Oct 2013 WEB - page 10

prep. They start helping one another with things
that they’re good at,” said Vale over the hum of
a vortexer.
Struggling over Tough Questions
After boot camp, the students spend two
intensive weeks in three different areas of
research. During each rotation, students work
in small groups with assigned faculty leaders to
conduct experiments and analyze data to address
scientific questions that instructors bring to the
course. “We [instructors] try to bring questions
that we struggle over as much as the students
do... so we can struggle together” said Dyche
Mullins, one of two course directors and a
UCSF professor. The process produces results.
Physiology students published 23 research
papers and presented 59 meeting abstracts
between 2005 and 2012.
This summer at least four students will be
presenting their work from MBL at the ASCB
Annual Meeting. Einat Schnur, postdoc at the
London Research Institute, Ernest Heimsath,
postdoc at the National Institutes of Health
(NIH), Batbileg Bor, graduate student at the
University of California, Los Angeles, and
Sofia Espinoza Sanchez, graduate student at
Yale, worked together on a cell motility project
with guidance from course instructor Jennifer
Lippincott-Schwartz, who is ASCB President-
Elect, an intramural investigator at the NIH,
and an expert on emerging “big data” imaging
technologies. Their work was based on the
observation that when sea urchin eggs are torn
open, the cytoplasm does not disperse, but
gets sucked back in. “What are the underlying
proteins and mechanisms involved in that
process?” Heimsath and his lab partners wanted
to know. They looked at mammalian COS-
7 cells that expressed tagged annexinA2, a
calcium-dependent membrane binding protein.
It took only 13 days for the group to generate
data and a first draft.
A day for the Physiology students begins at
8:30 am with breakfast in the MBL cafeteria,
across from the dorms and labs. Physiology
students usually sit together, often joined by
course instructors and course directors. After
breakfast, course instructors and prominent
scientists give talks. By lecture’s end, students
are ready to get to the lab. They work until
around noon before trooping back to the
cafeteria, where lab talk doesn’t stop. Then more
experiments until dinner, and more lab work
after that.
Thinking without PowerPoint
Every day at 5:00 pm, students take turns giving
a 30-minute “chalk talk” with white board
markers. Why no PowerPoint? “You have to be
able to do a chalk talk because in the middle of
any scientific discussion you have to be able to
go to the board and explain what you are talking
about. You don’t always have PowerPoint to lean
on,” Mullins explained.
Several times each week lab groups working
in similar research areas meet together to
discuss results. During these meetings, course
directors and instructors challenge students to
think critically about their experiments. “Are
you using the right technique to answer the
question?” asked Clare Waterman, who is the
other Physiology course director and an NIH
intramural researcher.
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