MDI Biological Laboratory

Bridging Disciplines: Impacts of Environmental Chemicals on Physiology and Health 2024

The course is offered in-person and aims to create a community of learners who are interested in toxicology and impacts of chemical contaminants on human health, neurobiology, and regenerative capacity. Students will be provided with support to prepare a poster presentation for the annual Maine Biological and Medical Sciences Symposium in April 2024.

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Application Deadline: 03/01/2024


Bridging Disciplines is a five day course for Maine undergraduates interested in gaining biomedical research experience and learning about interdisciplinary approaches to solving complex environmental health problems. This year the focus will be on toxicology and regeneration. What are the biological impacts of exposure to toxic substances in the environment? How do these exposures affect regenerative capacities?

Students will be introduced to fundamental research concepts, methodology, tools, and conducting in vivo bioassays using zebrafish and Drosophila as animal models. Student-generated data will be collected, analyzed, and discussed in order to understand how animal responses to toxic exposure relate to human health. Students will be able to interact with professionals and experts who can provide insights into the interdisciplinary connections between their fields. Course topics will include:

  • Concepts and current news in environmental toxicology as it relates to regenerative biology
  • Toxicity assays with zebrafish, fruit flies, and annelid worms
  • Advanced microscopy tools and techniques
  • Role of Bioinformatics in understanding genomic level impacts of chemical exposures
  • Responsible conduct of research and bioethics
  • Research data interpretation and sharing with scientific communities as well as the general public
  • Communication concepts and tools to facilitate working across disciplines
  • Problem framing, leadership, decision-making, and internal/external communication systems for linking science with societal needs
  • Translating research to clinical practice
  • Commercialization of scientific discovery
  • Impacts of scientific research on public policy

The course includes lectures or presentations covering conceptualization of a research study, designing, planning, and conducting experiments, analyzing data, and interpretation via on-line modalities. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in forum discussions related to course content to build a community of learners working together to understand topics in environmental toxicology and public health.


James Coffman, Ph.D.

MDI Biological Laboratory

Doug Currie, Ph.D.

University of Southern Maine

Jane Disney, Ph.D.

MDI Biological Laboratory

Juyoung Shim, Ph.D.

University of Maine at Augusta

About the Maine INBRE program

This short course is supported and organized by the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE).

Maine is one of 23 states that have been identified by the National Institutes of Health as having historically received low levels of NIH funding. The INBRE program was established to strengthen research networks in each of these states, so that they could become more competitive for federal research grants. In Maine, our network is comprised of 14 institutions, with the MDI Biological Laboratory as the lead institution. Other institutions in our network include the following: Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, College of the Atlantic, the Honors College at the University of Maine, the Jackson Laboratory, Southern Maine Community College, the University of Maine, UMaine Farmington, UMaine Fort Kent, UMaine Machias, UMaine Presque Isle, and the University of New England.

Money from Maine INBRE supports research training experiences like this short course, as well biomedical research and laboratory facilities throughout our network.


This research training opportunity is supported by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103423.

The IDeA program builds research capacities in states that historically have had low levels of NIH funding by supporting basic, clinical and translational research; faculty development; and infrastructure improvements.