The MBL Associates Research Awards & Scholarships
Associates Research Award 2011
Reza Vafabakhsh is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Physics. The theme of his PhD is to use different single molecule techniques to study fundamental DNA and RNA properties as well as DNA-protein interactions. His evaluator writes, Reza is an outstanding student and is one of the best Ive had among 20 PhD students in the last 10 years. His physics knowledge and analytical skills are at the highest level found in my physics department.
Endowed Student Scholarship 2011
Kim L. Hoke is an assistant professor at Colorado State University and Daphne Soares is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. The title of their collaborative research project is Environmental influences on sensory-motor integration and behavior. Dr. Hoke and Dr. Soares write, While the effects of experience on behavior are nearly ubiquitous, we have few empirical examples in which we understand in detail how the environment alters a neural circuit to influence the nuances of behavioral output. We have recently proposed that sensory-motor integration should be a particularly flexible component of neural circuitry amenable to plasticity. We propose novel experiments to address whether plasticity in sensory motor integration contributes substantially to behavioral differences caused by environmental conditions during development. In Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) exposure to predator chemical cues during development induces plastic changes in escape response. We will characterize morphological and physiological properties within the well-defined neural circuit regulating this robust behavior to relate experience-dependent cellular changes within the sensory-motor integrator to behavioral output.
Associates Research Awards 2009
Kristina Mead is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Denison University in Ohio. Dr. Mead is a neuroscientist who got a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1996. She was a postdoctoral Grass Fellow at the MBL in 1998 where she developed an interest in marine models. Dr. Mead returned to the MBL during the fall of 2008 as an MBL Fellow for a sabbatical leave in order to continue her interest in how grass shrimp are able to sense their environment, smelling the water in order to adapt. She continued her studies of olfaction during the summer of 2009 in a lab in the Marine Resources Center, with financial assistance from the MBL Associates.
Robert Savage is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Dr. Savage is a developmental biologist who got his Ph.D. from Wesleyan University in 1993. He is the current Director of the Williams-MBL summer research program, which support undergraduate students and their mentors in independent research at the MBL. He continued his studies of a gene called hunchback, which is important in the process of embryo differentiation, in model marine invertebratesthe leeches and annelid worms. Understanding development in these more basic organisms has given us important insights into human development. These models continue to be central to ongoing work in this field that has importance for developmental biology, reproduction, and regenerative biology.
Harold Zakon is a Professor of Neurobiology and Chair of the Section of Neurobiology in the Department of Zoology, University of Texas at Austin. He is also an adjunct Senior Scientist in the Bay Paul Center at the MBL and has a long-standing collaborative relationship with MBL Scientist. Dr. Zakon studies evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), which attempts to understand how organisms evolved and how these changes are reflected in development of individuals leading to changes in structure and function of a species. He focuses in particular on how muscles have developed through evolution to meet different needs. Dr. Zakon focused on the zebrafish as a model organism for his summer research in 2009, since it is representative of the largest class of vertebrates, the vertebrate fishes, and since this model has powerful genetic tools associated with it that allow researchers to ask very sophisticated questions about gene regulation and developmental biology.
Endowed Student Scholarship 2009
From a letter written by Katrien De Mulder, recipient of the Associates Endowed Student Scholarship in 2009:
I would really like to thank you for your financial support for my participation in the outstanding MBL Embryology course in Woods Hole this summer.
Participation in this course was an amazing experience
The course offered a broad and balanced view of modern issues on developmental biology, which was excellently based in an evolutionary context.
I believe that the experience I got during this summer course, concerning both the techniques and discussions with leading members of the filed, will have a significant influence on my future career
Katrien De Mulder, University of Ghent, Department of Biology, Ghent, Belgium