MBL Spring Quarter

The University of Chicago is pleased to offer a Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Spring Quarter in Spring 2021.  

Building on the success of the MBL Fall Quarter, The MBL Spring Quarter will allow a small group of students from all majors to safely take in-person classes in the sciences.  Students will build their own schedule from a menu of 3-week immersive courses.  In the first 3-week module, students can choose either an MBL version of Physics III or a hands-on course on Imaging for Biological Research (BIOS 27724).  In the second module, students will take a research-focused biology course Stem Cells and Regeneration (BIOS 27750).  The quarter culminates with Biological Oceanography (BIOS 27751), a uniquely MBL course that will hopefully include the option of 10-day sea voyage for data collection.  These three courses comprise a full quarter 3-course schedule.  However, students may also register for a Visual Language course that can be used to fulfill the general education requirement in the Arts, or they may register for a remote University of Chicago course to create a 4-course schedule.  

All courses in this program are open to students from all majors.  There are no pre-requisites for any of the courses (aside from Physics III).  All BIOS courses can be counted towards the Biology major.  Alternatively, completion of any two of the BIOS courses can be used to fulfill the General Education requirement in Biological Sciences.  Despite the lack of pre-requisites, please be aware that the immersive nature of the program and the research-focused course content is only suitable for students with a strong interest in research in biological science.

The MBL Spring Quarter will run from March 29 to June 4, 2021.  Students will likely be required to arrive at MBL on March 20 - March 22 for a one week quarantine prior to beginning classes. Please note the program continues through UChicago finals week. Students must stay for the entire time period to receive credit. Students will be able to return to Chicago in time for Class Day and Convocation. 

Cost and Financial Aid

Program Fee: $6,000

The program fee includes all housing, food and course supplies. Travel costs are not included. Need-based financial aid is available.

Registration Process

Registration for Spring 2021 is closed.  

Welcome to MBL!



The MBL Spring Quarter will include three three-week immersive courses taught in-person at MBL.  Students may choose to add a Visual Arts course taught at MBL or a remote UChicago course.  (Note that any remote courses must accommodate a 10 day absence at the end of the quarter while students are at sea.)

 Course 1: 

PHYS 12300XX  Optics, waves and modern physics at the MBL          


BIOS 27724 Imaging for Biological Research

 Course 2: 

BIOS27750  Stem Cells and Regeneration: From aquatic research organisms to mammals

 Course 3: 

BIOS 27751  Biological Oceanography

 Course 4 (optional): 

ARTV 10100  Visual Language: On Images (Optional)

Pre-requisites for the Spring Quarter at MBL are:

  • Physics 12200  *(if you are planning to take Physics 12300XX)

Course Descriptions

PHYS 12300XX  Optics, waves and modern physics at the MBL  

Patrick LaRiviere      Rudolf Oldenburg

This course, consisting of lecture and extensive inquiry based lab work, will cover the same essential material as PHYS 12300 and can be substituted for PHYS 12300 in all biological sciences programmatic requirements. However, it will also exploit opportunities and resources unique to the MBL. The course will also provide students the opportunity to understand the physical principles underlying some of the instruments they will use in other portions of the course, such as fluorescence and polarized-light microscopes and the acoustic doppler current profilers and chirp-based SONAR systems that will be used on the research vessel. The course will have a significant research and exploration component.

BIOS 27724  Imaging for Biological Research

Nipam Patel      Louis Kerr     Carsten Wolff

Imaging has been, and continues to be, a critical tool in biological research.  This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of imaging, but will quickly advance to discussing cutting edge advancements in the field.  More importantly, the course will focus on hands-on opportunities to use state-of-the art microscopes, as well as provide an opportunity for students to design and execute an original research project which makes use of the skills gained during the course.  Students will begin by building their own, simple microscopes, and then move on to learning how to use confocal and electron microscopes, as well as mastering techniques for fixed and live sample preparation.  In addition, students will analyze the data they collect using several software tools.  Lectures will be designed to introduce each topic, as well as highlight limitations and challenges in the field.

  • Physics and Imaging for Biological Research cannot be taken concurrently.

BIOS 27750  Stem Cells and Regeneration: From Aquatic Research Organisms to Mammals

Karen Echeverri

This course will focus on contemporary stem cell biology and regeneration with emphasis on molecular mechanisms and applications. The course will cover the history of stem cell discoveries through the latest advances, including genome-wide profiling, targeted gene editing, and other techniques used in stem cell and regeneration research. A portion of the course will consist of modules where specific stem cell types will be discussed together with relevant diseases they could impact (i.e. stem cells and neurodegeneration). A focus of the course will be around how discoveries in aquatic research organisms have driven the progress in regeneration biology.  In this classroom and lab based course, students will have the opportunity to work on an independent research project under the supervision of a Resident Faculty at MBL. The lab portion of the course will introduce and provide hands-on experience on experimental approaches and techniques used in cell biology, development, and regeneration research. There will be a focus on microscopy (brightfield, fluorescence, high-resolution microscopy) and use of open source software to analyze images. There will be an introduction into the use of stains, antibodies, and genetically-encoded fluorescent markers to analyze cellular structures in aquatic organisms that include axolotls, nematostella, worms, cephlapods and zebrafish. In addition, this course will provide hands-on experience on molecular tools to generate DNA constructs and introduce the use of CRISPR as an important tool to knockdown gene function in genetic and non-genetic experimental systems.

BIOS 27751  Biological Oceanography

Jeff Schell          Kerry Whitaker

This three-week course addresses fundamental oceanographic processes that maintain and structure marine biodiversity and productivity, including physical oceanographic processes of dispersal and upwelling, environmental selection, biogeography, nutrient dynamics, primary production, and food web dynamics. Students will design an original research project during an initial week-long shore component at MBL, and then address their own questions by collecting samples and data aboard Sea Education Association (SEA)’s oceanographic research sailing vessel, the SSV Corwith Cramer, on an offshore voyage (safety permitting). At sea, students will deploy oceanographic instruments, interpret various data streams, and work as research teams and watch members as they navigate and sail the vessel. If safety does not allow for the offshore portion of the course, an alternative onshore research component will explore diverse local marine ecosystems including estuaries, salt marshes, and coastal embayments. During a final week-long shore component at MBL, students will analyze and interpret the data they collected and present their results in written and oral reports.

ARTV 10100  Visual Language: On Images

Frances Lee         Nipam Patel

The curriculum for this course will use four methodologies in the understanding of images: Observation, Analysis, Production and Critique. We will work through a series of individual and group assignments to understand how images have meaning and can communicate as a kind of language. Taught on site at the Marine Biology Laboratory, we will use the surrounding environment of the lab and landscape to think through the topics of the course such as nature and culture, illusion, camouflage and adaptive color, analogy, metaphor, subjectivity and the role of the author. Students will use the formal concepts of line, value, texture, color, scale, repetition and positive/negative space to think critically about how images mediate knowledge. The goal of this intensive studio course is to investigate aspects of visual art through hands-on processes, research into historical and contemporary artistic practices, and critical discussions in order to develop our ability to read and respond to the visual world.

  • Visual Language: On Images is an optional course. Completion will fulfill the general education requirement in the arts.  If you have already fulfilled your core arts requirement and would like to take this course, you will get credit for a general elective.