MBL Spring Research Quarter

The University of Chicago is pleased to offer the first Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Spring Quarter in Biology in Spring 2021. The MBL Spring Quarter is designed for upper-level students. Focused on biological research, MBL Spring Quarter allows students to become completely immersed in one scientific discipline at a time, dividing their days between classroom lectures and independent research in that field under the guidance of UChicago and MBL instructors. An MBL Spring Quarter will mark the transition from “learning about research” to “doing research”—teaching students how to turn their ideas into tractable research questions and initiate independent experiments to address these questions.

With the needs of third- and fourth-year students in mind, the MBL Spring Quarter will include an MBL version of Physics III as well as an optional Visual Language course that can be used to fulfill the general education requirement in the Arts.  Students may elect to take Advanced Imaging instead of Physics III.

The MBL Spring Quarter will run from March 29 to June 11, 2021, although exact dates are subject to changes associated with COVID-19 rescheduling of the academic year.  Please note the program continues through UChicago finals week/Senior 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. Seniors may leave to return to campus on June 10.

Cost and Financial Aid

Program Fee: $5,500

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

Application Process

Applications for Spring Quarter 2021 are now open!  

Apply Here

Deadline:  September 1, 2020

Recorded Zoom Info Session

View the Zoom link below to see a recorded presentation by the staff and faculty that will be involved in the Spring Research Quarter at MBL!



The MBL Spring Quarter will include four intensive courses.

Pre-requisites for the Spring Quarter at MBL in Biological Research are:

  • Three quarters of a Biological Sciences Fundamentals sequence and one of the following: BIOS 20189, BIOS 20190, BIOS 20235 or BIOS 20171  *or by consent 
  • Physics 12200  *if you are planning to take Physics 12300XX

The MBL Spring Quarter will include three intensive courses with an optional fourth course:

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


      BIOS XXXXX Advanced Imaging in Biological Research

 2)  BIOS27750  Stem Cells and Regeneration: from aquatic research organisms to mammals

 3)  BIOS 27751  Biological Oceanography

 4)  ARTV 10100  Visual Language: On Images (Optional)

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 XXXXX Advanced Imaging in Biological Research

Nipam Patel      Louis Kerr

Full Description coming soon.  This course will focus on understanding the theory and use of microscopy and image analysis in biological research.  Students will have the opportunity to work on a variety of microscopes available at MBL and complete research projects in imaging.  

  • This course can be selected in place of Physics 12300XX.  Physics and Advanced Imaging cannot be taken concurrently.

BIOS27750  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 four-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 a 10-day offshore voyage. 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. For students who opt not to participate in the ocean-going component 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.