Summer at MBL is busy, beautiful, and quickly over, but time is still devoted to planning for the future. Students and early-career scientists looking for their next steps don’t have to go far for advice, because each Wednesday during lunch,the SUCCESS program tackles an important aspect of career planning.

From crafting a resumé to getting funded to choosing a mentor, different career topics are addressed each week by a panel of successful scientists.. The atmosphere is informal, so attendees are comfortable asking questions and sparking discussion.

A quick survey of attendees at last week’s SUCCESS workshop proved roughly half were undergraduates, a quarter were graduate students, and a quarter were post-docs, with a few research technicians and assistants as well. The panel discussion on “Choosing Your Career: Academia and Other Not-for-Profitsoffered something for everyone to consider, regardless of career stage.

Panelist Steve Zottoli, MBL’s Co-Director of Education, stressed the importance of mentors. “Finding the right mentor is so critical. You have to take an active role in finding the right mentor who believes in you so much that they take you to the next level,” he said. As students and early-career scientists find their mentors and their places in the scientific community, the SUCCESS series makes sure they are not without good advice.

SUCCESS workshops are held on Wednesdays through July 29 in the Meigs Room, Swope Center, with lunch beginning at 11:30 AM. The full schedule is here: http:/

The SUCCESS series (Shaping and Understanding Career Choices in Education, Science, and Self) is a project of a dedicated, MBL community-wide committee led by Bill Reznikoff, MBL Director of Education.

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The Arctic researchers who gathered at the MBL in late February found the village in a winter deep-freeze, but this hardy group seemed nonplussed by the cold and piles of snow.

They were in Woods Hole for the Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) annual meeting, hosted by Gaius Shaver and other scientists from the MBL Ecosystems Center. Shaver directs the Arctic LTER—a consortium of environmental scientists from around the country who base their research out of Toolik Field Station, a remote outpost on the North Slope of Alaska.

“You are in the middle of nowhere,” says Samuel Miller about Toolik, which is operated by University of Alaska-Fairbanks. “Besides researchers, nobody goes up there but hunters and oil workers. It’s about as pristine and undeveloped as you can get in the United States.”

Miller, a Ph.D. student with Albert Colman in the University of Chicago’s Department of the Geophysical Sciences, went to Toolik last summer to collect soil samples from various plant communities and from plots of tundra of different glacial ages.

His research taps into a central concern at the Arctic LTER: How do soil microbial communities interact with the vast stores of carbon that are locked in the permafrost (frozen soil), and what will happen to that carbon as the climate warms?

“In a way, the fate of that reservoir of Arctic carbon is the fate of humanity,” Miller says. “It would be a huge positive feedback [to global warming] if a significant portion of it were released from the soil as methane or CO2,”—gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere.

Miller is using leading-edge methods of extracting proteins from his samples to assess the soil’s biology. “Hopefully, we can get some insight into what controls microbial processing of ancient organic matter stored in Arctic soils,” he says.

Ashley Asmus of the University of Texas at Arlington explains her poster at the 2015 Arctic LTER annual meeting at the MBL. Asmus is studying the impact of a tundra fire on the canopy insect food web. Credit: Diana Kenney

Ashley Asmus of the University of Texas at Arlington explains her poster at the 2015 Arctic LTER annual meeting at the MBL. Asmus is studying the impact of a tundra fire on the canopy insect food web. Credit: Diana Kenney

Along with other scientists, Miller showed his Toolik data at a poster session/reception in Loeb Laboratory. For much of the meeting, the 65 scientists discussed the major insights gained from the last six years of Arctic LTER research, which focused on interactions between climate and ecosystem disturbances, such as tundra wildfires. They also worked to chart a course for the next several years at the LTER, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

John Hobbie, retired director of the Ecosystems Center, founded Toolik Field Station in 1975 with a small band of pioneers of Arctic long-term ecosystems studies. Recently, Hobbie and George W. Kling edited a volume that synthesizes forty years of Arctic LTER research at Toolik Lake, including valuable contributions to the emergent field of climate change science.

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By Laurel Hamers

The evolutionary path from single-celled organisms to complex species with higher-order thought processes has been mapped out with some degree of certainty, but how the earliest life forms appeared has proven a more difficult question. What conditions prompted organic molecules to assemble into the building blocks of life?

At the recent Origin of Life Symposium in Lille Auditorium, hosted by the MBL Physiology course, a panel of four distinguished scientists shared their research and opinions on this complex topic.

“What makes this a really important question is not only that it’s fundamental to how we understand biology as a process of living systems, but it’s also really important to how we think about the fate of this planet,” said Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, Physiology course co-director and a principal investigator at the Eunice K. Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Center of the Milky Way Galaxy IV – Composite. Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/CXC/STScI - NASA JPL Photojournal: PIA12348.

Center of the Milky Way Galaxy IV – Composite. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/CXC/STScI – NASA JPL Photojournal: PIA12348.

The first speaker, MBL Distinguished Scientist Mitchell Sogin, gave a broad overview of historical and current theories on the origin of life, with an emphasis on the role of geological diversity. Different geological microenvironments could have generated the building blocks that eventually combined to create habitable environments, he said.

Jack Szostak, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and 2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, took the stage next. He described the problem as a step-by-step process.

“We’re not worried so much about defining exactly where life began,” he said. “I think what’s important is to understand the pathway. There’s a whole series of processes from simple chemistry to more complicated chemistry, building up the building blocks of biology,” Szostak said. “The goal for the field for the moment is to understand one continuous pathway from chemistry to biology.”

Nilesh Vaidya, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, discussed research on spontaneous RNA assembly that he had carried out as a graduate student at Portland State University. By demonstrating that small RNA fragments can form cooperative networks that evolve toward greater complexity, he argued that early RNA-like molecules might have used a similar tactic to support the emergence of early life.

Tony Hyman, managing director of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, offered a different perspective, focusing on how cytoplasmic organization may have fostered an environment conducive to the formation of early life. He argued that phase separation of organic molecules due to cytoplasmic organization would concentrate these molecules in certain spaces and facilitate reactions that might not occur at lower concentrations.

A group discussion at the end helped symposium attendees to integrate the topics that the four researchers had presented.

The purpose of the symposium was not to reach a conclusion about the origins of life—the speakers all admitted that this was a daunting, and likely impossible, task. Rather, by bringing together eminent researchers in the field, the symposium organizers hoped to foster discussion between scientists addressing the same question from different angles.


A screenshot of the live-stream on Friday, June 21.

A screenshot of the live-stream on Friday, June 21.

This afternoon, MBL microbial oceanographer Julie Huber took an enthralled audience at MBL on a dive to the bottom of the sea, via a livestream video on YouTube. If you missed it, there are more opportunities to tune in this week!

Huber is part of an international team of scientists aboard research vessel R/V Falkor, operated by Schmidt Ocean Institute. The Falkor is spending June at the Mid-Cayman Rise, an ultraslow spreading ridge at one of the deepest points of the Caribbean Sea (about 4 miles down). At 6 AM ET/3 AM PT every day until June 29, the team will air live footage of their explorations along the ridge.

The team, which is led by Chris German of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is focusing on two new hydrothermal vent fields, Europa and Walsh, during this expedition. These vents are cracks along the bottom of the ocean that form when the Earth’s plates shift. The scientists are studying the vents from biological, chemical, and physical perspectives to learn more about these dynamic geological formations and the extreme life they host.

Huber studies microbial life around the vents. She is interested in learning more about how the bacteria and Archaea can thrive in the harsh, hot conditions of the Mid-Cayman Rise. (Huber will continue this work on another Falkor cruise that she is leading this fall.)

The team uses an unmanned vehicle, HROV Nereus to explore the floor in-depth. Their live-stream video will be captured on the same cameras used by James Cameron’s DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible on its 2012 dive at the Mariana Trench.

Tune in tomorrow at 6 AM EST to the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s YouTube channel to watch the next Nereus dive live. (Dives may be delayed due to technical issues. Schedule updates are posted here.)

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Eddie Oroyan and Laura Selle Virtucio of Black Label Movement. Photo by V. Paul Virtucio


If you see human beings hurtling through space over the Swope lawn this week, stop, watch, and imagine moving molecules in a cell. What you are witnessing is a literally high-impact collaboration between scientists and dancers from Black Label Movement (BLM) company in Minneapolis, which is in residence in the MBL Physiology course this week.

On Sunday, July 8 at 4 PM, the collaborators will present an informal performance and lecture-demonstration, “HIT: When Dancers and Scientists Collide,” in the MBL Club, 100 Water Street, Woods Hole. The lec-dem is free and open to the MBL community and public.

HIT is part of a burgeoning, 3-year experiment led by Physiology course faculty member David Odde and BLM artistic director Carl Flink, who are both professors at the University of Minnesota (of biomedical engineering and of dance, respectively). Called “The Moving Cell Project,” their collaboration initially sought ways to express biological concepts to a lay audience through the dramatic physicality of dance. But they soon found that their exchange was taking them much deeper.

Odde realized that having movers represent a cell-biological process is much faster (and less tedious) than creating a computer simulation, which can take months. “We started to explore the idea of using dancers to literally embody our scientific hypotheses, in order to quickly convey them to other people,” Odde says. “We call it bodystorming,” which is like brainstorming ideas, but using actual bodies.

Black Label Movement dancers Eddie Oroyan and Laura Selle Virtucio perform “HIT.” Photo by V. Paul Virtucio

They also found themselves entering bracing new territory for dance. In “HIT,” which focuses on a cellular process called “microtubule catastrophe,” the dancers were asked to experience the “stochastic, violent pulling and pushing dynamics of molecules in a cell,” Odde says. This led to arresting movement and musical dynamics; the dance is strange but beautiful and compelling. But it also meant Flink had to develop “impact techniques” for the dancers so they could careen and collide without getting injured.

At the MBL, the collaborators are further exploring their hypothesis that “movers can help advance scientific discovery at the leading edge,” Odde says. They are assisted by Dyche Mullins, co-director of the Physiology course, who became involved in the project a year ago; Physiology course students; and 7 movers from Black Label Movement. In addition, any MBL students, faculty, or researchers who want to test out their own hypotheses with BLM are encouraged to contact Odde (

To view a brief documentary video on the collaborative development of “HIT,” please go to:

@MBL is firing up the “Photo of the Week” series again! EVERYONE on the MBL campus is invited to participate. We’d love to feature your shots of life at the MBL: what’s unique, intriguing, beautiful, funny, classic. Please send “Photo of the Week” submissions to, and include caption information (who, what, when, where, why). Please ask permission from anyone featured in your photos before you submit them.

Today’s Photo of the Week heralds a beloved Woods Hole tradition: the July Fourth Parade. In this photo taken on July 4, 1976 (the Unites States’ bicentennial year), leading the parade as Uncle Sam is the late Albert Szent-Györgyi, a longtime MBL scientist and trustee and a 1937 Nobel Prize laureate. To his right, playing the fife, is Phyllis Goldstein, who will be memorialized this Sunday at the MBL (please see blog post below for wonderful, musical tribute to Phyllis). Many thanks to Allen Rosenspire of Wayne State University, who was an Embryology student in 1976, for sending this photo to MBL Communications.

The 2011 July Fourth parade, which as always will feature whacky and whimsical floats dreamed up by MBL students, will start at noon on School Street at the Children’s School of Science and trumpet its way down Water Street to the MBL campus.

July 4, 1976 Woods Hole parade with Albert Szent-Györgyi (Uncle Sam) leading, and Phyllis Goldstein playing the fife. Photo by Alan Rosenspire

by Amanda Rose Martinez

At 7:15 PM on Tuesday, June 28, the long-cherished, Woods Hole tradition of Folk Singing Night returned to the MBL Club. For 47 years, Phyllis Goldstein, who passed away in January this year, led the event. Her legacy lives on both in the songs she left behind and the generations of folk singers she inspired. “Phyllis was very passionate about the music and about the tradition,” says Jeremy Korr, who grew up attending Folk Singing Night and will lead the event this season. “If I can help everyone sing half as strongly as Phyllis did, then I think Folk Singing will be in good shape.”

Watch the audio slideshow below for an interview with Jeremy Korr. A memorial service will be held for Phyllis this Sunday, July 3 at 4 PM in Lillie Auditorium.

Rossner1croppedBy Sarah Stanley

In January 2006, two high-profile papers by South Korean researcher Woo Suk Hwang were retracted after they were found to be based on fabricated data. Hwang and his lab members claimed to have successfully cloned human stem cells for the first time. But their results were discarded after it was found that, in addition to engaging in other types of data fraud, they had misleadingly altered images of stem cells.

The incident, which made headlines worldwide, is a perfect example of scientists succumbing to “the temptation of image manipulation,” according to Mike Rossner (above), executive director of the Rockefeller University Press and former managing editor of the peer-reviewed research publication Journal of Cell Biology (JCB).

Altering digital images is easy for anyone with access to Adobe Photoshop or similar digital image editing software. Many nonprofessionals regularly touch up their personal digital photos. It seems natural that scientists, who typically present their data in the form of images, would find it helpful to edit photos to clarify their results. But researchers who modify figures risk misleading their readers, whether or not they intend to deceive.

Rossner, who gave the MBL Special Lecture in Bioethics last week, heads up a powerful effort to detect image manipulation before papers are published in JCB. In many cases, detecting image manipulation is as simple as altering contrast (see image below) or examining mirror images in Photoshop. These techniques can reveal problems like deletion or addition of part of an image, duplication of an image, and misleading contrast adjustments. JCB examines every image used in papers submitted for publication, ensuring any image manipulation does not violate its thorough guidelines.

JCB guidelines divide manipulation misconduct into two categories. Inappropriate manipulation violates the journal’s guidelines but does not lead to misinterpretation of data. Fraudulent image manipulation does result in data misinterpretation. Rossner reports that more than 25 percent of all manuscripts submitted to JCB have at least one inappropriately altered image that needs to be remade, while one percent contain fraudulent images, keeping such papers from being published.

Rossner shared some of the responses JCB receives from investigators when they are informed of inappropriate or fraudulent image manipulation in their manuscripts. Some are indignant. “Everyone does it,” read one author’s e-mail. Others insist that the manipulation is OK because it is more representative of their overall data set. But, Rossner says, “We do get mostly appropriate responses from authors.” Indeed, many authors are grateful to be notified of image issues before publication, since the repercussions of publishing a paper with fraudulent data can ruin careers.

After presenting tips on how to avoid inappropriate image manipulation, Rossner shared a new tool that allows readers to view the original, raw images that the authors obtained from their lab equipment. Called JCB DataViewer, it is currently only used for images in JCB articles but, according to Rossner, “we hope this may become a model for a standard for publication of image data in the publishing industry.” JCB developed the DataViewer in collaboration with Glencoe Software, which utilizes an open-source microscopy environment (OMERO) co-developed by Jason Swedlow, co-director of the MBL’s Analytical and Quantitative Light Microscopy course.

Rossner finished his talk by emphasizing that science does not equal art. “You are looking for the most accurate representation of your data, not the prettiest representation of your data.”

The top panel of this figure appears to display adjacent cells in a microscope image. But adjusting the contrast of the image reveals that some of the cells were copied into the figure from another photo. (from Rossner, M., and Yamada, K. M. (2004) J. Cell Biol.166:11-15.)

The top panel of this figure appears to display adjacent cells in a microscope image. But adjusting the contrast of the image reveals that some of the cells were copied into the figure from another photo. (from Rossner, M., and Yamada, K. M. (2004) J. Cell Biol. 166:11-15.)

Denise LoydA grad student, a post-doc, and a visiting scientist walk into a lab. What happens? Well, better science! Better, that is, than for a group composed of all post-docs, or all grad students, or all scientists from the same institution, according to Denise Loyd (left), an assistant professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Loyd, who studies the effects of diversity in groups, presented her research last week in a talk sponsored by the Woods Hole Diversity Initiative.  Loyd provided evidence that the presence of diversity in a group strengthens discussions in which final group decisions are made. Groups in which a majority of members fall into one category (based on race, background, institution affiliation, etc.), while a minority fall into another, put more time and thought into their conclusions.

We might assume the benefits of diversity in groups are solely attributable to the unique perspectives of the minority members. However, Loyd’s research shows that the simple existence of diversity can alter group dynamics in such a way that brings out different, positive behaviors in majority members, such as showing greater openness to others’ ideas.

Loyd also emphasized the importance of seeking out the unique strengths of members who may have lower perceived status in a group, such as undergraduates working in a lab with graduate students and post-docs. Her talk will no doubt prove useful to Woods Hole scientists and other community members seeking to strengthen group efforts. It also might help explain why the peer-to-peer dynamic in the MBL’s courses—where students problem-solve real-world research problems alongside some of the world’s top scientists—is often so energizing and productive.

Loyd’s talk was part of a Woods Hole Diversity Initiative event series called  “Synergy and the Group; the Hidden Power of Diversity.” For more information on upcoming events, visit

Part of what makes the MBL unique is that its biologists are able to learn so much from the marine animals found just offshore. Fundamental biological processes in these creatures are often similar or identical to those in other species, including humans. For example, MBL scientists use sea urchins to study embryo development, sharks to study the neural basis of behavior, and squid to study nerve cells.

Last week, members and guests of the MBL Board of Trustees and Board of Overseers enjoyed a tour  aboard the MBL’s collecting boat, the R/V Gemma. Below is a photo tour of their excursion, as sea urchins, starfish, and other model organisms destined to help MBL scientists in their studies were netted. Animals collected on the R/V Gemma are brought back to the MBL’s Marine Resources Center, where they are maintained until they’re used for research.

R/V Gemma crew members prepare to haul in a net used for catching plankton.

R/V Gemma crew members prepare to haul in a net used for catching plankton. The boat leaves from Eel Pond in Woods Hole and heads two miles offshore into Vineyard Sound for sample collection.

____________ explains the importance of plankton as copepods, small crustaceans, swim around in his sample jar.

Ed Enos, superintendent of the MBL's Aquatic Resources Department, explains the importance of plankton in the food chain as copepods (small crustaceans) swim around in his sample jar. Looking on is William (Bill) Zammer, a member of the MBL Board of Overseers.

Crew members bring in a net after dragging it along the seafloor to catch crabs, sea urchins, starfish, and other creatures.

Crew members bring up a scallop dredge after dragging it along the seafloor to catch crabs, sea urchins, starfish, and other creatures.

A crab tries to escape across the deck, away from the sea urchins and shells piled up behind it.

A crab wanders away from the sea urchins and shells piled up behind it. Crew members will sift through the pile, keeping some animals for MBL research and returning the rest to the ocean.

One catch of the day is this slimy set of translucent squid egg cases.

One catch of the day is this slimy set of translucent squid egg cases.

This sea star is regenerating a lost leg, a process that has been studied at the MBL.

This sea star is regenerating a lost leg, a cellular process that is studied at the MBL.
Back in Eel Pond, the Gemma is docked near the Marine Resources Center. Ebert Hall is in the background.

Back at Eel Pond, the R/V Gemma is docked near the Marine Resources Center. Ebert Hall is in the background.

For more information on the R/V Gemma, visit

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