Honors 350 Functional Genomics Course at MDIBL

Honors 350: Molecular Mechanisms of Human Disease at MDIBL

seth looking in Microscope

I went to MDIBL for the research experience in a very comfortable atmosphere. I also knew that I would get to meet and interact with several world-renowned experts in molecular biology and genomics as well as learn cutting edge lab techniques in an immersive environment. I learned new genomics skills that I can apply in my other science courses.


Seth Robertson ’06

This Honors course allowed me to interact with top researchers while learning scientific and communication skills to run experiments with my peers. I now know I am capable of performing research confidently and independently.

Erin Keim ’10


First established in 2002, the Honors College’s collaboration with the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor allows our students to get practical laboratory experience while fulfilling their tutorial requirement in an eight-day intensive program occurring over spring or winter break. This opportunity is made possible through our participation in a National Institutes of Health IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) grant collaboration that includes MDIBL, UMaine, the Honors College, and ten other institutions from around the state.

Each year, between twelve and sixteen Honors College students, typically sophomores and juniors, spend their time at MDIBL immersed in their studies; eating, sleeping, attending classes, and working in the lab while manyof their classmates are enjoying a somewhat more leisurely time away from campus. Seth Robertson ’06 a microbiology major from Woodland, ME, described his experience as a “chance to speak with international experts in genomics and cell biology in a very comfortable and familiar honors environment.”   One of the reasons to take on this challenge is the chance to do, in the words of Alia Whithead ’06, “real research, as opposed to cookie cutter experiments that you do in class where everyone knows what is supposed to happen.”

The participants became familiar with a number of cutting-edge methodologies and techniques.My small group studied the effects that arsenic, 4-PBA (an FDA approved drug), and low temperatures, had on cell growth in comparison to a control assay. The researcher that we worked with, Dr. [Denry] Sato, even requested our group’s data for use in next year’s genomics course,” recalls Seth. The research done by our students at MDIBL has important implications. Laura Dowd ’06 puts their work in perspective. “By testing different compounds by themselves or in combination will hopefully lead to easing the effects of cystic fibrosis. Because the disease is genetic not a lot can be done in the lab with that, but trying to study the effects can help ?nd a way to make life easier for CF patients.”

Through the continuation of the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) grant, we will be able to offer this opportunity for our students through 2019.