High School Science Discovery Program

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!