“It’s intense—and enjoyable,” said undergraduate student Savy Johnson of the new course that has landed her on the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Woods Hole campus for three weeks this September.
Johnson is taking “Observing Proteins in Action: How to Design and Build Your Own Instruments,” one of three new courses at MBL offered to UChicago undergraduates in any major. Thirty-five students signed up for one of these pilot “MBL September Courses,” which take place before UChicago’s Autumn Quarter classes begin.
“These courses are part of our regular fall term. The students will take the remaining three courses of the quarter when they get back to Chicago,” said Jocelyn Malamy, associate professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at UChicago and an MBL Whitman Center scientist.
“We are taking our first steps forward to really integrate course opportunities at the MBL into our mainstream curriculum,” said Malamy, who spearheaded these courses in her role as master of the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division at the University.
The enrolled students’ majors are diverse—from biology to geophysical sciences to economics to theater. All UChicago students must take two quarters of biology, and these MBL courses count toward that requirement.
Faculty from both the University and MBL are teaching the courses, which explicitly “take advantage of the wonderful scientific and ecological resources of the MBL location,” Malamy said.
And the course faculty have elected to adopt the model the MBL has developed for its immersive Advanced Research Training Courses: Lectures in the morning, lab and field work in the afternoon, and the opportunity for students to develop independent research projects.
“Three weeks is a tight time frame, but nevertheless, the University of Chicago kids are amazing. I think they’ll be able to do some really great [projects],” Malamy said.
A display of diverse projects
After five days, the 12 undergraduates in the “Microbiomes Across Environments” course had come up with 12 different research projects, “and a lot of them had done their sampling or analysis or set up their experiments. I was just blown away by how hands-on they became, so quickly,” said Jack Gilbert, faculty director of the Microbiome Center at the University of Chicago and co-director of the MBL course with David Mark Welch, director of the MBL Division of Research.