High School Science Discovery Program

high school programs photo
Credit: Glenbard East HS chaperone Marisa Abrams.

Opportunities for Intensive, Discovery-based Learning

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) has expanded upon its successful model used in its world-renowned Advanced Research Training Courses for pre- and postdoctoral training and applied it to high school students. 

With the MBL’s High School Science Discovery Program (HSSDP), you can take your science classroom to the next level. We’ll immerse your students in active, ongoing research conducted by MBL research scientists who are tackling the major questions in basic biological sciences today. HSSDP allows your students hands-on learning and exploration of field and laboratory methods, and to discover the scientist within.

Course Format & Tuition Cost

Renowned scientists engage high school students in a unique MBL immersion experience to expand their knowledge and provide hands-on learning experiences. You’ll explore the Marine Resources Center, hold an actual Nobel Prize, and interact with sea urchins, horseshoe crabs, and more in the touch tank. Courses often incorporate leading-edge microscopy and computer image analysis.

This program follows a cohort-based, residential model. To learn how your school can enroll in the High School Science Discovery Program, email Jean Enright, Program Administrator.

Tuition is $2,500 per student for the following six-day courses: 

  • Coral Reefs in a Changing World
  • Anatomy & Development of Marine Vertebrates & Invertebrates
  • Exploring Microbiomes of Marine Organisms with DNA Sequencing
  • Adaptation and Evolution in Response to Environmental Challenges

Tuition is $1,250 per student for the three-day course, CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing of Aquatic and Marine Organisms.

Tuition cost includes room and board, laboratory supplies and equipment, and activities. 

Full scholarship opportunities may be available for public schools. To find out if your public school qualifies, contact Program Administrator Jean Enright.

Contact Jean Enright, High School Science Discovery Program Administrator

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Lead Faculty:  Lisa Abbo,

Other faculty: Nipam Patel, Carrie Albertin

The course focuses on the anatomy, development, and physiology of various animals, with an emphasis on local marine species. A mixture of hands-on work and lectures in methods for physical exams, anesthesia, and diagnostic sample collection give students an understanding of basic anatomy, disease, and health monitoring. Students examine a range of marine species from finfish to coral, and other invertebrates through dissection and imaging. They also observe organ system development during embryogenesis, with the opportunity to create time-lapse videos of zebrafish embryos and collect their own confocal microscope data to create 3D reconstructions of embryonic structures.  These lab activities will allow them to learn how current research scientists aim to understand how organs form during normal development, and how errors in this process lead to various birth defects.

Lead Faculty: Loretta Roberson

Students will look at corals and coral reef ecosystems, from the cell to reef using the latest tools being developed at the MBL for exploring fundamental biological processes. Students will have hands-on experiences with various micro and macroscopic imaging techniques to explore the symbiotic relationship between coral and dinoflagellates, as well as life on a “coral reef” in Woods Hole. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to (1) describe key Cnidarian characteristics; (2) learn the key principles of the biology and ecology of corals and the symbiosis with the dinoflagellate alga, Symbiodinium; (3) identify key threats to coral reef systems; and (4) utilize different tools from imaging to mapping used in the study of corals.

Lead Faculty: David Mark Welch, Hilary Morrison

Other faculty: Mitchell Sogin

Microbiome research, especially of human microbiomes, is a new and significant aspect of biology and medicine. In this course, the students will investigate the host-associated microbiomes of marine model animals in the MBL's Marine Resources Center. Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of microbiome science through a combination of lectures, group discussion, laboratory work, and computer exercises. Students will design a sample collection scheme, collect environmental and host samples, record metadata, extract DNA, and construct sequencing libraries using the polymerase chain reaction. They will learn to use on-line bioinformatics tools for DNA sequence characterization and microbial community composition analysis.

Lead Faculty: Nipam Patel, Scott Bennett

This course will allow students to not only learn how CRISPR/Cas9 technology works, but to apply the technique in the lab to understand how it is used by research scientists to explore questions in basic biology, and the techniques implications for improving human health.  Genome editing will be used to explore the development of the zebrafish, Danio rerio, a key species in biomedical research worldwide.  Students will manipulate genes involved in development to understand embryogenesis and organ formation, and how this research is directly connected to understanding human health and birth defects.  The course will also expose students to modern methods in microscopy.  Finally, will also discuss the ethical implications of genome editing, an issue that is highly relevant to all members of society.

Lead Faculty:  Kristin Gribble

In this course, students will use aquatic invertebrates and plankton to explore the fundamentals of evolutionary biology, including concepts of adaptation, fitness, genetic heritability, and epigenetic transgenerational inheritance. We will discuss the role of life history strategy--and organisms’ abilities to change their life history strategy in response to environmental conditions—in determining fitness and allowing adaptation. Additionally, we learn how studying such traits and mechanisms in model organisms can actually help us to understand human biology, and how research in aquatic animals can lead to improvements in human health. Laboratory studies will use an aquatic invertebrate animal, the rotifer, and explore examples from a variety of other marine animals. Laboratory techniques used will include microscopy, culturing phytoplankton and zooplankton, analysis of behavior, basic molecular biology, and data analysis.

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