Microbial Diversity

Course Information

Watch MicroDiv WebinarCourse Date: July 3 – August 18, 2021

Deadline: TBD

2020 Lecture Schedule

Course Website

Directors: George O’Toole, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth; and Rachel Whitaker, University of Illinois

Course Description

Launched in 1971 by Holger Jannasch, the Microbial Diversity summer course at the Marine Biological Laboratory has trained generations of scientists from diverse backgrounds. The course is an intense immersion experience for 20 students that lasts 6.5 weeks. The goal of the course is to teach professors, postdocs and advanced graduate students how to discover, cultivate, and isolate diverse microorganisms catalyzing a breadth of chemical transformations, as well as how to perform molecular and computational analyses relevant to their study. While microbial isolation techniques form the essential core of the course, each new set of directors brings an additional focus that reflects their interests/expertise. We have introduced basic genetic methods to the course for the first time to enable students to study how microbes catalyze interesting reactions and exhibit interesting behaviors. In addition, we emphasize state-of-the-art imaging techniques and training in quantitative microscopy to study microbial cell biology and single-cell gene expression. Genetically-tractable strains isolated in the course are sequenced by Pacific Biosystems, and students learn how to annotate and analyze their genomes. Given the wealth of DNA, RNA and protein sequences now available from isolated microbes and environmental samples, these tools are important for students to master so they may understand what these sequences mean and in which context they are expressed—be it in the marine environment, soils, or plant and animal hosts. We also emphasize quantitative approaches to microbial diversity, including teaching students how to describe the energetic potential of diverse metabolisms. A dedicated team of resident course instructors as well as guest-lecturers participate in the course every summer, allowing students to be exposed to exciting current research. The opportunity to interact one-on-one with these individuals is a tremendous opportunity, often leading to future collaborations.

Financial Information: Tuition: $6,300.00; Room & Board: $3,465.00. The admissions process at the Marine Biological Laboratory is need-blind, meaning that we evaluate students on their merits alone, without weighing their financial situations. Financial assistance will be considered for those admitted students who are in need. Upon acceptance, students will be asked to complete a financial aid request form if they need assistance.

In 2019, 100% of those students in the Microbial Diversity course who requested financial aid received some support. The amount of financial aid available from the MBL varies by course based on funding from grants and scholarships, but typically covers 70-100% of student need.

2020 Course Faculty & Lecturers

George O’Toole, Geisel School of Medicine
Rachel Whitaker, University of Illinois
Scott Dawson, UC Davis
Patrick Degnan, University of California Riverside
Lisa Zeigler, J Craig Venter Institute
Jay Lennon, Indiana University
Paul Turner, Yale University
Trina McMahon, University of Wisconsin
William Metcalf, University of Illinois
Jose de la Torre, San Francisco State University
Marcia Marston, Roger Williams University
Dominique Limoli, University of Iowa
Colleen Cavanaugh, Harvard University
Laura Katz, Smith College
Julie Huber, WHOI
Ginny Edgecomb, WHOI
Sean Crosson, University of Chicago
Aretha Feibig, University of Chicago
Kyle Costa, University of Minnesota
Kurt Hanselman, ETH Zürich
Deb Hogan, Geisel School of Medicine

Course Support

This course is supported in part by grants from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, the Moore Foundation, the Simons Foundation, NASA, Promega, and the Agouron Institute.