MBL Announces 2022 Whitman Center Fellows and Early Career Investigators

E.E. Just Fellow Indu Sharma, Hampton University, (right) and her student PaShun Hawkins in Lillie Laboratory in 2021. Credit: Dee Sullivan

A diverse group of 29 scientists from universities and research institutes around the world have been named 2022 Whitman Center Fellows by the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL). These fellowships enable exceptional scientists, including Early Career Fellows, to conduct independent research at the MBL and take advantage of its unique resources and highly collaborative scientific community.

A grid of organisms studied by the 2022 Whitman Fellows
Some of the various organisms studied by the 2022 Whitman Fellows. Credit: Various, see bottom of the page for more detail.

The Whitman Center Fellows will be supported for up to 10 weeks to pursue research, particularly within these fields of strategic vision for MBL:

  • Evolutionary, genetic, and genomic approaches in regenerative biology, developmental biology, and neuroscience, with an emphasis on novel marine organisms
  • Integrated imaging and computational approaches to illuminate cellular function and biology
  • Integrated approaches to the study of microbial communities in coastal environments

“We are thrilled to welcome this year’s Whitman Fellow to campus. Part of the uniqueness of the MBL is our ability to bring scientists together and offer them space, time, inspiration, and support to pursue fundamentally important and creative research,” said Anne Sylvester, Director of the MBL Division of Research.

The MBL provides access to a diversity of marine and other organisms for research, state-of-the-art instrumentation, innovative imaging technologies and research, genome sequencing, and modern laboratory facilities. The Whitman Center scientists interact extensively with the dynamic and creative research environment at MBL, which encompasses its resident scientists and more than 1,400 international faculty, students and lecturers who participate in MBL’s Advanced Research Training Courses.

Using a wide range of experimental research organisms, from the canonical (such as squid) to the novel (such as sea robins), this year’s fellows are pursuing a variety of fundamental research questions related to neuroscience, cell biology and imaging, computation and modeling, regeneration and development, evolution, genomics, marine biology and diversity, microbiomes, and ecosystems and global change.

Several of the 2022 Whitman Fellows are coming to the MBL for the first time to launch a new project, while others will continue research programs they established in the Whitman Center in prior years. 

little skate on a white background
Little skate. Credit: J. Andrew Gillis

Whitman Early Career Fellows

Vincent Boudreau, University of California San Francisco
Stentor pyriformis: a novel model for uncovering the role of symbiosis in regulating photosynthesis

Elizabeth Heath-Heckman, Michigan State University
Applying CRISPR Techniques to the Squid-Vibrio Symbiosis

Amy L Herbert, Stanford University
Sea Robins as a Model for the Genetic Basis of Novel Traits in Vertebrates

Duncan Bernardo Leitch, University of British Columbia
Neurophysiology of Forebrain Circuitry in Crocodilians

Dragomir “Drago” MIlovanovic, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)
Molecular Determinants of Synaptic Vesicle Clustering at Lamprey Synapses

Tetsuto Miyashita, Canadian Museum of Nature
Mapping the Nervous System in a Non-chordate Deuterostome Saccoglossus kowalevskii

Oleg Simakov, University of Vienna
MRC Squid Genomes Inform the Tempo and Mode of Cephalopod Gene Regulatory Network Evolution

Jose Vargas-Muniz, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Developing Marine-Derived Yeasts into Genetically Tractable Cell Division Model Systems

Nicole Beverly Webster, Clark University
Neural Fate Specialization in Spiralia

Elizabeth Wilbanks, University of California Santa Barbara
Co-Evolution from Predators to Mutualists in the “Pink Berry” Microbiome of Sippewissett Marsh

Christina Zaka, North Carolina State University
Single-Cell Regulation of RNA During Embryogenesis using the Marine Model Streblospio benedicti

Whitman Center Fellows

Conxita Avila, University of Barcelona
Global Change and Ecosystems Ecology: Evaluating the Challenges for Marine Benthic Macroorganisms in Polar Waters

Cliff Brangwynne, Princeton University
RNA Phase Transitions

Mark Monroe Emerson, The City College of New York, CUNY
Characterization of Retinal Development in the Little Skate, Leucoraja erinacea

André Fenton, New York University
Integrating Across Levels of Biology to Learn how Memory is Sustained

Edgar R. Gomes, Instituto Medicina Molecular
Cytoskeleton and Endoplasmic Reticulum Crosstalk During Nuclear Positioning

Michael Higley, Yale University
RNA Editing and Homeostatic Plasticity in the Squid Optic Lobe

Jeyaraj Suresh Jesuthasan, Nanyang Technological University
An Investigation of the Amphibian Leydig cell: from Mucosal Immunology to Conservation Biology

Amy Shaub Maddox, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Cell and Developmental Ultrastructure and Dynamics

Veronica Giselle Martinez Acosta, University of the Incarnate Word
Developing a Genetic Toolbox for the Study of Photoreception in a Successful Regenerating Model System

Katherina Ragkousi, Amherst College
Cell Polarity Oscillations in Sea Anemone Epithelia

Sandra Rieger, University of Miami
Determining the role of Anterior Gradient Protein in the regulation of microbial communities during axolotl limb regeneration   

Isabelle “Isa” Schön, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Further Developing Ostracods as Emerging Aquatic Model Organisms for Evolutionary and Biological Research

Jose Ramon de la Torre, San Francisco State University
Developing Members of the Thaumarchaeota into New Research Models for Understanding Evolution of Cellular Structure and Cell Division

Ava J. Udvadia, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Elucidating Evolutionarily Conserved Mechanisms Regulating Successful Optic Nerve Regeneration in Vertebrate Species

Gert Jan C . Veenstra, Radboud University
Evolution and Development of Cardiac Cell Types

Indu Sharma, 2021 E.E. Just Fellow in front of Eel Pond. Credit: Dee Sullivan
E.E. Just Fellow Indu Sharma, Hampton University, in front of Eel Pond in 2021. Credit: Dee Sullivan

E.E. Just Fellows

Mandë Holford, The City University of New York: Hunter College
Venom Evolution, Organogenesis and Physiology Using Conoidean Marine Snails

Sally Bernardina Seraphin, Trinity College
A New Model for ACEs?: Evolutionary Developmental (Evo-Devo) Neurobiology of Stress in Hyloid Frogs

Indu Sharma, Hampton University
The Inherent Cyclic Shape of Bacteria: Does it Relate to Grazing Resistance?

E. E. Just Fellowships at the MBL enable outstanding researchers from groups underrepresented in science, as well as faculty in minority-serving institutions and historically black colleges and universities, to pursue research in residence at the MBL as part of the institution’s Whitman Center Fellowships. The E.E. Just Fellowship covers the cost of on campus housing accommodations for the Fellow and one undergraduate student, graduate student, or assistant, a research supply budget, and laboratory rental fees while awarding participants access to MBL's state-of-the-art instrumentation, innovative imaging technology, genome sequencing infrastructure and expertise, model freshwater and marine organisms, and modern laboratory facilities.

Grid Images (By row from left): Alligator, Credit: Melissa Coleman; Stentor, Credit: CC license; Longfin Squid, Credit: MBL; Acorn worm, Credit: Tom Kleindinst; Little skate, Credit: Andrew Gillis; Sea robin, Credit: Flickr via CC license; Northern Star Coral, Credit: Loretta Roberson; Sea lamprey, Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife; Pink berry microbe, Credit: Elizabeth Wilbanks