Rooms in the center of the Loeb lab building
are equipped with advanced, high-resolution
microscopes. The instruments are booked in
three-hour shifts 24 hours a day, and a look
at the sign-up sheet revealed that there were
bookings even for the 3:00 am-6:00 am slot.
On Sundays, students catch up on sleep.
The intensity creates lasting friendships and
scientific collaborations. Hari Shroff, who is
now an instructor, was a Physiology student in
2006. Shroff and three of his Physiology friends
ended up taking a six-week roadtrip across
Europe in 2009. They still stay in touch. Course
directors Mullins and Waterman first worked
together while Physiology students in 1993 and
now collaborate during the summer.
Losing Their Fear
For what they gain at MBL, one thing
Physiology students leave behind is fear. “I
lost the fear of feeling stupid,” one student
said. Other students say they lost their fear of
exploring new directions in research or even of
ditching a project that’s not progressing. “Here
there’s not much at stake, people are exploring,
having fun, learning new things,” says Vale. “I
think that over time we learn to not be afraid of
asking dumb questions.”
“I try to get everyone to take the Physiology
course,” said Rob Phillips, Physiology course
instructor and professor at California Institute
of Technology. “They come home as different
people. One of the things they leave with is a
fearlessness that they didn’t have. I think that
that’s very important in science to play around
and try stuff...then you’re more inclined when
you go home to try things.”
Despite the long hours, the students do have
a unique MBL kind of fun in the lab. Squirt
guns were scattered around lab benches and
break areas. In the corner of the break room
there was a stack of foam pool noodles. Students
disagreed on the purpose of the noodles. One
student said they were to keep speakers to time
during seminars, whacking those who run over.
Another explained they kept time just by being
held aloft. A third person said the noodles were
cilia used in cellular reenactments.
To celebrate the end of the course, students
and instructors took an MBL research vessel
to a private beach in the nearby Elizabeth
Islands for a lobster feast. On the voyage out,
the Physiology students lined the rail. After a
summer deep in the microscopic world, they
finally had a chance to see the macroscopic beauty
of Woods Hole.
— Christina Szalinski
Vale RD, DeRisi J, Phillips R, Mullins RD, Waterman
C, Mitchison TJ (2012). Graduate education.
Interdisciplinary graduate training in teaching labs.
are booked in
24 hours a day,
and a look at
that there were
for the 3:00 am-
6:00 am slot.
NIGMS Hosting Online “Cell Day” for Young
Students: Join Live or View Later
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is hosting an
interactive Web chat for middle and high school students on cell biology and
careers in research. Students can post questions and get answers from NIGMS staff
You are welcome to log on and view the chat live on Friday, November 1, anytime between 10 am and 3 pm. You may also
access the transcript the following week. More information about Cell Day is available at
Are You Getting
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