. I would live it again another x1000 times, and I treasure every moment I spent there.“
Iris Unterweber writes: “I've thought about the Embryology Course so many times over the past few years, and it definitely helped me get through the last phases of my PhD.
Looking back, I got so much inspiration from taking this course, both personally and scientifically. I feel privileged to have had the chance to meet so many inspiring students and faculty, and to experience this atmosphere at Woodshole.
During the course, I learned about and was able to apply techniques such as HCR, which I then afterwards used in my own research. The practical application and training in a variety of microscopies during the course gave me experience and confidence in selecting the ideal imaging conditions for experiments to be conducted during my PhD.”
Danielle Spitzer writes: “Taking the course as a student in 2019 stretched me as a scientist, in a good way. I left the course with a deeper understanding of developmental biology, particularly with regard to the importance of studying development across a wide array of models.
One of my goals for the course was to improve my microscopy knowledge and skill, which the course certainly achieved. Furthermore, it inspired me to take an advanced microscopy course offered at my university the following semester. I would never have taken that course if I hadn’t first taken Embryology, since I would have been too intimidated by a curriculum involving things like superresolution microscopy, adaptive optics, and the physics of light. Learning about these topics at the MBL gave me enough confidence in my background in these areas to sign up for the additional coursework.
The spring semester following my time at the MBL, I was a graduate student instructor in a developmental biology course. My time in the embryology course influenced the way I taught my students. For example, on the first day of my discussion sections, I incorporated a brainstorming activity about the nature of developmental biology and that was inspired by a similar activity done by Bob Goldstein during his lecture. I also included pictures of some of my own experiments at the MBL into my presentation slides to replace textbook images, such as showing the results of an organizer graft I did during the Xenopus unit when I taught about axis induction.
Lastly, the connections I made with the people in the 2019 course have positively impacted my life. In addition to general support and camaraderie that my cohort shares through our on-going group chat, I have also kept in contact with many course instructors and TAs. One of my 2019 TAs, Eric Hastie, has been particularly helpful beyond the course with regards to my career development, since I plan to pursue a career similar to his. We had a discussion over Zoom akin to an informational interview about university teaching careers and have kept in touch since, sharing teaching resources and ideas. I am in the process of preparing a lesson plan to be published on CourseSource, which Eric will be testing out with his students this semester and sharing their feedback with me.”
Llilians Calvo Gonzalez writes: “Personally the embryology course created in me a sense of community that coming from a very small lab I was missing. Professionally it has been a great asset and allowed me to meet like-minded scientist from all over the world and share information and knowledge with them still today, two years after its completion. Thanks to the course I was also able to work with embryos from many different species which enabled my first publication and contributed to my dexterity handling tiny embryos even in my own project. Altogether I believe those 6 weeks have been career defining and also left me with some of my best friends today.”
Ariel Waisman writes: “Although it’s already been 2 years since the embryology course of 2019, I find myself indirectly thinking about it on a week-by-week basis. From techniques, we learned during the course to broader theoretical concepts such as gene regulatory networks with an evolutionary perspective. In the case of the latter, although during my undergrad studies I specialized in molecular biology and was very familiar with the mechanisms of gene regulation, up until the embryology course I had not come to realize the key importance of Gene Regulatory Networks and the systems biology approach. Because of this, after Embryo19 I set myself to learn about the biophysics of GRNs and mathematical modeling, delving into the world opened by Eric Davidson, which is having a strong influence on my current research in mammalian pluripotent stem cells. Currently, one of my projects as a young researcher is to study the developmental tempo of cardiac differentiation using mouse and human pluripotent stem cells, trying to understand the mechanisms underlying the different speeds of this process across species. The course also had a strong influence on how to perform experiments, removing some of the fear of trying “crazy” un-invented things and just giving it a go. This, for instance, led to a new project in which I used a silicone filament from a glue gun to attach human differentiating cardiomyocytes to mimic the shape of the early cardiac tube, which produced some amazing structures that we are currently studying. I also managed to set up an amazing technique that we used during the course, but now in mammalian PSCs: the imaging of single ARN molecules of specific genes. The course also prompted me to be very thorough about ways of quantifying my microscopy experiments, which induced me to delve deeply into the world of computer programming and image analysis, leading to recent publications. Finally, as a young researcher embarking on student mentoring, embryo19 was an opportunity to discuss what kind of scientist we want to be and how to transverse this early, challenging, and exciting career. Altogether, the embryology course was a life-changing experience that has re-shaped my scientific thinking.”
Hannah Arbach (they, them) writes: “I definitely used the imaging techniques that I developed at the course in my grad work and will be bringing them into my post-doc lab which currently doesn’t really do much in the way of imaging. It definitely solidified my academic career trajectory and I feel I have a lot less nervousness about just reaching out to folks for advice, collaborations, etc.”
Akinobu Watanabe writes: “I attended the 2019 Embryology Course as a new Assistant Professor (New York Institute of Technology). I have been trained in comparative anatomy and phenotypic techniques and wanted to meaningfully expand my research program by familiarizing myself with an array of classic and modern embryological techniques. The Course allowed me to establish and lead an embryology lab at my institution, incorporate in vivo experiments on chick embryos to my research, and submit and be awarded a 5-year National Science Foundation CAREER grant. In addition to the research techniques, the numerous instructors and participants of the Course that I met have allowed me to quickly form connections and networks within a field that I’m joining as a novice which has been indispensable for my professional development.
Vivek Prakash writes: “Looking back, the 2019 Embryology course was a life-changing experience for me, both professionally and personally. My research plans and approach was influenced heavily by the course, and I made a fantastic network of friends and long-term collaborators.
- Sea stars: I am continuing my postdoc work on sea star larval biomechanics in my new lab. It was super useful to meet Veronica Hinman and Zak Swartz in 2019. I talked with Veronica last year in summer to get advice for my NSF proposal, and I also got a plenary lecture invitation from Dede Lyons to speak at the upcoming DBSU (Dev. Biology of Sea Urchin) meeting at MBL in April 2022. I have been in close touch with Zak Swartz, and have been receiving plenty of advice from him on how to culture and work with sea stars in my new lab here at Miami. I am also in close contact with Athula Wikramanayake — as you know, he's the Biology Department chair here at UM. I get regular advice from Athula for my sea star research, and I am now a secondary faculty member in the Biology Department at UM, thanks to his support.
- Ctenophores: I have a long-standing interest in Ctenophore biomechanics and their ciliary driven flows. At MBL I actually got started with this research when I met Bill Browne. Those few days in the MBL course, I generated preliminary data of their ciliary-driven flow fields and I was able to use that data in my first NSF proposal (although the NSF proposal did not get funded, the writing experience was invaluable for me). I have been in close touch with Bill Browne here at UM and he is one of my trusted mentors. I have a long-term collaboration with him, and we are currently trying to recruit graduate students to work with us on Ctenophore biomechanics.
- Frogs: I was introduced to the exciting frog system for the first time when I met John Wallingford and Ray Keller at the Embryology course. I have also been in constant touch with my Embryology course classmate Mia Konjikusic (Wallingford lab), we even worked together at MBL where we did experiments using beads in different animals. In Mia’s latest project, she has developed and characterized a ciliary perturbation (Kif9) in Xenopus tadpoles. Mia wanted to quantify the cilia-induced flow fields and she reached out to me. My graduate student Bikram Shrestha spent a few months carrying out flow analysis and quantification for Mia’s project. So we have been collaborating on this project recently with Mia and John, and Mia is currently writing the paper with us as co-authors. Mia, John and I have started working on another biophysics project, and John is also excited to collaborate with me in the long-term, I am really looking forward to continue working with them!
- Conferences/Communities (SDB meetings): After the Embryology course, I attended my first SDB meeting (virtual) last year in 2020. I very much enjoyed the SDB meeting, and realized I know so many people there because of the Embryology course. For this year’s SDB meeting, Richard Behringer invited me to co-chair the plenary session on Physical Mechanisms in Developmental Biology. I really like the friendly and welcoming SDB community and look forward to making the SDB meeting one of my regular annual conferences.
I am excited to work on several problems in developmental biology from a physics perspective in the long-term, and I strongly feel that the Embryology course training has enabled/empowered me to do this successfully — I am so glad and thankful to have attended the course! And once again, I am very thankful to you and Rich for organizing it!”
Paul Bump writes: “Getting to participate in the 2019 Embryology Course was likely one of the most impactful experiences of my scientific life to date. Intellectually, I felt refreshed and challenged by the different perspectives that both my colleagues and instructors brought to the course. Practically, getting to interact with some of the leading scientists in my field was incredible opportunity in terms of next steps in my career. It is very likely that I will be pursing a postdoc with one of the faculty I got to know during the Embryology Course. And finally the course gave a sense of community and belonging, both to classmates and instructors but also to the greater developmental biology community in general. It’s hard to put into words how significant this course was for me and I’ll be forever grateful for that time in Woods Hole.”
Jenna Perry writes: “Participating in the Marine Biological Laboratory’s course “Embryology: Concepts & Techniques in Modern Developmental Biology” has been one of the highlights of my scientific career. Coming from a purely cell biological background, this course has provided me with a foundation to understand developmental biology. It has broadened my thinking to consider an evolutionary perspective and has made me unafraid to utilize different model organisms to address my research question. For instance, as part of my advisor’s MBL fellowship, we proposed to work on Crepidula spp., the slipper snail. The slipper snail undergoes early cell division events differently than my model organism, C. elegans, and we plan to capitalize on these differences in cell division to better understand the evolutionarily conserved function of my protein of interest. If I had not attended the Embryology course, I would not have been prepared to execute these studies. Overall, this course has had a huge influence on my scientific career and I would highly recommend anyone transitioning to developmental biology from another scientific field to attend!”
Student Lauren Yohe states: “I attended the historical, intensive 6-week embryology course offered at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA as I launched my new postdoctoral position at Yale University. As a genomicist by training, I had never even used a microscope before entering the course. However, NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology centered around understanding the developmental biology of tetrapods and their nasal chemosensory system. Developmental biology was a completely new discipline for me, but the course transformed my knowledge and skills in a very short amount of time. By the end of the course, I could fluently use a variety of different microscopy approaches, and I was able to jump into my postdoc with confidence knowing I had the skills to do what it takes. I have even won several imaging contests since my course. Above all, the friendships and mentors I met with over the course of the 6 weeks are priceless, and I continue to interact with some on a daily basis. The course provided me a core group of people that I can keep in touch with regarding any career-related matters.”
Student John Allen writes: “I think the way that Embryology really impacted me was exposing me to a community of scientists that are really excited about the same questions that I am. So much of biomedical research can be so translationally focused it was amazing to be around scientists who love it for the sake of science. Alejandro (and others) talked a lot about curiosity driven questions and the course was one of the few times I felt like it was actually put into practice. The exposure to all those different models and techniques (even though I stayed in planarians for my postdoc) has encouraged me to think much broader about the work that I do and to always be trying to place things into a larger context. More than anything the course provided a community of scientists (hopefully long lasting) that I now feel a part of.”
Student Martyna Lukoseviciute writes: “ First and most important, the embryology course has taught me to befriend a sense of failure. This was very useful for my own PhD studies, because I was no longer afraid to fail and hence, I was able to perform more challenging experiments, which resulted in a manuscript that is currently being reviewed. The course has also taught me the power of studying and comparing different species for various research questions. Therefore, for my postdoctoral work I have decided to study nervous system regeneration and compare this response between regenerative (zebrafish) and non-regenerative (mouse) animal models. Finally, meeting so many incredible people along the Woods Hole way made me feel connected to this incredible community, which I will cherish forever.”
Student Sandra Edwards writes: “When I went to the Embryology course, I was still a PhD student in Chile. After I graduated, my experience in the course allowed me to get a position as a lecturer for the embryology section of a general biology course in my university.
Furthermore, my experience in the course helped me decide on changing the animal model from Drosophila to a less common but incredibly interesting vertebrate, the Axolotl.
I am currently a Postdoctoral researcher at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. My project was granted with the prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship, and I am sure that the high reputation of the Embryology course contributed importantly to this.”
Student Katherine Nesbit writes: “Attending the Embryology course in 2018 was the most formative experience of my academic training. Through this course, I was able to do so many valuable things including 1) reconnect with a former mentor who gave me my first shot to volunteer and be involved in research, 2) meet the editor of, and was invited to submit my work for publication in, a journal I have enjoyed reading as a student, 3) build new connections with exceptionally talented peers across different disciplines within developmental biology, and 4) forge friendships that have lasted well beyond the walls of the MBL. Not only does the Embryology course provide students with benefits during the summer, but the lessons in exploration and discovery, the encouragement to step into your own intellectual confidence and take risks in research to pursue what is interesting, as well as the high energy and intensive environment are long-lasting and critical values which then propel students' progress once they return to their home institutions. I still use image data I collected during the course in my presentations on my research, and greatly benefitted from the microscopy boot camp since that is a major tool I use in my own work. I have been able to reach out to friends and colleagues from Embryology for advice and suggestions when beginning my search for a postdoctoral position - and secured my top choice! The class also helped me to think outside of what is interesting within my own model system and approach questions with a mindset of what system is best suited to my area of interest. Embryology also encouraged me to think about the biology of other organisms and what can be learned from comparative approaches as clues to what may be happening in my own experiments. Without the Embryology course, my PhD experience would have been dramatically different. I always encourage other friends and colleagues in related fields to consider applying for this course because it is the experience of a lifetime, and helps to shape the scientific landscape by training the next generation of talented, curious, developmental biologists.”
Student Ashley Rasys writes: “I can’t remember a better or more exciting time than the summer I spent at wood’s hole participating in the 2018 Embryology Course. I walked away from that experience with a profound knowledge base and lasting friendships that have continued to impact my life. At the MBL, I was exposed to numerous organisms like—tunicates, ctenophores, hydra, planaria, squid, sea urchins, c. elegans, zebrafish, xenopus, chicks, quail, and mice, as well as many others. I learned about their unique biology and gained experience with different techniques to functionally manipulate their genome. I used this information to aid me in my own efforts to establish the Anolis sagrei lizard as a new model system for eye development. Within a year from taking the course, I was successful in developing a robust gene-editing approach, which resulted in the creation of the world’s first genetically modified lizard. This work has led to multiple first-author publications and although this has greatly impacted my career, it’s the friendships that I made along the way that have inspired me the most. Eventually, I aim to establish my own lab and look forward to the day when I can send students of my own to this truly amazing course!”
Student Paul Gerald Sanchez writes: “I talked about my experience here (https://thenode.biologists.com/on-the-beauty-and-wonder-of-endless-forms/education/) and here (https://youtu.be/zNM6xFfZ2II). In addition, Embryology Course 2018 was a most transformative experience for me. I learned a lot about developmental biology, and made lifelong relationships with people whom I met there. It importantly inspired me to think more about the beauty and wonder (and biology) of endless forms of life in nature. I am eager to eventually move back to my home country, the Philippines, where there is very rich marine biodiversity, and build a mini research station that shares the same spirit as the early days of Woods Hole. Being in Woods Hole, as a member of the general MBL community, will always serve as an inspiration how much knowledge can be learned from following our curiosities. In a few days, I am also soon starting a short postdoc research in the group of Brigitte Galliot, whom I met during the Embryology Course.”
Zak Schwartz, a course assistant for the echinoderm module, initiated a research project with course faculty Athula Wikramanayake that is currently in review at Current Biology, “Polarized Dishevelled dissolution and condensation drives embryonic axis specification in oocytes”S. Zachary Swartz, Tzer Han Tan, Margherita Perillo, Nikta Fakhri, Gary M. Wessel, Athula H. Wikramanayake, Iain M. Cheeseman.It is available on bioRxiv: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.17.444558v1
Anneke Kakebeen (2018 student) writes in August of 2021: “The Embryology Course heavily impacted my career and trajectory as an academic researcher. Philosophically, I learned how to be more creative and fearless in the questions I ask and the ways I am able to approach them. The course also afforded me two tremendous opportunities. First, I was invited to submit a Xenopus tropicalis embryonic staging poster and short review to Developmental Dynamics by course instructor, Dr. Paul Trainor. This resulted in a first author publication and publicly distributed poster (Kakebeen et al, Dev Dyn 2019). Second, I was able to network with instructors which ultimately introduced me to Dr. Lee Niswander who I am now doing my postdoc with. Because I met Dr. Niswander at the embryology course, she knew I was excited about using different model organisms which has influenced my project development.”
Shinuo Wang writes: “Back in 2018, I was a new postdoc trained mostly in engineering and had limited knowledge in advanced biology. The 2018 Embryology course opened my horizon in the field of developmental biology and evolutionary biology. In 6 weeks I was introduced to all these fantastic animal teachers and what we as human beings want to learn from them by the greatest scientists in the fields. Discussions and conversations I had with the faculty members, assistants, and the other students during the course and later in the path still guide me and inspire me to be a better scientist, a better mentor, and a more passionate and explorative child of Mother Earth.”
Weiyi (Lily) Tang writes: “So far, I would still say embryology is a place where I was able to appreciate the beauty of developmental biology to the greatest extent. Looking back, the most precious gift from the instructors and the class is, I was no longer afraid of embracing something challenging at the first glance. Initially, my graduate training was in retroviral lineage tracing of the chick neural crest cells. In the last year of my graduate training, I would like to explore beyond what I am familiar with, by taking the retrovirus clonal analysis into transcriptomics to understand cell fate deviation. I would felt a great challenge if I was not part of the embryology class, where we learned a new technique overnight and successfully solved a question using it the next morning!”
Steven Plotkin writes: “The course was part of a watershed series of events during my sabbatical year that quite literally changed my research focus and career trajectory, from theoretical/computational biophysics to experimental developmental biology. Going into the course, I knew I wanted to study animal multicellularity, but I thought I would work with sponges, and I did not have a good feeling as to how the problem fit into the context of the rest of developmental biology. As a result of the course I switched to ctenophores as a more tractable model organism, and my lab has now established a self-sufficient, multi-generational animal husbandry system for the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi. As well, though I had spent some time in the wet lab, I had limited experience working with embryos in general before the course. As a result of the diversity of embryologic systems we were able to study throughout the course, I felt that I developed a great deal of intuition as to how to handle embryos in the lab, and also acquired a feeling for what is challenging and what is possible when designing an experiment. I've built collaborations with some of the faculty who visited Woods Hole during the course, and I've been able to recruit new students at the SDB meeting who took an interest in our research project.”
Jan Engelhardt writes: "Being trained as a bioinformatician the 2017 Embryology courses taught me performing experimental methods as well. Thanks to that I was able to come back to Woods Hole to work on my own experimental projects studying zebrafish and cephalopods at WHOI and MBL. Recently, I started a 6 year postdoc position at the University of Vienna in a research group which combines experimental and theoretical methods to study evolutionary developmental biology, for which I feel perfectly prepared thanks to the 2017 Embryology course."
Tessa Montague was a Ph.D. student at Harvard University in Alex Schier’s lab and co-created the CRISPR/Cas9 web tool, CHOPCHOP. Tessa attended the 2017 Embryology Course in the last year of her Ph.D. where she became fascinated by cephalopods. This inspired her to return to Woods Hole a year later as Grass Fellow to begin work on cuttlefish camouflage. She joined the lab of Nobel prize winner Richard Axel and is now trying to uncover the neural basis of cuttlefish camouflage behavior to understand how visual information is internally represented in the brain. Tessa received a prestigious HHMI Hanna Gray Fellow award to carry out these studies.
Anna Czarkwiani writes: “Taking the 2017 Embryology course has significantly impacted my research career. I am certain it has contributed to my securing a Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship to carry out research in the field of regenerative biology in Germany. In my postdoc experience, following the course, I was much more confident, eager and independent in establishing completely new experimental and imaging strategies in my host lab. Additionally, I benefited greatly from meeting amazing people at the course including excellent faculty, which also allowed me to invite and host excellent speakers for our departmental seminar series.”
Berta Verd writes: “I started an Associate Professorship position in the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford in April 2020. Of course, pandemic hit and it wasn't until this past winter that I managed to move and start the lab. It's been crazy starting teaching and the lab literally from scratch - the lab used to be office space until April 2021!! - in times of covid and brexit, but I think and desperately hope that it will get easier soon. I now have an RA, 3 PhD and a masters student who are über talented and a joy to work with!
The embryology course surely had a lot to do with where I am now. As you know, I'd done an entirely computational PhD in EvoDevo and had practically no experience in the lab when I got to Woods Hole. Those 6 weeks exposed me to so much and gave me confidence in my experimental abilities such that when I then started my PostDoc in Cambridge, I wasn't scared to jump straight into experimental work in zebrafish, always with my mathematical modelling stuff on the side. And soon, I moved from zebrafish to lake malawi cichlids, which is what my lab currently works on (in a nutshell, they make different numbers and proportions of vertebrae with practically the same genomes and we want to know how). I honestly don't think I'd ever even considered working on cichlids if I hadn't gone to Woods Hole and been exposed to so many different systems. I think zebrafish would have been challenging enough and that I'd have probably stayed within the safety of the dry lab long term. I mean, there's only a handful of groups doing cichlid embryology and none of them in Oxford!
So yes, the embryology course has really shaped me and I'm sending all my students there!”
Rebecca Jones writes: “I attended the Embryology course in Woods Hole early in my PhD. At the time, I recall feeling daunted by how much there was to learn, but was very much put at ease by the instructors – faculty who I am now proud to call my colleagues. As the years progress following the course, and I transition from PhD to post-doc, I am consistently reminded how much I learned in Woods Hole, and how much it has changed me as a scientist. Not only do I have a much better understanding of the breadth (and wonderful diversity!) of model organisms out there, I have also learned how to think, rationalize and communicate as a scientist better as a result of the course. I think I will continue to use what I learned during Embryology 2017 until the day I retire, which I hope will be a long time from now!”
Zuzka Vavrusova writes: “The 2017 Embryology course has been a one in a lifetime experience for me. It encouraged me to explore science and my abilities in a way that I haven't had before. I was able to become confident with microscopy and it made me a more confident scientist overall. I discovered the beauty of new model organisms, especially the marine organisms, and became a passionate diver after the course. It opened new possibilities for my future career path and made me certain that I would like to continue the academic path.”
Sergio Menchero Fenandez writes: “It may sound cliché, but the Embryology course has clearly impacted the way I’m developing my research career. Thanks to the course, I realised the power of cross species comparisons to address and try to understand a developmental process. After the course I decided I wanted to work on a different organism to gain a wider perspective on mammalian development beyond the mouse, and I am now working with opossums to learn about the evolution of X chromosome inactivation.”
Victoria Sleight took the course in 2017 and returned to the MBL in 2018 and 2019 as a Whitman Centre Research Fellow and was hosted in the embryology course space. She writes: “these three sequential summers with the embryology course, interacting with both faculty and students and learning from world experts, shaped my research and career trajectory.” In 2020 she started a faculty position at the University of Aberdeen where she now teaches intro to developmental biology and evo-devo courses. Her research group is studying the evolution and development of biomineralisation using the non-traditional model system Crepidula - that she was introduced to, and studied for three summers, because of the embryology course.
James Cleland writes: “While I will soon start a postdoc on a topic rather outside the scope of the Embryology course (mechanisms of cancer sex bias) in perhaps the least unconventional of the ~100 unconventional organisms covered in said course (laboratory mice), I remain extremely open-minded about the power of weird and wonderful organisms for learning new and interesting things about the natural world around us. Indeed, just as soon as I am done learning the latest and greatest fancy approaches, I plan to head straight back to my first love, very much nurtured by the Embryology course: regeneration in emerging model organisms. I will always be grateful for the experience of a life-time I enjoyed in Summer 2017. Endless thanks!”