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For Immediate Release: July 20, 2010
Contact: Diana Kenney, 508-289-7139; dkenney@mbl.edu

MBL’s Biological Discovery in Woods Hole Program Supports Undergraduate Research

The 2010 Biological Discovery in Woods Hole program undergraduate students, from left: Samantha Lindemann, Kelly Harrington, Kurt Isaac-Elder, Cassandra Childs, Tim Eisen, Sophia Booth, Allan Augillard, Chelsea Connelly, Shavonn Smith, and Solymar Rivera. Click for larger image.

WOODS HOLE, MA—Ten undergraduates from universities across the United States are spending the summer performing research at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) as part of the inaugural year of the Biological Discovery in Woods Hole (BDWH) program.

The BDWH students, who are paired with MBL scientists as research mentors, join the more than 470 advanced graduate students and post-docs who come to the MBL each summer to study and perform research.

“We have what we think is an excellent group of undergraduates coming from a wide variety of locations and institutions,” says Paul Malchow, a faculty member at University of Illinois, Chicago, who co-founded BDWH with Allen Mensinger of University of Minnesota, Duluth.

The program provides promising juniors and seniors with research experiences they may not have access to at their own institutions. MBL investigators with expertise in molecular and cell biology, neurobiology and behavior, physiology, developmental biology, ecology, and evolutionary biology are guiding the students. The program is funded by a National Science Foundation – Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) grant.

“There are not many opportunities for research at small colleges,” says Sophia Booth, a BDWH student from Colorado College, who is working with Malchow this summer. “I think these REUs are awesome. I love research.”

The BDWH students will present their research findings at a symposium at 1 PM on August 19 in Speck Auditorium, Rowe Laboratory, 10 MBL Street, Woods Hole. The event is free and open to the public.

BDWH student Solymar Rivera of University of Puerto Rico, Cayey, says that this is her first research opportunity. She is learning how to study tissues at the microscopic level with MBL visiting investigator Peggy Edds-Walton of Loyola University. “My mentor is eager to teach me and show me new techniques,” Rivera says.

Some of Rivera’s colleagues in the program are also new to lab work. “I decided to come here because I wanted to know if I like research,” says Shavonn Smith of Ursinus College, who has been working with lobsters and pill bugs under MBL visiting investigator Hans Laufer of University of Connecticut.

Other students have prior research experience and are looking for something new. Tim Eisen of Brown University previously performed organic chemistry research but is using his time at the MBL to study insulin secretion in pancreatic cells. “So much of organic chemistry is working from the bottom up,” he says, “and I’d rather work from the organism down.” Eisen hopes to continue research in biology in graduate school. His BDWH mentor is Emma Heart of the MBL’s Cellular Dynamics Program.

Mensinger is mentoring Samantha Lindemann of the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Like Eisen, she was involved with research before coming to the MBL. However, Mensinger says that she is experiencing a radical change in the “scale” of her research, switching her focus from small zebrafish to one meter-long smooth dogfish.

In addition to conducting research, students attend events several times a week where they meet and hear established researchers speak about life as a scientist. Discussion topics include graduate school applications, choosing a career path, and ethics in science. Students also frequently participate in field trips and group activities.

Mensinger and Malchow say that they are indebted to MBL Director and CEO Gary Borisy, Chief Academic and Scientific Officer Joshua Hamilton, and the MBL Education Office under the leadership of Bill Reznikoff for their support of the establishment of the BDWH program. Borisy and Hamilton are each mentoring a BDWH student. Mensinger and Malchow have long been dedicated to supporting undergraduate research, and they hope BDWH opens doors for students.

Cassandra Childs of Wittenberg University, who has participated in an REU program elsewhere, says, “Every time I have an experience like this it makes me realize just how many options I have for the future.”

The 2010 Biological Discovery in Woods Hole students are:

Allen Augillard, Xavier University
Sophia Booth, Colorado College
Cassandra Childs, Wittenberg University
Chelsea Connelly, Valdosta State University
Tim Eisen, Brown University
Kelly Harrington, Bridgewater State College
Kurt Isaac-Elder, Howard University
Samantha Lindemann, University of Minnesota, Duluth
Solymar Rivera, University of Puerto Rico, Cayey
Shavonn Smith, Ursinus College

—By Sarah Stanley


The MBL is a leading international, independent, nonprofit institution dedicated to discovery and to improving the human condition through creative research and education in the biological, biomedical and environmental sciences. Founded in 1888 as the Marine Biological Laboratory, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Americas.