The Neural Systems & Behavior (NS&B) course at the MBL is derived from the original Zoology course, the first laboratory course established at MBL the same year it was founded in 1888. NS&B is thus the oldest course at the MBL! In 1969, the Zoology course was renamed the Invertebrate Zoology course, reflecting the increasing specialization of biological research. During these days, the location of MBL made it an ideal ground for studying marine invertebrates collected off the cost of Woods Hole, MA. A retelling of this early period by Alan Gelperin can be found here.
In 1978, the course leapt into the new frontiers of neuroscience when it was re-envisioned as the Neural Systems & Behavior course under its first Director, Alan Gelperin., with generous support from the Grass Foundation, which provided start-up funds and a generous loaner program of equipment. Ever since, the Grass Foundation has been a steadfast supporter of NS&B at the MBL. Because back then the facilities were still designed for marine invertebrate research, students worked around the large salt-water tanks, with pipes running all across the ceiling. Unfortunately, Alan was unable to return to Woods Hole the following year for personal reasons, so Ron Hoy stepped in and directed the course 1979/80, before bringing Eduardo Macagno on board as co-director for the period of 1981-1984. Ron Hoy instituted the principle of choice, i.e., students choose between two or three modules per cycle, an idea that has endured. One of Ron’s proudest accomplishments was to secure a training grant from the NIMH, which supports the course to this day.
The next pair of course directors, from 1985-1989 were Darcy Kelly and Tom Carew. As the t-shirts from that period will attest, the course participants were no strangers to having fun when their work was through. 1987 in particular is fondly remembered as the year of the “Aplysia races.” From 1990-1994 Ron Calabrese and Martha Constantine-Patton directed the course, further establishing its reputation as a life-changing experience for the students. With technology as it was in those days, the largest budget item was film for their cameras. From 1995-1999 Harold Zakon and Janis Weeks directed the course, adding several new modules. The tradition of innovation was extended by Richard Levine and Catherine Carr from 2000-2004. After Michael Dickenson and Sarah Bottjer, who lead NS&B 2005-2007, Paul Katz and Jim Knierim (2008-2012) added more emphasis on professional development and moved the course into the internet age by establishing a facebook page.
2013 – present
Starting in 2013, Hans Hofmann and André Fenton began transforming the course by embracing an integrative theme – between modules and across levels of organization – and broadening the range of techniques offered. They are also increasing the reach of the course by webcasting all the lectures as well as producing online learning modules on complex techniques and procedures (coming soon).
With 20 students enrolled in the course each year, the NS&B course has trained 740 students and post-docs in the past 37 years! Many students have gone on to pursue distinguished careers in academia, and many have gone on to be course faculty.
During MBL’s 125th anniversary summer of 2013, the MBL Community Archives Project scanned and processed into our community-generated archives photographs, memories, stories, letters, research documents, and course notebooks. These items were given to the Project for scanning by a broad cross section of the MBL scientific community. This MBL Community Archives is a community-generated collection of photographs, video reminiscences, and science memorabilia.
Check out the MBL History Project’s YouTube Channel for interviews with some of the famous scientists who have spent their summers at MBL. Some former NS&B directors, students, faculty, and speakers have shared their story. Check them out.
Janis Weeks, Co-Director 1995-1999
Leslie Vosshall, Guest Lecturer 2013, PI of former NS&B students
Overview of Previous Course Directors
|1978||Alan Gelperin||Princeton University|
|1979-84||Ronald Hoy||Cornell University|
|1981-84||Eduardo Macagno||Columbia University, now at UCSD|
|1985-89||Thomas Carew||Yale University, now at NYU|
|1985-89||Darcy Kelley||Columbia University|
|1990-94||Ronald Calabrese||Emory University|
|1990-94||Martha Constantine-Paton||Yale University, now at MIT|
|1995-99||Janis Weeks||University of Oregon|
|1995-99||Harold Zakon||The University of Texas at Austin|
|2000-04||Catherine Carr||University of Maryland|
|2000-04||Richard Levine||University of Arizona|
|2005-07||Sarah Bottjer||University of Southern California|
|2008-12||Paul Katz||Georgia State University|
|2008-12||James Knierim||Johns Hopkins University|
|2013-18||André Fenton||New York University|
|2013-18||Hans Hofmann||The University of Texas at Austin|
|2018-20||Jade Zee||Northeastern University|
|2019-23||Robert Froemke||NYU School of Medicine|