MDI Biological Laboratory
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MDI Biological Laboratory hosts 2020 National Science Foundation Fellows

Shift to virtual format due to COVID-19 yields unexpected benefits

Six undergraduates from throughout the country studied at the MDI Biological Laboratory this summer under a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) whose goal was to engage students “in meaningful ways” in ongoing research projects.

• Improved orientation — In addition to a virtual tour of the campus, the summer fellows received virtual introductions to faculty and senior staff in Zoom meetings, which gave them a more detailed and intimate understanding of the institution than they might otherwise have had.

• “A relaxed opportunity” — The use of small, virtual breakout rooms during a program-long course in communicating science provided a “relaxed opportunity” for students to ask questions and receive feedback, compensating in part for the casual conversations that would have taken place in a face-to-face setting

• Access to expertise — The virtual format frees fellowship organizers to tap into a larger and more diverse pool of guest lecturers and panelists for future innovation workshops instead of limiting the pool to those who can conveniently and economically travel to the laboratory’s location on the coast of Maine

• Asynchronous learning — The symposium that capped off the program was held online over several days, offering fellows the flexibility of accessing the material when convenient (asynchronously), rather than at times that may not have worked with their schedules; they also delivered live presentations in an online environment

The MDI Biological Laboratory has hosted the NSF-REU program for more than 25 years. The program has been extraordinarily successful at achieving its goal of promoting STEM careers, with 67 percent of participants pursuing careers in science and 50 percent pursuing advanced degrees in the period from 2005 to 2016, Disney said.

List of 2020 NSF-REU research fellows at the MDI Biological Laboratory:

• Angelica Aguilar — Sonoma State University
• Elise Courtney — University of Vermont
• Alexis Fiedler — Washington and Lee University
• Meiling Miranda — University of Delaware
• Celeste Nobrega — Wheaton College (Massachusetts)
• Alexey Rizvanov – Colby College

Pictured left: Celeste Nobrega, a student at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., participating remotely in the MDI Biological Laboratory’s 2020 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates summer fellowship program.

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