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BSCD Research Fellowship - Working with Non-Traditional Model Organisms in the Biological Sciences - 2024

BSCD Research Fellowship Program “Working with Non-Traditional Model Organisms in the Biological Sciences” 


About the Fellowship

Organismal diversity provides a rich and largely untapped resource to study biological mechanisms from gene regulation and development to biophysics and biomechanics to behavior and neural networks. However, most laboratory research remains focused on a small number of conventional experimental systems. By engaging fellows with mentored full-time research with non-traditional model organisms across a range of disciplines, we hope to inspire them to look beyond established experimental systems for new answers and questions in biological research in an interdisciplinary and interinstitutional setting. Fellows should identify labs of interest at UChicago or MBL in advance of the application deadline - summer fellows will execute an independent research project that leverages the use of non-traditional model organisms. Selected fellows will work in labs at UChicago or MBL in any biological discipline and will leverage experimental work with a non-traditional model organism. Our aim is for fellows to cover a range of disciplines and to include labs at UChicago and MBL at roughly equal numbers. 

The Fellowship awards a $5500 stipend for the summer research period in UChicago Labs (10 weeks) or a $2000 stipend and room and board at MBL for 9 weeks.  

Students at UChicago labs will receive a travel allowance to attend the undergraduate symposium at MBL, including room and board for 2 nights at MBL.

Duties and Responsibilities for Fellows and Hosting PIs

The program will run from June 16th to August 17th, 2024 (9 weeks for students at MBL, dates coinciding with the Metcalf SURF program) or August 24th (10 weeks for students in UChicago labs, as other research fellowship programs at the College). 

Fellows are expected to engage in full-time research. Additionally, Fellows will be asked to participate in weekly mentorship and training activities held either separately at UChicago and MBL or in a hybrid format. During the first six weeks, hosting PIs (or their designated student mentors) will be asked to meet with the cohort (hybrid format) to provide background on how and why they chose to use non-traditional model organisms in their research and to offer a lab tour to the local fellows. In following group meetings, students will present their projects and receive feedback on poster drafts in preparation of an in-person undergraduate symposium at MBL on August 15th, 2024, with participants of other undergraduate fellowship programs (e.g., Metcalf SURF program, NSF REU), and including a tour of labs and facilities at that institution. 


Students are expected to conduct full-time research with a non-traditional model organism on campus or at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Wood Hole and to participate in weekly fellowship activities. On August 15th, students will present in person a poster at the undergraduate summer symposium at MBL together with other students from an REU program at MBL and the Metcalf SURF program. 

Hosting PIs (or designated mentors) will meet once with the entire cohort (hybrid format) to talk about what led them to conduct research with their non-traditional model organism and to offer a lab tour to the local fellows. 

List of Potential Research Mentors (other researchers using non-traditional model organisms in their research at UChicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory can also be considered)

  • Albertin, Carrie (MBL): evolution and development, cephalopods
  • Arkhipova, Irina  (MBL): transposable elements; rotifers
  • Echeverri, Karen (MBL) : spinal cord regeneration, wound healing; axolotls
  • Gillis, Andrew (MBL): evolution and development, skates
  • Heckscher, Elizabeth (MGCB): evolution of motoneuron circuits; non-traditional fly and midge models 
  • Malamy, Jocelyn (MGCB): regeneration; cnidarians (Clythia)
  • Marlow, Heather (OBA): evolution and development; cnidarians, hemichordates, xenoturbellids.
  • Morgan, Jennifer (MBL): regeneration; lamprey.
  • Nirody, Jasmine (OBA): biophysics of locomotion; bacteria, tardigrades, jumping spiders, non-traditional fly models
  • Patel, Nipam (MBL): evolution of body patterning and segmentation; amphipod crustaceans
  • Perozzo, Eduardo (BMB): biophysics; cnidaria
  • Ragsdale, Cliff (Neurobiology, OBA):  cephalopods, specifically Octopus bimaculoides, octopus arm regeneration and motor control
  • Schmidt-Ott, Urs (OBA): evolution and development, embryo development, gene networks, epigenetics; non-traditional fly and midge models
  • Swartz, Zak (MBL): early development and reproduction; sea stars

Class Level Eligibility

Undergraduates who have completed at least one year in the college.

Required Materials

  1. Resume or CV
  2. Statement of Interest / Cover Letter (1-2 Pages)
    • Explain your interest in working with a non-traditional model organism.
    • Describe your post graduate goals related to your reasons for wanting to participate in this program
    • Summary of any research experience
    • Statement of your expectations for the program – what you anticipate this experience will be like and what you hope to gain from attending
    • Researchers of interest leveraging the use of non-traditional model organisms (describe research interests aligned with each researcher and the projects of interest)
  3. Unofficial Transcript

Application Deadline: February 15th, 2024