Scrambling for traction on an icy mountain summit, Matt Temple didn't have much choice.
His excursion had started innocently enough. Temple, a college biology professor working in Jackson Laboratory Assistant Professor Lindsay Shopland's lab on sabbatical, was performing an experiment that had a lot of down time before the next task. So he decided to hike up nearby Champlain Mountain in Acadia National Park. Usually an hour-and-a-half jaunt, the hike turned into something of an ordeal when the path became ice-covered and treacherous near the top.
"There was nothing to do but keep going," says Temple with a rueful grin. "Bar Harbor is a rare place in that the more familiar it becomes, the more you discover here. That day I discovered how different it can be on a mountain summit versus the valley floor! It took me what seemed like forever—two and a half hours—to make it down off the mountain, but I finally did. And I was able to proceed with the experiment."
Temple is proof positive that the best teachers are always testing themselves and never cease learning. Through him, the Laboratory's mission to educate the next generation of scientists is being carried beyond Bar Harbor.
"Matt dug into the literature and learned a lot before he even got to my lab," says Shopland. "He brought a great deal of innovation and enthusiasm to his work, and I have no doubt he brings the same mix to his classroom, to the benefit of his students."
In 1984, having received his Ph.D. in genetics and completing a two-year stint as a postdoc, Temple landed an undergraduate teaching job at Nazareth College, a prestigious liberal arts college in Rochester, N.Y. The biology department is small—there are only about 50 students majoring in biology at a time—and, compared with a big research lab, its resources are limited. Temple wanted to push his own knowledge forward and bring it to his students. That pursuit led him to The Jackson Laboratory for the renowned annual Short Course on Medical and Experimental Mammalian Genetics, better known as simply the "Short Course."
"It was two weeks of nothing but world-class genetics," says Temple. "I absolutely loved it. It was also my first time in Bar Harbor, and I loved the town and the area too."
When Temple was able to take a sabbatical in 1990, his experience at the Short Course made it an easy choice for where to go. He headed back to Bar Harbor and the Laboratory to work in Charlie Sidman's lab, doing immunology research. Temple's work in Sidman's lab provided him with more than the satisfaction of working on an original research project. It influenced how he approached his work at Nazareth as well.
"My experience here changed the way I teach," he says. "The benchmark set at the Laboratory showed me how I could, with motivated students, challenge them to achieve more than I had previously thought possible. And they meet the challenge."
Subsequent sabbaticals led Temple to John Eppig's lab in 1999 to research meiosis, the specialized cell division necessary for sexual reproduction, in oocytes (eggs) and to Shopland's lab in 2007. There he investigated how a particular protein interacted with segments of DNA, using microscopy that provides highresolution images in three dimensions.
"Typical 2-D 'roadkill' cell slides destroy any internal relationships within the cell," says Temple. "To teach cell biology and be able to accurately show cells in 3-D is a whole new horizon. I went home thinking about how to use that kind of microscopy in an undergraduate course."
A funding windfall allowed Temple to acquire an advanced 3-D microscope, and in the summer of 2010 he was back at the Laboratory. Speaking with microscopy experts Jim Denegre, Ph.D., and Mark Lessard, who spend their days pushing 3-D microscopy to its limits, Temple gained new knowledge to share with his students.
"People at the Laboratory are really curious and are constant learners," says Temple. "They have an intellectual vitality that's very stimulating. I try to bring a sense of that back to my students."