Spring Quarter at MBL

Applications for the Spring Quarter program are currently open!
Apply HERE

Read an article generated from student research during Spring Quarter.

In Spring 2024 we are pleased to once again, offer courses at The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA.  The programs offer specific opportunities for students interested in the biological sciences and neuroscience.  Students can customize the courses they'll take based on their own interest in these topic areas - see the options below.

Click Here to read a story documenting the 2021 Spring Quarter at MBL!



       Module 1

        Module 2

      Module 3

  Students Choose One Students Choose One Students Choose One

BIOS 27750

Stem Cells & Regeneration 

BIOS 20198


BIOS 27751 /

ENSC 25000

Biological Oceanography


NSCI 21510 /

BIOS 27753

Fundamentals of Synapses

  BIOS 27724 /

NSCI 21515 

Introduction to Imaging for Biological Research

NSCI 21530 /

BIOS 27752

Dynamic Camouflage


PHYS 12400

Physics III

  and (optional) and (optional)  

ARTV 10100*

On Images

ARTV 10100*

On Images


*The art course, On Images, is optional and can be used to fulfill the general education requirement in the Arts.  On Images is taken in addition to the courses chosen in modules 1 and 2.  

Click below to learn more about the Spring Quarter program!


Program Information

    The MBL Spring Quarter will run from March 18 to May 24, 2024.  

    Please note the program continues through UChicago finals week. Students will be able to return to Chicago in time for Class Day and Convocation. 

    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, and will be automatically applied to the program fee for students who are accepted into the program.

    Applications for the Spring Quarter program are now closed.

    Apply for the program next year!

    Priority Admission Deadline: TBA

    Rolling Admission Deadline: TBA

Course Descriptions

    Dr. Andrew Gillis   

    This course presents an overview of the diversity of living organisms, including archaea, bacteria, single-celled eukaryotes, fungi, plants, and animals, with an emphasis on their evolutionary histories, relationships, and the biological and evolutionary implications of the characteristic features of each group. We will explore how these different lineages have evolved remarkable solutions to challenges in locomotion, metabolism, and life in extreme environments.  Work in the lab will take advantage of the diversity of organisms that live around, or are maintained at, The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA.

    Dr. 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.

    SEA (Sea Education Association

    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 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. During a 9-day 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.  During the final few days of the course on shore, students will analyze and interpret the data they collected and present their results in written and oral reports.

    Dr. Louis Kerr     Dr. 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.

    Dr. Roger Hanlon

    This course takes an integrative approach to understanding a neurally controlled system of dynamic defense against visual predators. Camouflage is a widespread form of defense throughout the animal kingdom in every known habitat - land or sea. In the oceans, cephalopods (cuttlefish, octopus, squid) have evolved a sophisticated sensorimotor system called Rapid Adaptive Coloration, which can instantaneously change their total body appearance within a fraction of a second to range from highly camouflaged to startlingly conspicuous for a wide range of behaviors. The forms and functions of this dynamic system will be teased apart in integrative fashion in a top-down approach from ecology to organismal biology to organs, tissues and cells. The course touches on neural anatomy, sensation, visual perception (including psychophysics) and animal behavior. There are also applied biology aspects of this system that will be presented as well.

    J. Morgan,  J. Rosenthal

    In this course, students will learn about the fundamentals of synapses, from molecular analysis to structure and function. Marine and aquatic models have historically provided a unique opportunity to investigate synaptic function due to the large size of their neurons, including the synaptic connections. Today, these synapse models are used to study basic principles of neuron-to-neuron communication (synaptic transmission), as well as disease mechanisms. In addition to lectures and discussions of key literature, this course will feature hands-on laboratory-based exercises in molecular genetics, imaging and physiology of synapses, as well as independent "discovery" projects to explore new topics in synapse biology.

    Dr. Patrick LaRiviere      Dr. 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.

    Instructor TBA         

    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.