Uniting the Marine Biological Laboratory and the University of Chicago research and education experience for an unparalleled program.


The newly established program between the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and the University of Chicago (UChicago) leverages the unique partnership between two leading research institutions and combines the best of both worlds – access to a collaborative and expansive research environment that spans the scales of biological discovery at the MBL in Woods Hole, MA and the first-class resources of the University of Chicago. The formal affiliation and collaboration between these institutions was established in 2013 and has resulted in synergies in research and teaching that now expand to the graduate community.

Program Structure

Current MBL/UChicago graduate student opportunities are available through UChicago’s Committee on Development, Regeneration, and Stem Cell Biology (DRSB) Program and the Integrative Biology (IB) Program with additional options available in the near future. Candidates should apply directly to the DRSB or IB Program depending on their specific interests. If accepted, students will complete their initial course requirements at UChicago before joining the MBL for summer research rotations in laboratories of affiliated faculty. Students will complete their thesis research at the MBL, with committee meetings, retreat participation and other activities encouraged through regular visits to Chicago throughout the graduate program.

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Funding and Support

Students will be guaranteed full tuition, health insurance and generous stipend support. In addition, room and board will be provided during the first summer rotation at the MBL. After joining an MBL lab, students will be provided with funds to travel to Chicago for committee meetings and other events. Finally, students in the program will be eligible for an additional research allowance to be used at their discretion for research support or to attend meetings. Funds will also be available to students in UChicago labs to spend time at the MBL to foster collaborative research.

MBL Faculty Research Interests

MBL scientists are engaged in cutting-edge research dedicated to scientific discovery in fundamental biology. There is a robust cadre of investigators with year-round laboratories, who are joined by hundreds of students and visiting researchers over the course of each year, making the Woods Hole community a unique environment to study, conduct research and engage with scientists from all over the world. Faculty affiliated with the DSRB and IB Programs conduct research across disciplines including cell biology, developmental and regenerative biology, neuroscience, sensory physiology, and comparative evolution and genomics. To learn more about the training faculty see the research interests of Karen EcheverriAndrew Gillis, Jennifer MorganNipam PatelJoshua Rosenthal, and Zak Swartz.

Karen Echeverri
An Axolotl at MBL.

Karen Echeverri

Associate Scientist, Bell Center

The ability to regenerate complex tissue has fascinated scientists for a long time. The Echeverri lab is interested in the cell and molecular mechanisms driving regeneration. We study regeneration in axolotls; salamanders well known for their ability to functionally regenerate multiple body parts, including limbs, tail, heart, eyes and jaw and in addition can repair lesions in the brain and heal all wounds without forming scar tissue. My group uses cell and molecular tools combined with in vivo imaging and genomics approaches to decipher the key circuitry and cellular mechanisms that are essential to promote functional regeneration.

About Karen's work

Andrew Gillis
An early skate embryo, with the different embryonic tissues segmented and false-colored for illustrative purposes.
An early skate embryo, with the different embryonic tissues segmented and false-colored for illustrative purposes.

Andrew Gillis

Associate Scientist, Bay Paul Center

The Gillis Lab studies embryonic development of the skeletal, sensory, and neuroendocrine systems of vertebrate animals. Our work uses a comparative approach and a diverse array of emerging and established model organisms to reconstruct the origin and early evolution of the vertebrate body plan. Current lines of research include 1) development, growth and repair of the vertebrate skeleton, 2) serial homology and the origin of anatomical novelty, and 3) the evolution of neuroendocrine cell type diversity.

Jen Morgan
Image of a lamprey spinal cord showing many axons (green) regenerating across the injury site (center).
Image of a lamprey spinal cord showing many axons (green) regenerating across the injury site (center).

Jennifer Morgan

Senior Scientist, Bell Center

The Morgan lab uses the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) to elucidate mechanisms of nervous system degeneration and regeneration. Lampreys have a remarkable ability to regenerate axons and synapses after spinal injury, leading to functional recovery of swimming and other locomotor behaviors. We study these regenerative processes using transcriptomics, imaging, physiology and behavior. Moreover, lampreys possess a subset of giant synapses within the spinal cord that are amenable to acute molecular perturbations, allowing us to study synapse biology in health and disease. We are currently modeling how Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases impact synapses.

Nipam Patel
Patel Research Graphic

Nipam Patel

MBL Director

My lab works to uncover both developmental and evolutionary mechanisms in a variety of animals that help us understand the generation of biodiversity, with a recent focus on the crustacean, Parhyale, and several species of butterflies.  We use Parhyale to understand the role of Hox genes and other developmental genes in building and evolving body plans and also investigate the mechanisms that allows this species to regenerate its germline.  With butterflies, we are working to discover how single scale cells create the impressive nanostructures they use for structural coloration, without which they would be greatly restricted in the pallet of colors available to them.

Joshua Rosenthal
squid hatchlings
Albino and pigmented Euprymna berryi hatchlings.

Josh Rosenthal

Senior Scientist, Bell Center

Research in the Rosenthal Lab focuses on the editing of genetic information in mRNA. Rosenthal and collaborators discovered that cephalopods edit neuronal messages at unusually high levels, orders of magnitude more frequently than other organisms. Current research examines the mechanistic basis of high-level RNA editing in cephalopods, and how the process is influenced by environmental factors. In addition, the Rosenthal lab is leading efforts to create a genetically tractable cephalopod model at the MBL. In parallel to the cephalopod studies, the lab also focuses on the use of RNA editing as a platform for human therapeutics, partnering with biotech in Cambridge, MA and collaborative academic teams to edit away chronic pain and genetic mutations.

Zac Swartz Headshot
The sea star Patiria miniata. Photo credit: Conor Gearin

Zak Swartz

Assistant Scientist, Bell Center

Research in the Swartz Lab is focused on understanding how animals make eggs, and how eggs make animals. The laboratory is defining molecular mechanisms that underly the development of an egg from its precursor cell, the oocyte. To address these questions, they are working at the interface between cell biology and development, with the sea star Patiria miniata and its relatives. Sea stars produce millions of oocytes throughout their lives, and are amenable to an extensive range of molecular and genetic tools, as well as high resolution light microscopy. As relatives to the animal group that includes vertebrates like ourselves, the sea star can teach us important lessons relevant for human reproductive health, disease, and aging.

The MBL is a great place where a bunch of scientists come together to share ideas—but it’s not extremely formal. By being in both MBL and UChicago you have access to all of these resources. My advice is to take advantage of the UChicago resources and then apply those to MBL. See what resources are available and get the best out of them.

Neeharika Verma, Student, MBL / UChicago Graduate Program
Slideshow of people, research organisms and the campus at MBL.