Course Description

Biomedical Hands-on Research Course

SJP fellows in biomed lab 2015 Credit_RachaelBuchanan524sm

The foundation for our understanding of the cellular and molecular basis of human disease is basic research using non-human cells and model systems. Indeed, the highly conserved nature of cellular organization across species allows investigators to study simple model systems that inform how human cells function. In many cases, human pathologies may be modeled in these simpler organisms, allowing for a more mechanistic understanding of human disease or the validation of drug targets.

Many of the fundamental discoveries regarding the basic structure and function of cells were made in marine organisms, often at the Marine Biological Laboratory. With today’s rapid advances in genomic and imaging technologies, these organisms are again finding utility in biomedical research. In this course, we will use both genetic model systems and marine invertebrates to highlight not only the beauty and dynamics of living cells, but also the kinds of questions and approaches currently used in basic biomedical research.

Over the course of ten days, fellows will gain exposure to the fundamental techniques and concepts of cell and molecular biology that provide the basic elements underlying many approaches to modern-day biomedical research. The main emphasis is on hands-on activities; for example, fellows will use state-of-the-art instrumentation to image living cells and will prepare samples for multicolor fluorescence microscopy. In this respect, the Logan Science Journalism Program at the MBL gives fellows the unique opportunity to experience first-hand how basic biomedical researchers approach questions, at an institution renown for its contributions to our understanding of life at the cellular and molecular levels.

At the end of the course, fellows will interpret and present some of their laboratory data to their colleagues at a mini-symposium.

In addition to spending time at the lab bench, fellows will discuss topics with scientists ranging from the techniques applied in the laboratory to the culture and politics of science. Laboratory and discussion topics will include:

Introduction to model organisms

  • Genetic model organisms
  • Experimental model organisms, including marine models
  • Model organism approaches to studying human disease


Introduction to cell and developmental biology

  • Cell organization, division and motility
  • Membrane organelles
  • Events of early development
  • Light microcopy and imaging
  • Protein biochemistry

Topics in molecular biology

  • Review of the central dogma
  • Genetic manipulation of gene expression
  • CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing

Genomics and proteomics

  • Next generation DNA sequencing
  • Bioinformatic analyses

Culture and politics of science

  • How do scientists fund their research?
  • How do government agencies decide on funding priorities?
  • Publishing and scientific misconduct

Photos (top): Rachael Buchanan