UChicago Graduate Students Take Boot Camp for Biologists

UChicago Graduate Students Take Boot Camp for Biologists
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By Diana Kenney

Long gone are the days when biologists drew images of their specimens and left complex math to the physicists. Today, biology is a data-intensive science that requires not only attention to nature, but a solid quantitative toolkit with which to query living systems.

That’s one reason why first-year graduate students in the University of Chicago’s Biological Sciences Division (BSD) are immersed in a weeklong “Quantitative Boot Camp” at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL). While drawing inspiration and organisms from the ocean surrounding the MBL, the nearly 100 students are diving into concepts and techniques in mathematics, computation, and quantitative imaging that cut across the sub-disciplines of biology.

A certain amount of “getting to know you” is in order, too. “The BSD students are in programs ranging from human genetics to evolutionary biology to neuroscience to biophysics,” says Stephanie Palmer, Assistant Professor in UChicago’s Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy. “One of the goals of the boot camp is to get them talking to each other.” Palmer is co-directing the boot camp with Stefano Allesina, Professor in UChicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution and Computation Institute.

The students also receive career planning advice and hear research presentations by MBL scientists. “We hope these talks may kick off a few collaborative projects [between the students and MBL researchers],” Palmer says.

In this “award-winning photo” from the 2015 Biological Sciences Division boot camp at MBL, UChicago Assistant Professor of Neurobiology Leslie Osborne (left) and student Sophia Carryl look at a plankton sample on the MBL’s collecting boat, The Gemma. Credit: UChicago BSD student Katie Long

Photo at top: UChicago BSD students Matt Trendowski and Hallie Sussman working in the MBL’s Loeb Laboratory (2016). Credit: Megan Costello