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Distributed July 7, 2003
Contact Scott Turner

An affiliation for biological sciences
Brown and MBL create an alliance for teaching and research

Brown University and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., today established a formal institutional affiliation that will support the joint programs of education and research in biology, biomedicine and environmental sciences.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University and the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Mass., today signed a memorandum of agreement creating an alliance that will support the highest levels of education and research in biology, biomedicine and environmental sciences.

The formal affiliation between the two institutions, signed shortly before noon today by Brown Provost Robert J. Zimmer and MBL Director and CEO William T. Speck, establishes the Brown-MBL Graduate Program in Biological and Environmental Sciences in addition to faculty exchanges and research collaborations.

The affiliation takes advantage of the geographic proximity of Brown and MBL, uniting their faculty expertise in biology and medicine, particularly for molecular biology, genomics, ecosystems studies, environmental science, global infectious diseases, neuroscience and public health.

“This affiliation is designed to extend research to broader, more complex areas of science and to prepare young scholars to lead the nation and the world in biological and environmental sciences,” Zimmer said. “Faculty of the two institutions will establish multidisciplinary approaches to understanding basic biological and environmental processes and their applications to eliminating disease and promoting transition to sustainable management of the Earth's resources.”

“Partnering with Brown may be one of the most significant events in the history of the Marine Biological Laboratory,” said Speck. “Developing a joint graduate program like this one is a major outcome of a recent strategic planning process designed to chart the future of the Laboratory. This is an exciting venture that will enhance the MBL’s research and educational programs.”

The Brown-MBL affiliation will allow graduate students to work with leading scientists at both institutions and to conduct original research in either institution’s laboratories. Faculty from MBL will have the opportunity to teach Brown students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Graduate student recruitment will begin this fall, with the first students expected to enter the program in fall 2004. Brown faculty and MBL colleagues are already discussing joint courses and will likely offer them beginning early in 2004.

With strong support from both institutions, scientists at Brown and MBL will be expected to initiate joint research projects, particularly multi-investigator, multidisciplinary projects that will draw on the enhanced research profile of the two institutions working together.

“This match is perfect,” said Mark Bertness, professor of biology and an architect of the graduate program. “At Brown, for example, we have excellent evolutionary biologists, while MBL has the world’s best phylogenetics program. Brown has expertise in community ecology and MBL has the world’s best ecosystems science group. We’re complementary.”

The Brown/MBL affiliation will provide many benefits to both institutions, said Jerry M. Melillo, co-director and senior scientist at the MBL Ecosystems Center.

“Young scholars will do cutting-edge research on a variety of topics in basic biology, biomedicine and environmental science,” said Melillo, who led MBL's team in developing the partnership. “Graduate students will have access to an expanded set of research facilities and a network of field research sites that spans the globe.”

Students working in the environmental sciences, for example, will have the chance to learn and use a rich set of research tools that range from isotopic techniques and molecular markers to mathematical modeling. “With these tools they can address issues important to our nation and the world such as the long-term societal consequences of ecosystem degradation resulting from intensive human use and the potential ecological effects of climate change,” Melillo said.

In fact, affiliation with MBL is a cornerstone of Brown’s new Environmental Change Initiative. This multidisciplinary research and education program is designed to address the complex issues that drive global environmental change. Besides building on Brown’s collective strengths in ecology and evolutionary biology, environmental science, economics, geological sciences, sociology and international policy, the Environmental Change Initiative will draw upon MBL’s unparalleled research, education and training programs.

“MBL combines a long-standing commitment to education with world-class science,” said Zimmer. “Life sciences questions are becoming bigger and more complicated. Collaboration between Brown and MBL will create a rich culture for learning and research to address those questions.”

Brown University

Brown University is an Ivy League institution with a distinctive undergraduate academic program, renowned faculty, outstanding graduate and medical students, and a tradition of innovative and rigorous multidisciplinary study. Founded in 1764, Brown was the third college in New England and the seventh in America. Today, Brown is moving forward with initiatives for academic enrichment that will enlarge the faculty by at least 100 members, improve support for graduate students, and invest in libraries, information technology, new multidisciplinary academic centers, and expanded laboratory and academic space.

Marine Biological Laboratory

MBL is an internationally known, independent, nonprofit research and educational institution. It conducts the highest level of original research and education in biology, including the biomedical and environmental sciences. MBL hosts research programs in cell and developmental biology, ecosystems studies, molecular biology and evolution, neurobiology, behavior, global infectious diseases and sensory physiology. Its intensive graduate-level educational program is renowned throughout the life sciences. Founded in 1888, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the Western Hemisphere.


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