High School Science Discovery Program

Images captured by students from St. Anne’s Belfield School on the LSM 780 confocal.
MBL’s Senior Scientist and Director of the National Xenopus Center (NXR), Marko Horb, teaches St. Anne’s-Belfield School students Isabel Franks and Hannah Trebour how to use a microinjection rig.
St. Anne’s-Belfield School student Luke Antesberger looks through a Zeiss dissecting microscope.
MBL’s Senior Scientist and Director of Research, David Mark Welch, teaches St. Anne’s-Belfield School students Duy Nguyen, Victor Jiao, Sophia Dean, and Jack Riley how to prepare DNA for sequencing on third generation nanopore MinION technology.
MBL’s Director, Nipam Patel, teaches St. Anne’s-Belfield School students Luke Antesberger, Alex Greer, and Jack Riley how to view pigment on butterfly wings through a dissecting microscope.
MBL’s National Xenopus Resource Assistant Manager, Sean McNamara instructs St. Anne’s-Belfield students Eve Cai, Isabel Franks, Hannah Trebour, Isabella Frank, Victor Jiao, and Duy Nguyen on microinjection techniques.
MBL’s Marine Resources Technician and Outreach Coordinator, Scott Bennett, explains how to do a field collection to St. Anne’s-Belfield School students Isabella Frank, Victor Jiao, Sophia Dean, Alex Greer, Eve Cai, and Natalie Mackethan.
MBL’s Director of Marine Resources, Dave Remsen, identifies specimens collected by students off a dock on Eel Pond. St. Anne’s-Belfield School students shown left to right: Jack Riley, Duy Nguyen, and Eve Cai.
St. Anne’s-Belfield School student, Eve Cai watches as MBL Research Assistant Anthony Rodríguez-Vargas shows her how to use a microinjection needle to conduct CRISPR Cas9 gene editing.
St. Anne’s-Belfield School students, Eve Cai and Duy Nguyen use pipettes for PCR preparation prior to DNA sequencing.
St. Anne’s Belfield School students collect specimens on the shore of the Great Harbor. Left to Right: Duy Nguyen, Andrea Beardsley (teacher), Noah Keller, Todd Jarry (teacher), Victor Jiao, Jack Riley, Sophia Dean, Luke Antesberger, Hannah Trebour, Isabel Franks, Isabella Frank, Natalie Mackethan, Eve Cai, and Alex Greer.
Sign-up for UpdatesThe Marine Biological Laboratory has expanded upon the successful model used in MBL’s world-renowned Advanced Research Training Courses for pre- and postdoctoral trainees to apply to high school students. Our High School Science Discovery Program Courses immerse students in a variety of current research and offer hands-on experience with cutting-edge research techniques used to answer some of the most important scientific questions of our time. The courses are taught by MBL’s community of resident faculty, technical experts, and Whitman Center scientists.

Course Offerings

Coral Reefs in a Changing World

This course explores coral reef ecosystems—from cell to reef. Students learn about the symbiotic relationship between coral and dinoflagellates, as well as life on a Woods Hole “coral reef,” through hands-on experiences with micro and macroscopic imaging rechniques. Key principles of the biology and ecology of corals are covered. By course end, students can describe key Cnidarian characteristics, identify key threats to coral reef systems, and utilize different tools—from imaging to mapping—used in coral research.

Anatomy and Development of Marine Vertebrates and Invertebrates

The course focuses on anatomy, development, and physiology of marine species. Lab work incorporates advanced microscopy and imaging techniques, including the opportunity to create time-lapse videos and 3D reconstructions, and explores animal husbandry and research. Students learn how major organ systems develop during embryogenesis, how scientists understand organ formation during normal development, and how errors in this process lead to birth defects.

Exploring Microbiomes of Marine Organisms with DNA Sequencing

Microbiome research is a new and significant aspect of biology and medicine. This course focuses on the microbial communities associated with marine model organisms. Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of microbiome science through a combination of lectures, group discussion, laboratory work—including state-of-the-art molecular techniques—and computer exercises.

CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing of Aquatic and Marine Organisms

In this course students will learn how the revolutionary genome editing technology CRISPR/Cas9 works and will apply it in the lab to explore basic biological questions as well as the implications it has for improving human health. Genome editing will be used to understand zebrafish development, a key biomedical research species. Students will manipulate development genes to understand embryogenesis and organ formation and their connection to understanding human health and birth defects. The course will expose students to modern methods in microscopy. The ethical implications of genome editing will also be discussed.

Adaptation and Evolution in Response to Environmental Challenges

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.

Program Opportunities

  • Authentic and unique: Leading scientists engage students and expand their knowledge and hands-on experience
  • Interdisciplinary (STEAM) curriculum: Incorporates topical scientific problems, techniques, and breakthrough research
  • Can be adaptable to curriculum needs
  • Opportunities for visiting teachers: Partnership opportunities for program and professional development

Course Design

  • Pre- and post-course preparation and activities
  • Mix of didactic and active, hands-on research experiences
  • All courses incorporate cutting-edge microscopy and computer image analysis

Tuition Cost

$2500 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, and Adaptation and Evolution in Response to Environmental Challenges.

$1250 per student for the three-day CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing of Aquatic and Marine Organisms course.

Tuition cost includes room and board, lab supplies & equipment, activities, and more.

Points of Contact

Linda Hyman, Burroughs Wellcome Director of Education, Marine Biological Laboratory

Jean Enright, Manager of Student Affairs and Undergraduate Programs, Administrator, High School Science Discovery Program, Marine Biological Laboratory

More information:

Check out our Student Experiences page for news and updates from the MBL and participating schools!