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The MBL Physiology Course, founded by Jacques Loeb and one of the oldest continually running biology courses in the world, has a distinguished history that includes the discovery of cyclin B, which led to a Nobel prize for Tim Hunt. The Course traditionally has had three goals that we strongly endorse: graduate training, cutting edge research, and introducing new generations of scientists to the unique environment of the MBL. Times have changed in PhD education. Most schools now have strong curricula that cover basic cell physiology and molecular biology, which the Physiology Course should not duplicate. Rather, it is essential that the Course anticipates future developments in cell physiology and teaches to what will be important in the next 20 years. We, and many others, see a key challenge for the future in quantitative analysis and computational modeling of cell physiology. This direction is necessary to take the parts lists of cellular processes, and turn them into true understanding. This goal is necessarily interdisciplinary, and not always served by conventional graduate Courses that are based in single departments. In recognition of this, the NIH and NSF are keen to fund both research and training efforts at the biology/physics/computation interface.

Our vision is a Course that brings together biological and physical / computational scientists, both in the faculty and the student body, to work together on cutting edge problems in cell physiology. We create an environment that is more of a summer school in interdisciplinary science than a conventional graduate course. We recruit at several faculty, and ~50% of the students, from the physical and computational sciences. We are committed to recruiting underrepresented minorities and women in both the students and faculty. We also seek students from other countries to create an international flavor for the course.

The Course design will promote learning by practice, with a particular emphasis on stimulating experimental creativity and interdisciplinary approaches. Biology students will leave the Course able to understand and author computer simulations (no prior experience necessary), and physical science students will leave understanding the language of biology and with experience in working on cutting edge biological problems. In the first week, students will didactic and practical training in microscopy, biochemistry, and computer programming (e.g. MATLAB). Students will then participate in 3 research sections that focus on topics related to cell division, cell migration, membrane trafficking, protein mechanism, signaling, and developmental biology (see Structure and Goals). Each of these research sections will use advanced microscopy, biochemistry, and computational analysis to address contemporary research problems. Although not a primary focus for this didactic course devoted to providing learning opportunities, we anticipate these research sections will lead to original work and discoveries (see section on Research and ASCB Abstracts). We also expect that lasting research collaborations will be born from the teaching experience and that some of the faculty and students will want to continue these collaborations in the future (as has happened in the past three years.

To inspire students, and provide them with a sense of the history and future of cell physiology, we will initiate a visiting scholar program that will bring 4 eminent scientists to MBL for a week. They will deliver one or more lectures to the whole community, and participate in both the intellectual and experimental aspect of the Course. Past scholars have included Martin Raff, Tim Hunt, Tony, Hyman, Dennis Bray, Andrew Murray, Randy Schekman, Jim Spudich, Keiichi Namba, Kai Simons, Peter Walter, and Toshio Yanagida. Eric Karsenti, Gary Borisy and Bruce Alberts (and one more) will join us. We also will invite prominent scientists (see course schedules for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) as guest lecturers in our morning lecture series. The 2008 schedule will be posted later in the spring.

Tim Hunt
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